New coach? No problem — Dave Doeren helped NIU defend the MAC West title in his first year.
We were waking up a little groggy from the bountiful feast the night before. But sure enough, there was Northern Illinois playing a low scoring game against Eastern Michigan for the MAC Championship. I don't think you'd have expected 30 combined points, but the Huskies would've taken it every day had it meant an 18-12 victory and a trip back to Ford Field, this time to face OHIO.
It's not too surprising of a match-up — I personally thought Toledo would've made it, but then again I didn't think they'd lose 63-60 in what turned out to be the decisive MAC West game.
|Final - 11.25.2011||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Eastern Michigan Eagles||3||0||3||6||12|
|Northern Illinois Huskies||7||5||6||0||18|
The other loser, which I guess is the actual loser, is Eastern Michigan, who really blew three great opportunities for touchdowns — all resulting in field goals. The first was a goal line situation where they couldn't poke through the 1-yard line. The second one was Alex Gillett overthrowing a wide open Garrett Hoskins in the flat. The third was Hoskins basically dropping Gillett's throw 20 yards behind the defense.
Other than those drops they were able to keep NIU, like we mentioned, to 18 points and made it difficult on third down (just 2-for-13). They kept them to under 300 yards for only the second time this year (Wisconsin) and other than a long Harnish run and a pass 54-yard touchdown strike to Willie Clark, the Eagles defense did as much as they could do, and ought to be commended. 6-6 is a fantastic finish for the year, but since they played Howard and Alabama State, they are not bowl eligible. But you can still make the case for Ron English being the Coach of the Universe.
But despite all this, they almost yanked a victory from thin air even after being pushed into a 4th and 35 situation (thanks to back-to-back Sean Progar sacks). Hoskins ran a 35-yard route and held the ball in his hands for maybe a half-second before getting it knocked out of his craw.
So that's your matchup: the Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Ohio Bobcats. An all-feline matchup. NIU's last MAC championship was in 1983, while the Bobcats haven't won the conference since 1968. They're both 0-2 in the title game. Somebody's got to win it, and while it's not the sexiest of matchups, that doesn't mean it won't be watchable.