MAC Notebook: Huskies nearly pull off upset, Akron notches first win

By Tyler Movsessian

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After former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel got inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame, he almost watched the nation’s top team get upset, as the Buckeyes snuck by Northern Illinois in a tight game, winning 20-13. The Huskies, a favorite to win the MAC title this year, hung tough against the defending national champions.

While the Buckeyes have two very talented quarterbacks in Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, their offense, specifically the passing game, was rather stagnant against the Northern Illinois defense. Jones, who started the game, threw two interceptions and then was replaced by J.T Barrett. Barrett finally got the Buckeyes offense cooking by throwing a touchdown pass to Michael Thomas to tie the game 10-10 going into halftime.

The play of the game came in the third quarter, when Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee intercepted Huskies QB Drew Hare and returned it for a touchdown to give the Buckeyes a 20-10 lead. But despite a strong second half defensively (Northern Illinois ended the game with five forced turnovers), the Huskies offense couldn’t get anything going, and Ohio State held on to stay undefeated in its national title defense.

Northern Illinois will return to action Saturday at Boston College, with kickoff set for 1 p.m.

Akron pummels winless Savannah State

After starting the season 0-2, a matchup with Savannah State was just what Akron needed to get back on track. The Zips beat the Tigers in dominating fashion, recording their first win of the season in a 52-9 blowout.

Not only has Savannah State been outscored 117-22 this year, they have not won a single football game since Sept. 14, 2013, against Fort Valley State. The Tigers also have not come within single digits of an opponent in almost a year – their last time doing so was Oct. 4, 2014 against Norfolk State.

As expected, the Zips had their way against this Savannah State defense. Akron running back Cody Griece ran for three touchdowns on the day on just five carries. Also impressive was Zips quarterback Thomas Woodson, who was 12-20 passing with 207 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Running back Conor Hundley was another major contributor on offense, rushing for 120 yards on 11 carries with a score. The Akron defense held Savannah State to just 202 yards of total offense.

Akron (1-2) will travel to Louisiana-Lafayette for a road matchup on Saturday.

Ball State tops Eastern Michigan in MAC opener

Eastern Michigan looked like it was going to walk away victorious against the Ball State Cardinals in the first MAC conference action of the new season. But spurred by backup quarterback Riley Neal, Ball State came back from a 17-0 deficit to defeat the Eagles 28-17.

After replacing starter Jack Milas, Neal was almost perfect from the pocket. He went 24-28 for 194 yards passing in addition to 86 yards on 11 rushes on the ground.

Neal got a lot of contribution from his Cardinals teammates as well. Running back Darian Green rushed for 164 yards on 25 carries, and freshman James Gilbert continued an impressive start to his season by scoring his fourth and fifth touchdowns of the year.

Eastern Michigan was on fire early on, as Darius Jackson had two touchdowns in under six minutes during the second quarter to put the Eagles up 17-0. Despite the hot start, the Eagles cooled off as quarterback Brogan Roback threw two interceptions on Eastern Michigan’s final two possessions of the game.

Ball State will look to keep up its momentum on the road next week at undefeated Northwestern.

Tyler Movsessian can be reached at [email protected]