Week 8 Recap: Don't Cash in Those Chips Yet
Written by Dave Ruthenberg   
Sunday, October 19 2008
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ImageAfter another week of conference play in the MAC, things are starting to take shape in one division while the top spot in the other division continues to be handled like a hot potatonobody seems capable of handling it.

The MAC West showdown this past Saturday between Western Michigan (6-2, 4-1 MAC) and defending two-time MAC champion Central Michigan (5-2, 4-0 MAC) lived up to its pregame billing with both teams putting on an offensive display before the Chippewas prevailed 38-28. The Chips now sit atop the MAC West with a 4-0 conference mark, one-half game ahead of second-place Ball State (7-0, 3-0) which was idle this week, remaining undefeated in conference play.
However right behind the Chips and Cardinals in the top-heavy MAC West lies Western Michigan at 4-1 while another team is waiting in the weeds as Northern Illinois (4-3, 3-1 MAC) has very quietly been moving up the standings and now sits at 3-1. The Huskies' sole MAC loss however came against Western Michigan meaning NIU will need some help (i.e. another WMU loss in MAC play) in order to contend for the MAC West crown.
Mark these MAC West games on your calendar as the games that will likely decide the eventual divisional winner:
November 5: Northern Illinois at Ball State
November 12: Central Michigan at Northern Illinois
November 19: Ball State at Central Michigan
November 25: Western Michigan at Ball State
The MAC East is another matter altogether.
Once again the Bowling Green Falcons (3-4, 1-2 MAC) had an opportunity to put their signature on the race and once again failed at home, dropping a 27-20 game to Miami (2-5, 1-2 MAC). The loss leaves Bowling Green winless at home this season but more importantly creates a huge traffic jam in the divisional standings.
Akron (4-4, 2-2 MAC), by virtue of its wild 42-35 win over Eastern Michigan, the only win in eleven games this season by a team from the MAC East over the MAC West, is back on top in the East. The Zips are also the only team in the MAC East without a losing record. Six of the division's seven teams are within one game or less of fist place.
How inconsistent have teams from the MAC East been so far this season? No team in the division has recorded back-to-back victories so far in 2008.
Like the MAC West, the MAC East could go down to the last week of the season, but the winner could wind up with the title by default rather than by victory.
Freshmen Shine
Freshmen stole at least some of the spotlight this past week in the MAC.
In Central Michigan's win over Western Michigan, true freshman running back Bryan Schroeder earned his first start of the season and rushed for 106 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Schroeder became the first Chippewas' running back this season to go over the century mark.
Miami had a pair of freshmen step to the fore in its win over Bowling Green Saturday.
Redshirt freshman QB Clay Belton earned his first start and completed 11-23 passes for 129 yards including a 53-yard TD pass to WR Chris Givens which was Miami's first passing touchdown since September 20 against Cincinnati.
Also helping Miami's cause was true freshman tailback JR Taylor who rushed for 127 yards including a game-winning five yard TD. Taylor was pressed into action after starter Thomas Merriweather was forced to leave the game with an injury.
Cards Climb in Polls
Despite being idle this week, Ball State moved up in both polls.
The Cardinals (7-0, 3-0 MAC) moved up four spots to 20th in the AP Poll and three spots in the USA Today Coaches Poll to 22nd.
Ball State gets back into action Saturday with a home game against Eastern Michigan (2-6, 1-3 MAC).
Players of the Week
Akron RB Dennis Kennedy
Photo: Jeff Harwell
Buffalo DB Davonte Shannon
Offensive Player of the Week
Dennis Kennedy, RB, Akron, 25 carries, 277 yards, three touchdowns.
Just one week after rushing for a career-high 182 yards against Bowling Green, Akron senior running back Dennis Kennedy shattered his personal best by rushing for 277 yards Saturday in Akron's 42-35 victory over Eastern Michigan which included touchdown runs of 33, 10 and 4 yards. His 4-yard TD run was the game winner with 14 seconds remaining. Kennedy then added a two-point conversion run afterward. Kennedy's 277 yards were also the most ever by a Zips running back since Akron moved up to Division 1A

Defensive Player of the Week
Davonte Shannon, DB, Buffalo, 20 tackles (12 solo), 2 tackles for loss
Sophomore defensive back Davonte Shannon shattered the Bulls' record for tackles in a contest by recording twenty stops including twelve solo tackles. The twenty tackles were the most ever by a Buffalo defender since the Bulls moved up to Division 1A in 1999. Shannon was a key contributor in the Bulls' 27-24 comeback overtime victory over Army and was also credited with two tackles for loss for seven yards in the contest.
This Week's Top Statistical Performers
Passing Yards
Rushing Yards
Tim Hiller
Western Mich
Dennis Kennedy
Brian Brunner
Central Mich
JR Taylor
Drew Willy
Bryan Schroeder
Central Mich
Receiving Yards
Juan Nunez
Western Mich
Davonte Shannon
Ernest Jackson
Austin Pritchard
Western Mich
Schneider Julien
Western Mich
Nick Bellore
Central Mich
On with our weekly breakdown of this past week's action and a look at how our predictions fared.
Around The Conference

Central Michigan 38, Western Michigan 28.
Quick Take: Central Michigan recorded its third straight win over Western Michigan and moved one step closer to defending its back-to-back MAC titles with a 38-28 win at sold-out Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Senior Brian Brunner started for injured Dan LeFevour and passed for 346 yards. The Chippewas never trailed, although the game was tied on two occasions, (14-14 and 21-21) before CMU put the game away by outscoring WMU 17-7 after the midway point of the third quarter. The teams combined for 1,044 yards in offense but the Broncos were held to only 49 yards rushing. The win gives the Chips sole possession of first place, one-half game ahead of idle 20th-ranked Ball State.
WMU QB Tim Hiller passed for a school and Kelly/Shorts Stadium record 471 yards in the loss.
**The sellout crowd at Kelly/Shorts was the first ever since the stadium was expanded in 1998.
**CMU WR Bryan Anderson became the Chippewas' all-time receptions leader with 194 career receptions.
**Chippewas DE Frank Zombo recorded 2.5 sacks, his third game this season with two or more sacks.
I was taking the reps in practice and the coaches were saying prepare like you always do, be ready to start. Then maybe a half-hour before kickoff Coach Jones says, Hey, you know youre starting right? Central Michigan QB Brian Brunner.
** "People have a tendency to say that Western Michigan and Ball State are the teams right now, but were still the champions. We felt like we had something to prove. Brunner.
** We didnt put any pressure on their quarterback. I dont care who is playing, if you give a quarterback the amount of time we gave Brunner, you are going to get beat." Western Michigan head coach Bill Cubit.

 Miami 27, Bowling Green 20.
Quick Take: Miami did something unexpected in recording it first MAC win of the season -- the RedHawks scored a touchdown on offense -- twice! The RedHawks downed Bowling Green for the ninth time in the last ten meetings between the two. The game was tied 20-20 with Bowling Green moving on a potential game-winning drive when Miami DB Robbie Wilson intercepted a pass at the two-yard line and returned it 23 yards, setting up Miami's game-winning 75-yard drive, capped off by freshman JR Taylor's five-yard TD run with 2:35 remaining in the game. The loss knocked Bowling Green out of first with Miami and BG now both one-half game behind Akron in the MAC East.
**Miami WR Chris Givens' 53-yard TD reception from Clay Belton was Miami's first aerial score since Sept 20 against Cincinnati.
**The RedHawks' 7-3 first quarter lead represented not only the first time this season that Miami scored a TD in the opening quarter but the first time all year that the RedHawks held a first quarter lead. Prior to their touchdown Miami had been outscored 57-3 in the first quarter this season.
**Bowling Green is now 0-3 at home but 3-1 on the road.

** All the excitement was earlier on in the week. Throughout the week you get a sense of time to calm down. You get to work with all the guys I get to work with on Saturday. It was good that all the guys that have been out there playing took me under their wing and helped me stay calm. Miami QB Clay Belton discussing his first career start.
** "Nobody's panicking. There are five football games left. We very easily could have won that game because it was a game of momentum. If we were getting blown out of games then yeah, but we're not. It's the same thing that I told them after Akron, we need to be a more consistent and disciplined football team. That's been hurting us when we lose."  Bowling Green head coach Gregg Brandon.
** "I told our guys after the game I was so proud of not just today, but the way they came to practice. In this sport when you don't win as much as you would like after working so hard the way you can get discouraged is about results. The last couple weeks we have had our best weeks of practice." Miami head coach Shane Montgomery.
 Akron 42, Eastern Michigan 35.
Quick Take: In the wildest finish of any game in the MAC this week, Akron came back after blowing a thirteen point fourth quarter lead to defeat Eastern Michigan 42-35. The Zips built a 34-21 by early in the fourth quarter only to see EMU storm back with two fourth quarter touchdowns with TE Josh LeDuc's 6-yard TD catch with 3:49 remaining giving the Eagles a 35-34 lead. The Zips drove downfield on their next possession and lined up for a 26-yard FG with thirty seconds left when the attempt was blocked by LeDuc. But the blocked kick bounced back to holder Andy Hildreth who scooped up the ball and ran it to the four-yard line for a first down. With 14 seconds remaining Dennis Kennedy scored his third TD of the game and then scored on the two point conversion as the Zips escaped with an unlikely victory.
**Akron RB Dennis Kennedy's 277 yards rushing were a career high and the most ever by a Zips RB since moving up to Division 1A in 1987. It was the second straight week that Kennedy set a career-high rushing (182 yards vs Bowling Green).
**EMU WR Jacory Stone, with seven catches for 109 yards receiving, surpassed the 1,000 yard receiving mark for his career.
**EMU has allowed more than 300 yards rushing in consecutive games.
** I thought his knee was down when he fielded the ball. The play should have been blown dead." EMU head coach Jeff Genyk on the blocked field goal that was advanced. The play was not reviewed and the Eagles had no timeouts available to challenge the call.
** ''I just saw the ball bounce right back to me. I didn't even know I caught it until I started running. I have no idea what was going through my head. I just caught it and ran." Akron holder Andy Hildreth
** When we blocked (the kick), I thought the game was over. You look over at the sideline and everybody is going crazy. I look at the ref and he's saying first down." Eastern Michigan DE Brad Ohrman told the Ann Arbor News.
 Buffalo 27, Army 24 (OT).
Quick Take: They sure like to live on the edge in Amherst. The Bulls took another game down to the final play this season, but this time came away with a 27-24 comeback win in overtime against Army. It was the fourth game this season for Buffalo that has been decided on the game's final play with the Bulls now 2-2 in those contests. Buffalo fell behind early and trailed by a count of 24-10 entering the fourth quarter before Naaman Roosevelt brought the Bulls to within 24-17 on an 8-yard TD catch from Drew Willy. The Bulls tied the score at 24-24 when Ernest Jackson scored on a 15-yard pass from Willy on third-down and nine with just over four minutes remaining. The game-tying TD was set up when the Bulls forced an Army fumble at the Cadets' 40-yard line which was returned 24 yards by CB Kendric Hawkins. The Bulls' AJ Principe connected on a 34-yard FG in overtime for the winning margin. The Cadets were forced to try a 51-yard FG in overtime after taking a pair of penalties.
**Buffalo DB Davonte Shannon set a Bulls' single-game 1A record with twenty tackles.
**Bulls' WR Ernest Jackson set a career-high with 134 yards receiving.
**Army FB Collin Mooney has rushed for 401 yards the past two weeks against MAC teams, recording 172 yards against Buffalo and 229 yards against Eastern Michigan the week before. Army finishes 1-3 against schools from the MAC this season.
** With this season, its been all about dramatics. We know anything can happen in a game. Buffalo QB Drew Willy.
** My hearts fine. I wont have to go see any doctors, thats for sure. Buffalo head coach Turner Gill.
** I saw the ball pop out and my eyes got big and I started running. Buffalo DB Kendrick Hawkins on his fourth quarter fumble recovery and return that set up the game-tying touchdown.
Northern Illinois 38, Toledo 7.
Quick Take: The Rockets got back into rugged MAC play after taking a breather against Big Ten opposition last week (sorry, couldn't resist). Northern Illinois never looked back in this contest as the Huskies scored on each of their first three possessions, eventually opening up a 21-0 lead by the second quarter and then coasted home with a dominating performance in a 38-7 win over Toledo. RB Chad Spann and WR Marcus Perez each scored a pair of touchdowns as the Huskies rolled to 393 yards in offense with QB Chandler Harnish back in a starting role.
** The victory over Toledo was just the Huskies' second win the last fifteen meetings and their first at home over the Rockets since 1989.
** Toledo's third quarter touchdown run by Morgan Williams snapped a string of seven straight quarters without giving up a TD by the Huskies' defense which has only given up two offensive touchdowns over the past five games.
** Toledo QB Aaron Opelt was injured in the fourth quarter and did not return. Opelt had taken every snap this season prior to leaving the NIU contest. The Rockets also lost starting CB Desmond Marrow to injury on the game's opening kickoff.
** "They key to our success as a defense has been our offense. Our offense has been controlling the ball and keeping the defense on the sidelines." NIU head coach Jerry Kill.
** We made a great effort to get our team to refocus and get ready for Northern. However, that was the kind of win where guys got patted on the back all week long. A full week of getting patted on the back is not what you want as a football team. That doesnt get you tough and mentally ready to play. Toledo head coach Tom Amstutz.
** "After 21 years of coaching, you're always nervous and never comfortable with a lead." Kill.
Prognosticating Prowess
Nothing to shout about this week but if we are looking for a sliver lining, we can point out that we are now 75% of the way through the season and still have not had the dreaded losing week.
After missing on the first two games for the second straight week, we rallied to go 3-2 for the week but needed overtime in Buffalo and a miracle finish by Akron to pull it off. Maybe we should try our luck at the Lotto.
For the season our picks now stand at a rather robust 55-16.
Here is the breakdown from the past weekend:
Western Michigan 35, Central Michigan 31.
Central Michigan 38, Western Michigan 28.
Bowling Green 27, Miami 16.
Miami 27, Bowling Green 20.
Akron 28, Eastern Michigan 24.
Akron 42, Eastern Michigan 35.
Buffalo 31, Army 14.
Buffalo 27, Army 24 (OT).
Northern Illinois 24, Toledo 16.
Northern Illinois 38, Toledo 7.