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The Top 10 Greatest MAC Upsets

After NIU's historic wins over B1G teams, here is a look at the top 10 MAC victories over AQ teams

The NIU Huskies celebrate their recent upset against Iowa
The NIU Huskies celebrate their recent upset against Iowa
Matthew Holst

With Northern Illinois' 55-24 win over Purdue Saturday the Huskies have now "upset" two B1G opponents this year already and that got me to thinking...what are the best MAC upsets of all time? What better way to discuss those MAC wins than in a Top 10 list? Here it is:

No. 10: Toledo-13 Michigan-10, Oct. 11, 2008

Toledo scraped by the Wolverines 13-10 in mid-October of 2008 for No. 10 on this list. Even though it was a terrible year for Michigan, Toledo walked into the Big House and stole a victory. Quarterback Aaron Opelt led the Rockets going 33-50 for 257 yards, with more than half of those going to receiver Nick Moore (20 catches for 162 yards). However, the offense couldn't muster many points.

But despite the bad offensive play, the Rockets' defense held strong. They kept Michigan to just 120 passing yards and 170 rushing yards, forced 3 turnovers, and had the Rockets only touchdown, a 100-yard interception returned for a touchdown. Toledo finished the season a lowly 3-9, so taking a game against a B1G foe (on the road in front of over 107,000 fans) is quite the upset...especially when it's 33% of your win total.

No. 9: Toledo-36 Purdue-22, Sept. 13, 1997

Toledo takes the ninth spot as well with its 36-22 victory over Purdue. In 1997, Purdue would end the year ranked No. 17 and the Rockets would end up going 9-3 and falling in the MAC Championship game. After trailing 0-7 the Rockets scored the next 27 points and never looked back. Rocket halfback Dwayne Harris ran for 159 yards and quarterback Chris Wallace threw for 254 yards and 2 scores in the game. But perhaps the Rocket defense once again stole the show, as they held Purdue quarterbacks Billy Dicken and (then backup) Drew Brees to a combined 24-56 and just 300 yards.

No 8: Miami-10 No. 9 Purdue-7, Oct. 13, 1962

It was a long time ago, and the stats are hard to find, but what we do know for sure is that in 1962 the then Redskins of Miami University went in to Ross-Ade Stadium and shocked the Boilermakers 10-7. After the game, students back in Oxford tore down their goal posts and paraded them through town. Miami finished the year 8-2-1, losing to Houston in the Tangerine Bowl.

No 7: CMU-20 No. 18 Michigan State-3, Sept. 14, 1991

In 1991 the Chippewas dominated the defending Big 10 champs 20-3. They never trailed and controlled the game for all sixty minutes. Their defense had an amazing pass rush and the offense ran the ball well. Billy Smith, the Chippewas halfback, tore off 162 yards on 40 carries with one touchdown. Their QB, Jeff Bender, added a 57-yard TD pass in the third, but again, it was defense that shined. They sacked the MSU quarterback four times and had a goal line stand in the first quarter to keep the Spartans off the scoreboard. This game would be higher ranked but, it turns out, for the 1991 MSU team that this was only a sign of things to come, as the Spartans lost 7 of their first 8 games and finished just 3-8.

No 6: NIU-19 No. 19 Alabama-16, Sept. 20, 2003

The 19-16 Huskie victory was one of three historic upsets on the day for the MAC. Michael Turner carried NIU with 156 rushing yards on 27 rushes, but couldn't find the endzone. On the Tide's first TD, the Huskies blocked the extra point and ran it back for a two point conversion, making the score 6-2 after the first period. After a field goal by each team, NIU entered the second half trailing 5-9.

That's where NIU quarterback Josh Haldi (16-24 for 149 yards) took over. He added a pair of second half TDs that eventually lifted the Huskies over the Tide. Alabama moved the ball on the Huskies, out gaining them by 130 yards, but costly penalties (8 for 72 yards) hurt them in the end. The Huskie defense bent but rarely broke, allowing just one score in the final 35 minutes of play. Northern is still undefeated against the Crimson Tide...hopefully the Huskies and Tide don't play anytime soon because that's a cool stat for NIU to have.

No 5: Bowling Green-27 No. 13 Purdue-26, Sept. 6, 2003

The Falcons squeaked by the Boilermakers 27-26 in front of a stunned Ross-Ade Stadium. Bowling Green's Josh Harris out gunned Boilermaker QB Kyle Orton in the victory. Neither team ran the ball much, as the combined for just 145 rushing yards. It was all done through the air. Harris, who was 22-40 for 357 yards, engineered a 10 play, 81 yard drive and threw his third, and most important, TD with just 2:08 remaining, giving the Falcons a 27-24 lead.

Orton, who finished the game 26-42 for 255 yards and 3 scores, tried to answer on Purdue's final drive but on a 4th and 10, at BGSU's 33, Purdue opted to go for it instead of kicking the tying field goal. The Falcons held strong and then gave the Boilermakers a safety as time expired. After the win, BGSU would surge to 11-3, beating Northwestern in the Motor City Bowl, being the first MAC team with two B1G victories in a whole season...until NIU who did it twice in the first four weeks this year.

No 4: Miami-21 No. 8 LSU-12, Sept. 20, 1986

The Redskins (they still weren't the RedHawks, and wouldn't be until 1997) walked into Death Valley and shocked the Tigers 21-12. LSU, despite out-gaining Miami by nearly double (407-209), never led...the Tigers came close but Miami forced 7 turnovers (five fumbles and two INTs), blocked a punt, and stopped LSU from scoring from inside the 10 yard line not once, but on THREE drives! Miami quarterback, Terry Morris, hit receiver Andy Schillinger for two scores, including an 82-yard play in the third quarter. This was one of just three losses for LSU in 1986. The Tigers were ranked in the Top 20 all year and finished at No. 10. Ole Miss and No. 6 Nebraska (in the Sugar Bowl) were the only other blemishes on the Tigers record.

No 3: NIU-20 No.13 Maryland-13, Aug. 28, 2003

Just a few weeks before they would beat Alabama, the Huskies started their 2003 campaign stunning Maryland 20-13 in overtime. Like the Alabama game, it would be Josh Haldi, the NIU quarterback, that led the team to victory. Haldi ended the day 21-30 for 266 yards and 2 TDs. But it was another defensive battle that went back and forth. The Huskie defense only allowed 222 total yards against the Terrapins (110 passing and 112 rushing). Despite the great defensive performance, NIU still trailed 13-10 late in the game. The Huskies had to settle for a 25-yard field goal with 1:12 remaining to tie the score.

In overtime, the Huskies struck quickly, needing just three plays to take the lead. Maryland's QB, Scott McBrien tried to answer just as quick, but his pass bounced off an NIU defender, spiraling into the air, where Huskie cornerback Randee Drew was eagerly awaiting, getting the pick and sealing the upset. Maryland finished the year 10-3 and the Huskies finished at 10-2, reaching as high as No. 12 in the AP Poll before slipping, but were shunned from a bowl game.

No 2: Toledo-35 No. 9 Pittsburgh-31, Sept. 20, 2003

The Rockets shocked the Panthers 35-31 in the second of three major upsets for the MAC on September, 20, 2003. Unlike most of the previous games on this list, there was not much defense in played here. In a battle of arms, Toledo's QB Bruce Gradkowski, was 49-62 for 461 yards and 3 TDs on the day. Rod Rutherford, Pitts' QB, threw for 315 yards, on 24-36, with 4 TDs, most to future NFL star, Larry Fitzgerald, who had a monster game (12 receptions for 201 yards).

A 17 point second quarter had Pittsburgh leading 31-21 entering the fourth quarter, but Toledo had no intentions of letting this one go. Gradkowski engineered two huge drives in the final 12 minutes: a 12 play-98 yard drive and the game winning 15 play-83 yard drive. It was Toledo's Lance Moore that stole the game from the Panthers with his second TD of the game, scoring with just 43 seconds remaining. Moore would finish with 15 catches, 162 yards, and two huge touchdown receptions. Pitt would end the year at 8-5 and Toledo would finish at 8-4, missing out on a bowl game.

No 1: Marshall-27 No. 6 Kansas State-20, Sept. 20, 2003

Marshall is no longer a MAC school, but it was during this awesome it still counts! Marshall, in the third and largest upset from September 20, 2003, left Bill Snyder Stadium in euphoria as the Thundering Herd downed the Wildcats 27-20. It was a close game the whole way as Marshall ran the ball extremely well against K-State and played great run defense, holding Wildcat halfback Darren Sproles to just 77 yards. However, with 8:22 remaining in the game, Sproles gave K-State the 20-19 lead with his 12-yard TD run.

The Herd countered on their next possession, driving 60 yards on 10 plays; connected on a short 3-yard touchdown pass and converted the 2-point conversion, taking a 27-20 lead, but leaving the Wildcats with 3 minutes to work with. K-State drove down the field and, with 25 seconds remaining, were at the Herd's 3 yard line. Marshall's defense held strong, and forced an incomplete pass as time expired. The win marked Marshall's first ever against a Top 25 team, let alone a Top 10 team. The win also marks the last time a MAC school defeated a Top 10 team. K-State ended up in the Fiesta Bowl, at 11-3, but lost to Ohio State and finished ranked No. 8. Meanwhile, this was the last time Marshall ended the regular season above .500, at 8-4. The Thundering Herd have only won seven games in a season twice since 2003: back in 2009 and 2011 (winning their seventh game in post season play).