The college football season wrapped up last Monday, as LSU climbed to the apex of the sport after besting reigning national champion Clemson, in a battle of the last two remaining unbeatens. One week prior, the MAC football season officially concluded as conference champion Miami (OH) fell short in the LendingTree Bowl against Louisiana.
Bowl season never fails to deliver unforgettable moments. This season, the MAC participated in seven postseason contests and won three for the first time since 2015. Two MAC programs witnessed history in the making with their first bowl victories and another won its third-straight bowl. Let’s take a trip down a rather-recent memory lane and recount what happened this December and January in the world of MACtion.
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl
Buffalo 31, Charlotte 9
Bowl season kicked off on a Friday afternoon in the tropics of the Bahamas, where Buffalo and Charlotte were both aiming for their first bowl win in program history. The clear advantage belonged to the Bulls, who were led by a 173-yard, 2-touchdown performance by elusive running back Jaret Patterson. Not only did Patterson dominate, but Buffalo bested the 49ers on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The Bulls’ offensive line extended its streak of allowing zero sacks to four games, while their defense brutalized Charlotte with five sacks. Lance Leipold and the Bulls escaped Nassau with a valuable first addition to the trophy case, and now the MAC and C-USA have alternated victories in all six years of Bahamas Bowl history.
Buffalo’s best play:
To open the scoring in Nassau, Kyle Vantrease threw a fade route to wide receiver Antonio Nunn, who Mossed his defender and completed an impressive diving catch.
TOUCHDOWN, BUFFALO!— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) December 20, 2019
Antonio Nunn jumps up and gets a foot down in-bounds on the fade from Kyle Vantrease to put the Bulls up 7-0 and cap off a seven-play, 61-yard drive. #BahamasBowl pic.twitter.com/Y6cDDKIiyi
Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl
Kent State 51, Utah State 41
Imagine hearing before the season that Kent State would drop 51 in a bowl win over a team that finished ranked in 2018. Well, it happened on December 20. Kent State’s 2019 season was nothing short of magical. After one bowl appearance since 1973, the Golden Flashes rattled off three-straight victories to qualify for the Frisco Bowl. Then, Kent State walloped Utah State’s defense with 51 points in a thrilling shootout in Texas. Dustin Crum put together an all-time performance with 286 passing yards on 21/26 completions, 147 rushing yards, and three total touchdowns. Crum led the Golden Flashes to a 24 fourth quarter points, including his game-winning touchdown — a 3-yard run on 4th down to seal the victory over the favored Aggies. Kent State finished with its first winning season since 2012 and delivered its first postseason victory in program history.
Kent State’s best play:
With a tie game on 3rd and goal in the fourth quarter, Sean Lewis drew up a crafty play design to take the lead. Dustin Crum faked the pitch left to Will Matthews and scrambled right. The Offensive MVP shoveled it to Antwan Dixon, who broke the 40-point barrier on the pivotal touchdown.
Fake to the left, shovel to the right. Touchdown Kent State, on this crafty play from Dustin Crum to Antwan Dixon. 41-34, with 9:36 remaining in the Frisco Bowl. pic.twitter.com/5pMOCNPF7R— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) December 21, 2019
Tropical Smoothie Bath
Kent State celebrated the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl win by dumping a tropical smoothie on head coach Sean Lewis.
GREEN SMOOTHIE BATH ✅— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) December 21, 2019
Kent State celebrates its first bowl win! pic.twitter.com/9eyYaS7OIj
New Mexico Bowl
San Diego State 48, Central Michigan 11
On the third play of the game, quarterback Quinten Dormady’s pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by San Diego State’s middle linebacker Kyahva Tezino. San Diego State scored a quick touchdown in response, and that sequence set the tone for a blowout in Albuquerque. The Aztecs featured the second-best scoring defense in the country and held Central Michigan’s explosive offense to one touchdown, long after the game had been decided. San Diego State shattered its season-high of 31 points by dropping 48 on Central Michigan, along with 510 yards of offense. Despite the brutal loss, the Chippewas improved from 1-11 to 8-6 and a MAC West title, an all-around stunning rebuild under first-year head coach Jim McElwain.
Central Michigan’s best play:
Down 34-3 in the late third quarter, Central Michigan received an offensive spark from one of its two 1,000 yard rushers. Sophomore running back Kobe Lewis broke the century mark on a 66-yard run, sprinting down the right sideline for the Chippewas’ lone touchdown of the afternoon.
Quick Lane Bowl
Pittsburgh 34, Eastern Michigan 30
Until the final minute at Ford Field, it appeared an upset was brewing in the Motor City. Eastern Michigan led Pitt 20-17 at halftime and kicked a go-ahead field goal with six minutes left to propel to a 30-27 advantage. In a game where both quarterbacks threw for over 300 yards, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett got the last laugh. Pickett completed his 361-yard outing by leading a 91-yard drive on the Eagles, iced with a 25-yard touchdown to Taysir Mack with 47 seconds left. The Quick Lane Bowl was one of the most thrilling matchups this bowl season, featuring 27 second quarter points and 24 in the fourth quarter. Perhaps it will also be remembered by the scuffles on Eastern Michigan’s final drive of the game.
Eastern Michigan’s best play:
This touchdown pass from Mike Glass III to Quian Williams occurred shortly after a 96-yard touchdown pass from Pitt. Glass’ deep ball was tipped by the cornerback but perfectly wound up in the hands of Williams, who waltzed into the end zone to complete a 50-yard score.
TOUCHDOWN, EAGLES!— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) December 27, 2019
EMU responds in a big way after giving up a 96-yard TD and get a 50-yard score of their own, courtesy of this #SCTop10-worthy catch by Quian Williams off the tip!
17-10 EMU in the 2Q! pic.twitter.com/3ISgmojciT
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
WKU 23, Western Michigan 20
A low-scoring defensive slugfest quickly turned into five minutes of pure chaos in Dallas. Western Michigan’s game-winning drive shockingly stalled after quarterback Jon Wassink tripped with an open field ahead. After a turnover on downs, WKU earned its opportunity at a win, but Western Michigan batted down the Hilltoppers’ Hail Mary attempt in the end zone. But SERVPRO’s slogan is “Like it never even happened,” and that bat-down never happened because mass substitutions by both teams resulted in 12 Western Michigan players on the field for the final play. WKU then shattered the Broncos’ hearts with a 52-yard field goal on an untimed down.
Western Michigan’s best play:
WKU led 10-3 right before halftime with an opportunity to add to its lead. But the Hilltoppers’ play action pass was batted and intercepted by Western Michigan cornerback Kareem Ali. Ali raced 88 yards for Western Michigan’s longest play of the season and to knot the game up at 10 apiece at the break.
WMU 10, WKU 10, 0:59 2Q.— Elliott Pratt (@EPrattBGDN) December 30, 2019
Kareem Ali 85-yard interception return for a touchdown. Pass deflected, Ali in the right place at the right time. pic.twitter.com/F4UOr1d2og
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Ohio 30, Nevada 21
It was the sendoff performance for quarterback Nathan Rourke, a three-time All-MAC selection who delivered the Bobcats a bowl win in each year as their starter. Rourke threw for 144 yards, rushed for 87 and a touchdown. Defensively, Ohio prevented Nevada from reaching the end zone until the fourth quarter — an 11-quarter streak of holding bowl opponents without a touchdown. Nevada quickly piled on the points with two late touchdowns, but defensive end Austin Conrad broke up a Philly special with around three minutes left to seal the Bobcat victory. Frank Solich arrived at a program with zero bowl wins and now Ohio owns five bowl trophies, including three in consecutive seasons.
Ohio’s best play:
The Bobcats allowed two consecutive touchdowns and Nevada was knocking on the door with a chance to cut Ohio’s lead even more. Ever since the Philadelphia Eagles successfully ran it in the Super Bowl, the “Philly Special” has been a nearly unstoppable goal line play. But Austin Conrad invaded the backfield and blew up the trick play. After a long scramble, Ohio pounced on the pigskin and Nevada’s scoring was done for the day.
French Fry Bath
Ohio celebrated the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl win by dumping a bucket of French fries on head coach Frank Solich. And Solich ate one!
Louisiana 27, Miami (OH) 17
The LendingTree Bowl was a bittersweet event, as it was the realization that the college football season was coming to a close. Miami (OH) struck first in the season’s penultimate game, but Louisiana scored touchdowns on three-straight drives extending from the end of the second quarter and deep into the third. The RedHawks suffered a couple brutal breaks, including a shockingly overturned play which resulted in a fumble. Then, on Miami’s last stand on 4th and goal at the 1, the RedHawks’ snap flew about 20 yards past quarterback Brett Gabbert, handing Louisiana the victory in Mobile. Miami finished 8-6 and continued the disappointing 8-game losing streak among MAC champions in bowl games.
Miami’s best play:
Right after an interception was called back due to defensive pass interference on Louisiana, Miami took advantage. Brett Gabbert delivered a beautiful deep ball to James Maye. With a smaller jersey tail, perhaps Maye sneaks into the end zone on this play. But nonetheless, it’s impressive 63-yard play by the RedHawks.
All-MAC Bowl Team
All-MAC Bowl Team
|21/26, 289 pass yards, 147 rush yards, 3 total TD
|32 rushes, 173 yards, 2 TD
|10 rushes, 97 yards, 1 TD
|6 receptions, 103 yards, 1 TD
|10 receptions, 107 yards
|9 receptions, 113 yards
|4 receptions, 20 yards
|0 sacks allowed
|0 sacks allowed
|0 sacks allowed
|0 sacks allowed
|0 sacks allowed
|2 solo tackles, 2 FF
|5 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF
|5 tackles, 1 sack
|6 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
|10 tackles, 3 solo
|9 tackles, 4 solo
|12 tackles, 9 solo
|9 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL
|9 tackles, 9 solo
|1 tackle, 1 INT, 88 yards, 1 TD
|11 tackles, 8 solo, 1 FF
|5/5 FG, 4/4 XP, long 40, 19 points
|5 punts, 46.4 average, 1 IN20, long 57
|Keith Mixon Jr.
|4 KR, 107 yards, long 36