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Toledo Rockets at Northern Illinois Huskies: 5 Things Learned

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The game at Guarantee Rate Field was guaranteed to be a battle.

NCAA Football: Toledo at Northern Illinois Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

After beating the Rockets 6 games in a row, we knew we were going to get a great game, regardless of the records. Here is what we learned from that game.

  1. Ryan Graham is a good quarterback. The Huskies were without starting QB Anthony Maddie, a late scratch. Graham had started previously, and made horrible decisions. Last night, until a late pick, he not only made smart decisions, he played with heart. The future is bright at NIU for the redshirt sophomore. His final stats on the game were 24-43, 221 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air, and 17 rushes for 97 yards on the ground.
  2. There is no such thing as a jinx. The announcers in the game went on for a while about how Kareem Hunt has only fumbled once in over 700 carries (723 after the game), and had never lost a fumble. He didn’t fumble. So jinxes aren’t really a thing. Unless, of course, Hunt fumbles next week, then it will totally be my fault for writing this.
  3. Last night was Jon’Vea Johnson’s turn. Every week, there is a Rocket’s receiver that goes nuts. 6 catches for 129 yards and a TD. That stat line isn’t as absurd as some of the previous ones by him and the rest of the crew, but it’s still a heck of a game.
  4. There was some major hitting going on. It was like one team knew the other team won 6 in a row, and the other team wanted to prove they were better than their 3-6 record. What better way to do it than trying to take your opponent’s head off? After one particularly big hit, the booth called down to take Graham out for a play for concussion protocol. There were at least a dozen hits where I yelled “ohhhhh” at my TV screen. Which brings me to the next thing I learned.
  5. ESPN and the MAC need to figure out how to get asses in seats. The game last night was electric. When big hits are made in a game like that, I expect the crowd to “ohhhhh” with me. If it did, I couldn’t hear it because the place wasn’t anywhere near capacity. I know it’s difficult to fill seats for weeknight MACtion. There are 2.7 million people in Chicago. They could easily have found 40 or 50 thousand willing to go to the game if they tried.

Everyone that tunes into the weeknight games aren’t MAC junkies, like us. A free tee-shirt give-a-way or dime a dog night could have brought out football fans that would have appreciated the product on the field, and enhanced the game on TV. That’s good for ESPN, and good for the MAC. Let’s make it happen!

On a lot of these 5 things learned that involve the Rockets, I mention the impending battle with undefeated WMU at the end of the season. If Toledo can take care of Ball State next week, and WMU can handle Buffalo, we are in for one of the biggest games in MAC history.