EAST HARTFORD, CT - AUGUST 30: Yawin Smallwood #33 of the Univeristy of Connecticut Huskies sacks Mike Wegzyn #11 of the University of Massachusetts Minutemen during the game on August 30, 2012 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Notes from the first night of college football (whee!) featuring the MAC teams:
UConn 37, UMass 0 — Baptism by fire of the most painful order. This is how it goes. You make a couple neat plays, find some silver linings, and collect your paycheck for the game.
The defensive play of the night, though, was pulled off by UMass:
Yep, that was the UConn quarterback trying to throw it away. Then safety Darren Thellen leaped out of bounds and batted it to linebacker Tom Brandt. Also punter Jeff Strait averaged 42 yards a punt, which bodes slightly well for their field position battles this season. But just 59 yards of total offense and three turnovers is going to equate to 0 points on any night.
Kent State 41, Towson 21 — The story I want to tell you as a MAC writer is that Kent State looked very impressive against a top 10 FCS team. This should be all about Dri Archer and his three total touchdowns (two rushing, one kickoff return) or Roosevelt Nix's four tackles for loss. But nope. The fates made this one about Andre Parker, whose video of this bonehead play spanned the depths of the Internet before Parker made it to the locker room at halftime:
The good news is that, because the punt was muffed, the ball was dead on recovery. It was a moment of total confusion. Parker is running toward a safety. Towson tackled him to prevent scoring two points. The rest of the Flashes punt coverage was confused. The announcers were confused. The coach probably wasn't sure how to handle the situation. You practice for every situation. WE DIDN'T PRACTICE FOR THIS, COACH.
Everything about the video is wonderful. Parker trash talking the opponent after the "return." His teammates consoling him ... and about 10 seconds later, Parker FINALLY realizing what happened. We've all been there, but we didn't have the cameras on us. At least he recovered the ball, and the turnover led to three points. Good on you, Andre Parker. Good. On You.
Ball State 37, Eastern Michigan 26 — Ah, yes, the conference game! It always sucks to have these on opening night, because there are no dry runs. You gotta get it right in practice, and EMU had some miscommunications on some pass plays that could have made this closer. And on defense, Ball State just pounded through them. Jahwan Edwards had a game: 20 carries, 202 yards and three touchdowns including a 75-yard gallop to the end zone. Jamill Smith had a 100-yard receiving game and Keith Wenning didn't throw a touchdown but he took care of the ball and moved it.
For a team that prides itself on tough defense, EMU allowing 596 yards of offense isn't the way to get it done, although Travis Linser made three tackles for loss. On another bright note, Alex Gillett did expose the glaring weakness of the Cardinals and account for three passing touchdowns, bringing him to 33 for his career, but 10 against these Cardinals. Gillett also had a fourth rushing. And suddenly the Eagles are 0-1 in the conference, which isn't a lot but them and Ball State were in the middle-of-the-pack coming into this one. Well, next year maybe they'll go back to an FCS game for the opener. Everybody's doing it.
UCF 56, Akron 14 — If the goal is to improve from last year, consider that their last game was a 72-19 loss. So, yes, the defense improved! I am not sure if UCF is an offensive powerhouse but they didn't even hit 400 yards of offense on the night. Four turnovers helped, though. Dalton Williams was put to the test and threw the ball 50 times, making 30 completions and not even getting 250 yards. Jawon Chisholm was shut down, too, plus he fumbled.
I'm not sure what else I can say here, and maybe you can't read anything into the first game, other than people showed up to a game and are at least optimistic, once again, that they can turn this around. But they knew it wouldn't happen tonight.
Central Michigan 38, Southeast Missouri State 27 — Yeesh. SEMO took the lead on three separate occasions, once by as much as 14 points. That option offense caused fits, combined with come Chippewa turnovers, and I thought an FCS upset was going to happen.
But as is the case for underdog vs. the big beast, Central Michigan waited for the Redhawks to wear down and finally took care of things thanks to Zurlon Tipton, who scored three touchdowns on 17 carries for 180 yards. Anthony Garland also hit the 100-yard mark on the ground, and once the defense figured stuff out, all was well in Mount Pleasant for a while. Still a long way to go before they're fully comfortable with the Dan Enos Project.