Week 1 of Mid-American Conference football, circa 2021, is in the books.
Northern Illinois has 88 freshmen on its roster, but Georgia Tech got so wrapped up in its own personal issues that it couldn’t get the best of NIU on a late 2-point conversion. To Hell with playing for OT!
Of all MAC teams playing P5 competition, NIU was maybe the least likely to pull off an upset like this, but the Huskies did it whether you were paying to ACC Network on Saturday nigh tor not. Ohio didn’t even score a single TD against Syracuse at home. Western Michigan didn’t come close against Michigan. Central Michigan played tough, but it didn’t have a 14-0 lead in the first quarter to capitalize on.
No MAC teams lost to FCS visitors, but defending MAC Champions Ball State had a scare against Western Illinois.
Congrats to Maurice Linguist for demanding his first career win as a head coach, too. Pretty impressive, all things considered.
NIU 22, GEORGIA TECH 21
That’s how you close out a game. On the road, late momentum and coach Thomas Hammock needed to capture a huge moment for all 80-plus of its freshmen on roster to hold onto and remember: go for two.
Georgia Tech eventually responded to NIU’s early 14-0 lead with one touchdown pass late in the first half, then two TD runs in the fourth quarter after NIU RB Harrison Waylee fumbled it away to give GT a free possession.
Down by a score, new QB Rocky Lombardi (Michigan State transfer) hit transfer RB Clink Ratkovich (Western Illinois) for a 3-yard completion, then he completed a pass to WR Tyrice Richie for the 2-point conversion. The 2-pointer would be reviewed to see if Richie actually had possession of the ball when the ball hit the turf, but the play stood and NIU hung on for the last 38 seconds to get its first Power 5 victory since 2018 (first of Hammock era), and first win over an ACC school since 2003 (when Maryland was still in the ACC, that is).
Waylee led the game with 144 rushing yards on 27 carries, and 1 score in the first quarter.
- Northern Illinois: 12 drives, 2 pass TD, 1 rush TD, 1 fumble, 7 punts, 1 kneel-down
- @ Georgia Tech: 12 drives, 1 pass TD, 2 rush TD, 3 FG misses, 2 turnovers on downs, 3 punts
MISSOURI 34, CMU 24
An exciting game on both sides all throughout, and one where everybody left with mixed feelings. Competitive and physical which you love to see, but everybody’s got room for improvement even if they played well.
Lew Nichols played very well. the RB carried the ball 19 times and picked up 135 yards on the day, including this 21-yard, untouched TD:
Jacob Sirmon did pretty well. He got his ass kicked (sacked 9 times, hurried thrice) and had two of his 45 passes picked off. But he had a TD completed to Ja’Corey Sullivan (8 rec., 102 yards) and Dallas Dixon even started to get some touches out there.
Kalil Pimpleton could’ve played better. The returning all-purpose player was targeted 11 times, but caught only four passes for 50 yards. By PFF’s stats, Pimpleton was 0-for-2 on contested throws, intercepted once, and had one drop. Credit to Missouri’s coverage where it’s due, but there were some yards left out on the field from one of the more reliable tools on this team.
There was a ton of havoc made from both defenses. Missouri had 14 tackles for loss, CMU matched with 13. The Tigers broke up 6 passes, the Chippewas broke up 3.
New name on defense you better recognize really fast: #9 DL Thomas Incoom. The Valdosta State transfer had 3 TFL and a 16-yard sack.
Get well soon: Jim McElwain. CMU’s head coach missed the game after having an emergency appendectomy on Wednesday. Assistant HC Tim Skipper led the team in Colombia, Mo.
- Central Michigan: 14 drives, 2 pass TD, 1 rush TD, 1 FG make, 2 INT, 6 punts, 1 kneel-down, 1 end of game.
- @ Missouri: 13 drives, 2 pass TD, 2 rush TD, 2 FG makes, 6 punts, 1 turnover on downs.
BALL STATE 31, WESTERN ILLINOIS 21
The Cardinals never trailed, but they didn’t beat the visiting FCS team comfortably. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter before Ball State even led by two scores, and ended up only beating Western Illinois 31-21.
Justin Hall had a pair of long touchdown receptions. The first was from 49 yards out to made it a 7-0 game. Then he came through with another one from 48 yards to make it a 21-14 game in the third quarter. Other than that, nobody else from Ball State’s receiving corps truly stood out.
Western Illinois’ defense only recorded three pass breakups and didn’t intercept any of Drew Plitt’s passes on the night. Plitt missed 11 of his passes, and some of them were throws he really should’ve had.
Now that Caleb Huntley’s in the pro ranks (currently on Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad), there’s room for other running backs to prove themselves. Will Jones finished with 93 yards on the day, but he didn’t break off for many long rushes outside of his long of 21. Freshman Carson Steele was a nice surprise in the second half with a 37-yard touchdown, then had a 33-yard run on the team’s follow possession (which ended in a fumble, but everything before that looked promising).
Western Illinois’ receiver Dennis Houston was a problem for Ball State’s defense to handle, which is something that a lot of MAC teams might want to pay attention to. There weren’t many other game-changers out there for the Leatherneck offense, so to see him embarrass a MAC secondary that I still think somewhat highly of is very concerning.
Ball State escaped a game that probably shouldn’t have been close to begin with. Hopefully this serves as a wake-up call for the Cardinals, especially those in the trenches. The competition for them isn’t going to get any easier the rest of the way.
- @ Ball State: 14 drives, 2 pass TD, 2 rush TD, 1 FG make, 6 punts (two 3-n-outs), 1 fumble, 2 kneel-downs.
- Western Illinois: 13 drives, 2 pass TD, 1 rush TD, 1 INT, 7 punts, 2 turnovers on downs.
#6 TEXAS A&M 41, KENT STATE 10
Kent State lost by a pretty wide margin at top-10 Texas A&M, which is always the expectation no matter how talented you might think Kent State is at some important positions.
The impressive part of this game was just how long Kent State was able to keep this game at 10-3. Texas A&M scored twice in the first quarter after a 10-play drive ended with a 4-yard passing TD, then the Aggies were forced into a 49-yard field goal after Kent State had just kicked one from 30 yards away. On the following drive, Texas A&M QB Haynes King picked up the first down on a 3rd & 10 run, was sacked. After he moved the chains, King threw for a 13-yard gain on second down (short by a yard), and a pair of handoffs to RB Devon Achane on third and fourth downs failed to get by the Kent State defensive front — a nice surprise for the Flashes. King, on the next two drives, had throws picked off by 5th-year senior Elvis Hines (fourth and fifth career INTs). Texas A&M would intercept the ball away from Kent State’s offense before halftime, but the Aggies would just kneel-out the clock to run the 10-3 game into halftime.
Dustin Crum didn’t have an exceptional game, and it’s one that NFL Draft heads are going to look back on when they talk about this QB. Crum was 12 of 26 throwing for 89 yards, no scores, 2 INTs, and sacked thrice.
- @ Texas A&M: 12 drives: 2 rush TD, 2 pass TD, 4 INT, 2 FG makes, 1 turnover on downs, 1 kneel-down.
- Kent State: 14 drives, 1 rush TD, 1 FG make, 2 FG misses, 2 INT, 8 punts,
MICHIGAN 47, WMU 14
No matter how talented you think Western Michigan is, or no matter how much of a meme Michigan has been over the past few years, just know that Michigan’s generally still going to have better players than what you’ll find in Kalamazoo.
Western Michigan came up very short in a much-anticipated in-state game, 47-14. The Bronco defense got lit up by some big plays out of Michigan’s receivers (Ronnie Bell’s 76-yard TD, Daylen Baldwin’s 69-yard TD), and run over by a few running backs as well.
Three Michigan rushers had over 70 yards and 1 TD a piece, and that position group finished with 7.8 yards per rush on the day. Western Michigan’s RBs, led by Sean Tyler (55 yards) averaged 3.7 per carry.
This was a big tape game for QB Kaleb Eleby who finished the day with 20 completions, 17 incompletions, 191 yards passing (16 net rush yards), 1 TD (to Corey Crooms) and was sacked once. We’ll have to circle back to his performance in this game, but this game wasn’t one for him to try and bail the rest of the team out.
Potential bad news for WMU: WR Skyy Moore came out of the game with an injury. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious.
- @ Michigan: 11 drives, 3 pass TD, 3 rush TD, 2 field goals, 2 punts, 1 kneel-down
- WMU: 11 drives, 1 pass TD, 1 rush TD, 1 field goal miss, 7 punts, 1 kneel-down.
SYRACUSE 29, OHIO 9
Syracuse’s freshman RB Sean Tucker showed absolutely no mercy against the Bobcat defense. He carried the ball 25 times for 181 yards (7.2 avg.) and scored 1 TD in Ohio’s home opener.
Ohio’s offense just didn’t move the ball with the same authority, which is why its scores are all via field goals.
- @ Ohio: 8 drives, 3 FG makes, 1 FG miss, 1 safety, 1 INT, 1 punt, 1 turnover on downs.
- Syracuse: 9 drives, 3 rush TD, 2 FG makes, 2 punts, 2 kneel-downs.
BUFFALO 69, WAGNER 7
The Bulls of Buffalo absolutely destroyed its FCS competition. I almost started to feel bad for Wagner on Thursday night.
Win #1 for Maurice Linguist was considerably impressive. Wagner’s not as good of a football team to begin with, but the fact that he was able to get the team to win big like this with only ~four months of preparation has got to be a good feeling for the team. The Bulls scored on every possession of the game (minus the final one, which ended in a kneel-down).
I thought maybe Buffalo might commit a lot of penalties, but it was Wagner who was flagged 14 times. Buffalo was only flagged six times.
- @ Buffalo: 12 drives, 2 pass TD, 7 rush TD, 2 field goals, 1 kneel-down.
- Wagner: 13 drives, 1 TD, 10 punts, 1 turnover on downs, 1 kneel-down.
TOLEDO 49, NORFOLK STATE 10
Lots of playing time to spread around for the Rockets as it took care of its FCS competition without any sweat. Three QBs for the Rockets all saw the field, but Carter Bradley has most of the in-game passing reps. QB DeQuan Finn finished as the game’s leading rusher with 82 yards and 1 rush TD.
Eight Rocket defenders recorded tackles for loss, and four players recorded a pass breakup.
- @ Toledo: 9 drives, 4 rush TD, 1 pass TD, 2 punt ret. TD, 2 punts, 2 turnovers on downs.
- Norfolk State: 11 drives, 1 pass TD, 1 field goal, 1 INT, 5 punts, 1 turnover on downs, 2 kneel-downs.
EMU 35, SAINT FRANCIS 15
Both Preston Hutchinson, who started all six games last year for the Eagles, and Ben Bryant, a newcomer from Cincinnati, took snaps in Friday night’s contest against FCS-level Saint Francis, and combined for 14-for-21 passing with zero touchdowns and one interception in the 35-15 win.
Samson Evans didn’t have a lot of looks, but he got the important ones. Evans punched in three touchdowns — all from within the five-yard line — and finished the day with 11 net yards on five carries.
Defensively, EMU’s front six was more than SFU’s protection could handle. The Eagles had 7 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 6 QB hurries, 1 forced fumble (DE Jose Ramirez) and 2 of the team’s 4 pass breakups were by D-linemen (and one by LB Tariq Speights). That’s the kind of game you should have against SFU, but I think there’s potential for this sort of production to be a constant in the MAC West.
- @ EMU: 12 drives, 5 rush TD, 1 INT, 4 punts, 2 kneel-downs.
- St. Francis: 12 drives, 2 rush TD, 1 INT, 7 punts, 1 fumble, 1 turnover on downs.
#8 CINCINNATI 49, MIAMI-OH 14
This is the 15th win in a row for Cincinnati in this rivalry series over Miami, and now the all-time record in the Battle for the Bell is all tied up at 59-59-7. As expected, Cincinnati blew out Miami and made the defense look very second-tier.
Cincinnati’s offense ran 57 plays and averaged 9.5 yards per play with high efficiency coming out of its run and pass games. QB Desmond Ridder completed 80% of his throws for 295 yards with 4 TD (and 1 INT by Sterling Weatherford). Cincinnati also picked up 247 yards on the ground with Ridder and two running backs scoring one apiece.
Miami missed two of its key players on offense, but their attendance might not have made a huge difference in the end.
QB Brett Gabbert was out of the game with a combination of a beat-up knee and thumb, which gave A.J. Mayer his second-career start. He was only 9 of 28 passing for 109 yards, no scores.
RB Jaylon Bester, who missed 2020 with a foot injury, was out vs. Cincy, so Kansas State transfer Keyon Mozee got most of the work out of the position group with 15 carries for 80 yards.
By the time Miami got on the board, it was already 42-0 in the fourth quarter. But the two scores came by RB Kenny Tracy with a 19-yard run, and John Saunders Jr. takin gin a 32-yard pick-six (INT thrown by Cincy’s backup QB Evan Prater).
- Miami: 12 drives, 1 rush TD, 1 defensive TD, 6 punts, 4 turnovers on downs, 1 kneel-down.
- @ Cincinnati: 11 drives, 4 pass TD, 3 rush TD, 2 INT, 2 punts.
TENNESSEE 38, BGSU 6
Not going to even act like I watched this game, but BG forced Tennessee to punt it multiple times. That’s the post-VanGorder bump for you in a nutshell.
- BGSU: 13 drives, 2 field goals, 8 punts, 2 turnovers on downs, 1 kneel-down.
- @ Tennessee: 13 drives, 1 pass TD, 4 rush TD, 1 field goal, 2 fumbles, 3 punts, 2 turnovers on downs.
AUBURN 60, AKRON 10
The final score and the names mentioned in the scoreboard should tell the whole story on this one, don’t ya think?
Kato Nelson threw for 62 yards and was 9 of 14 passing. New JUCO transfer D.J. Irons was perfect at 13 of 13 passing with a TD thrown to RB Jonzell Norrils, and 129 yards. Michigan State transfer Anthony Williams ran for 10 yards.
Auburn has a guy named Tank Bigsby.
- Akron: 11 drives, 1 pass TD, 1 field goal, 5 punts, 2 turnovers on downs, 1 safety, 1 kneel-down.
- @ Auburn: 11 drives, 5 rush TD, 3 pass TD, 1 field goal, 2 punts.