This particular Wednesday night hit different.
For the first time ever, all 12 MAC teams played on a single Wednesday night. The television exposure was at an all-time high with the conference reserving spots on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPN+, and CBS Sports Network. With NBA, NHL, and MLB all operating in the offseason, the entire sports world enjoyed an unhinged night of MACtion.
But foremost, we hadn’t seen a MAC football team take the field since the LendingTree Bowl last January. The MAC was the first conference to cancel its fall football season on Aug. 8 before reversing its decision in late September. The anticipation and hunger for MAC football was so great, and the brand new season for the conference had to start with a bang.
The onside kick heard ‘round the world
The eyeballs were especially abundant on MACtion this Wednesday night, and Akron had some trickery up its sleeve to impress all the viewers on the first play of the season. The Zips’ 6:00 p.m. ET kickoff was the first of the year for the conference, and it was certainly the loudest kickoff of Wednesday night.
Akron went full send and attempted a surprise onside kick to open the season. The terms “MACtion” and “chaos” go hand-in-hand, and there is no better way to commence the midweek MAC slate than the most chaotic play possible. The Zips actually recovered the kick, but the exhilarating feeling would quickly dissolve thanks to a penalty flag.
THE FIRST KICKOFF OF 2020'S #MACTION IS AN ONSIDE KICK BY AKRON!!! pic.twitter.com/6Mc3sALQxF— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) November 4, 2020
Forced to re-kick, Akron didn’t pull off surprise back-to-back onside kicks. Instead, the Zips kicked to Western Michigan wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge who registered a 45-yard return. The Broncos emerged on top 58-13, but the nation owes Akron a thank you letter for starting midweek MACtion in the most thrilling manner possible.
Mount Pleasant power outage
No general attendance is permitted at MAC stadiums this year, but the crowd of cardboard cutouts at Kelly-Shorts Stadium brought enough electricity to force a power outage. As a response to the shocking delay, Central Michigan and Ohio headed into their locker rooms with 1:17 remaining in the second quarter.
Surreal scenes in Mt. Pleasant, as we are officially in a power outage delay.— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) November 5, 2020
Teams will go to the locker rooms for halftime, and make up the remaining 1:17 in the second "half." We might have just hit peak #MACtion. pic.twitter.com/QQLgXqm8mU
During the outage, the primary sources of light in the stadium were the scoreboard and Central Michigan band members using their phone flashlights. The stadium lights eventually came back on during the makeshift halftime, and play resumed.
Two plays after returning from the locker rooms, Ohio running back De’Montre Tuggle scored a touchdown in the final 1:17 of the second quarter. The Bobcats stopped Central Michigan for a turnover on downs and then ran out the clock to end the second quarter.
The third quarter kickoff immediately ensued, and it was one of the major plays of the game. Tuggle fielded the kick and returned it 93 yards for a touchdown to provide Ohio a 27-20 lead. The Bobcats would never score for the remainder of the second half, and the Chippewas were victorious at home in 30-27 fashion.
You could say... Central Michigan flipped the switch.
Six missed extra points
From the same conference that brought you a 16/16 performance on field goals last bowl season... oh no.
Kicking extra points was a complete and utter disaster for many MAC programs alike Wednesday night. Six different programs were plagued by a total of six shanked extra points. There were no guarantees where the kick would land after a touchdown, with 14% of extra points (6/43) missing the uprights on the MAC’s opening night.
Both the Ohio-Central Michigan and Kent State-Eastern Michigan games featured missed extra points by both participating teams. Toledo and Western Michigan each added a miss, causing half the MAC to be responsible for kicking woes. All six misses occurred in the first half of games, so pent-up rust from not kicking in a real-game scenario definitely was a factor.
Also, shoutout to Ohio kicker Tristian Vandenberg, who nailed a bank shot extra point attempt of the upright, Tim Duncan style. It’s only worth one point, but I’d be willing to consider a rule change to reward an extra style point for banking in the kick.
The bank is open during #MACtion pic.twitter.com/CpJvQNz6pO— MWC Fan Account (@nocontextcfb) November 5, 2020
Long live midweek MACtion. The chaos continues in a double-header next week, with the MAC East playing Tuesday and the MAC West following up the act on Wednesday.