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Top 10 MAC Games of 2019: Conference Battles

Reliving the top 10 MAC vs. MAC games of the past season.

Kenneth Bailey

Living in a world without sports is difficult, but while we’re supposed to stay home for the good of society, we might as well pass the time reminiscing on the great memories sports has provided us over the years.

The 2019 college football season was an especially memorable one for the MAC. No, the MAC didn’t have a dominant team, and no program finished the season with a better record than 8-5. But with parity comes unexpectedness, thrilling finishes, and most importantly — CHAOS. Nearly every midweek MACtion game came down to the wire, and every Saturday slate provided us intriguing finishes throughout the months of October and November as well.

Here is a chronicle of the top 10 conference clashes in the MAC during the 2019 season:

Honorable Mention: Bowling Green 20, Toledo 7

October 12 — Bowling Green, OH

The game itself may not have been a thriller, but Bowling Green’s 2-touchdown victory over its bitter rival rocked the college football world on a mid-October afternoon. The Falcons not only entered the game as 27-point underdogs at home, they hadn’t won the Battle of I-75 since 2009. In fact, last time Bowling Green won, it was awarded the now-extinct Peace Pipe instead of the Battle of I-75 Trophy. Now, the all-time series between two of the greatest rivals in the MAC is tied at 40-40-4 after the Falcons’ landmark upset. All eyes are on the 2021 matchup at the Glass Bowl now.

Honorable Mention: Miami (OH) 24, Ohio 21

October 12 — Athens, OH

Only one game transpired on the night of the 150th anniversary of college football’s inaugural showdown. A battle for MAC East supremacy, the Miami RedHawks snuck into Athens and won their second-straight matchup in the Battle of the Bricks rivalry. No team recorded consecutive scores in this game, and a 10-minute span in the fourth quarter featured 24 total points after a slow first half. The final points etched into the scoreboard were courtesy of All-MAC kicker Sam Sloman. The ever-accurate kicker delivered a 53-yard go-ahead field goal with 3:48 left to push the RedHawks into first place in the division of a conference they’d wind up winning in December.

10. Toledo 37, Eastern Michigan 34 (OT)

October 26 — Toledo, OH

There’s no worse pairing in the sport of college football than Eastern Michigan and overtime. After falling to the Rockets in late October, the Eagles are now 0-7 in overtime finishes under Chris Creighton. Led by Bryant Koback and his 259 rushing yards, Toledo appeared to run away with this one in the early third quarter by scoring three touchdowns before the 9:00 minute mark hit. Trailing 31-10, Eastern Michigan stormed back with three touchdown runs courtesy of Mike Glass and Shaq Vann. The Eagles notched their first lead of the contest on a field goal in overtime after scoring their 24 unanswered, but Toledo quarterback Eli Peters iced the game with a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Drew Rosi in the front corner of the end zone.

9. Ohio 45, Kent State 38

October 19 — Athens, OH

This was as strong as a quarterback duel as we witnessed in the MAC in 2019. Ohio’s Nathan Rourke registered a career-high 342 passing yards, completing 19/28 attempts with two passing touchdowns on the side. Rourke also added 79 rushing yards and two scores on the ground to his game résumé. Rising star Dustin Crum, the spark which ignited Kent State’s dream season, finished 24/35 with 262 passing yards and four touchdowns. Crum led the Golden Flashes in the rushing department with 96 yards. Overall, this game was a display of excellent offensive football as three of the four quarters featured 24 points or more. Ohio pulled ahead at the end on a De’Montre Tuggle rushing touchdown to seal the deal with 2:49 remaining.

8. Western Michigan 35, Ball State 31

November 5 — Kalamazoo, MI

Where were you when Jon Wassink became Madden 2004 Michael Vick? The 3-year starting quarterback for Western Michigan never rushed for more than 65 yards in a single contest prior to a Tuesday night matchup versus Ball State. And then he doubled it. He set up the first of three LeVante Bellamy touchdowns with a 60-yard run and then later blitzed his way past Cardinals defenders on a 46-yard touchdown scamper. Wassink finished with 131 on six carries while Bellamy added 157. Western Michigan literally looked to be running away from the game until Malik Dunner returned the second half kickoff 100 yards for a score. Then, four lead changes occurred on the four touchdowns exchanged in the fourth quarter. The heroes of the night sealed it — Wassink ran for 10 yards and then Bellamy found daylight for a go-ahead 9-yard touchdown score with 1:05 remaining.

7. Northern Illinois 31, Toledo 28

November 13 — Toledo, OH

Midweek MACtion always presents bizarre storylines, and on this specific Wednesday night, it was the birth of “Hoodie Marcus Childers”. The former MAC champion quarterback (wearing a black hoodie underneath his jersey) came off the bench in relief for Ross Bowers and then rushed for 57 yards and two touchdowns, including the first down to set up the game-winning field goal. But before Childers’ heroics in the Glass Bowl, Toledo almost pulled off a wild comeback. Down 21 entering the fourth quarter, Bryce Mitchell (125 receiving yards, two fourth quarter touchdowns) and the Rockets stormed back with three touchdowns in less than nine minutes. For NIU, Tre Harbison rushed for 168 yards. For Toledo, Eli Peters threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, while Shakif Seymour attained 133 on the ground. In a game full of masterful offensive showings, special teams prevailed as a 25-yard chip shot field goal by John Richardson lifted the Huskies over the Rockets on the road in another chaotic MAC West finish.

6. Kent State 41, Ball State 38

November 23 — Kent, OH

Ball State’s 4-game losing streak after an impressive 5-3 (3-0 MAC) start was brutal for Cardinal faithful, but the Cardinals found themselves in interesting losses. This is the second of the three games from that streak on this list, and it was a thrilling shootout with bowl eligibility on the line for both Ball State and Kent State. The MAC’s breakout quarterback Dustin Crum shined with 369 yards on 18 completions. His most beautiful of the afternoon was a 24-yard dime to Isaiah McKoy in the right corner of the end zone to put the Golden Flashes up 38-31 with approximately eight minutes to go. In a day where he recorded 192 yards and two touchdowns, Cardinals running back Caleb Huntley responded on a 4th down with a 42-yard tying score. A slow, “death-by-papercuts” style running game allowed Kent State to eat up clock and set up star kicker Matthew Trickett for a 22-yard field goal — one of three game-winners for the sophomore kicker in 2019.

5. Northern Illinois 39, Ohio 36

November 12 — Athens, OH

Northern Illinois entered this matchup in Athens against the preseason MAC favorites with a 1-4 record. But if we’ve learned anything from the past decade, NEVER count out NIU to spoil things. While Nathan Rourke was spectacular for Ohio with 258 passing yards, 80 rushing, and three total touchdowns, the Bobcats couldn’t stop the Huskie offense. Northern Illinois’ offense played at a different level at Peden Stadium with 510 total yards of offense including a season-high 338 passing yards from Ross Bowers. Northern Illinois scored on each of its last five possessions of the game and reached the end zone on four of six second half drives. Ohio tied the Huskies at 39 apiece after a 47-yard pass from Rourke to wide receiver Shane Hooks. But as time expired, John Richardson’s 37-yard field goal broke Northern Illinois’ cold streak to start the season and shocked the Bobcats in 39-36 fashion.

4. Eastern Michigan 34, Western Michigan 27

October 19 — Ypsilanti, MI

If there’s one rule about the MAC West in the 2019 season, it’s that there are no rules. Any given Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday, any team seemed capable of beating any opponent in the division. And that was the case in Ypsilanti when Eastern Michigan backup quarterback Preston Hutchinson took the grey field at The Factory and exited with the performance of a lifetime. The sophomore from Mason, OH completed 31/36 attempts in his first collegiate start, tossing three touchdown passes to down the Broncos. His most notable was a 34-yard air delivery to Mathew Sexton. With cornerback Anton Curtis draped over him, Sexton snagged in the ball while falling into the end zone, and Eastern Michigan claimed the lead over its in-state rival with 36 seconds left. If there’s silver lining for the Broncos, outside linebacker Treshaun Hayward strengthened his MAC Defensive Player of the Year résumé with 18 tackles and they retained the Michigan MAC Trophy since Central, Eastern, and Western all finished 1-1 against each other in 2019.

3. Central Michigan 45, Ball State 44

November 16 — Muncie, IN

Ball State blew a 17-point lead in roughly 16 minutes of game time. What started as an offensive clinic by the Cardinals quickly turned into a disastrous fourth quarter in Muncie, IN, as the Chippewas maliciously snatched the MAC West away from the Cardinals. Down 41-24, Central Michigan’s defense stepped up by forcing two punts and an interception in the fourth quarter, allowing the offense to make up for lost time. Jonathan Ward rushed for each of the first four Chippewas’ touchdowns, but “Touchdown” Tommy Lazzaro finished the effort with the final two scores of the game, including a 2-yarder with 1:01 remaining. This rampant comeback continued Central Michigan on the path to Detroit for the conference title, while slowly knocking Ball State not only out of MAC contention, but out of bowl eligibility.

2. Western Michigan 37, Ohio 34

November 12 — Athens, OH

Yes, this is the game where 6’3”, 300-pound Ohio lineman Hagen Meservy performed a cartwheel in the middle of a play — a play which resulted in a 25-yard completion to tight end Adam Luehrman. Ohio running back De’Montre Tuggle then benefited from the long gain with a 10-yard touchdown run on the ensuing play. At that point, Ohio led 14-10 in the middle of the third quarter, meaning that there’s still plenty of scoring to go. Also, Ohio trailed 10-0 at halftime before the second half scoring barrage commenced. The fourth quarter featured 31 total points and Western Michigan wide receiver Skyy Moore (162 receiving yards) demonstrated a heroic showing with two touchdowns in the period. Moore broke the tie with a go-ahead touchdown, and then Ohio’s attempted game-tying drive stalled when the Bobcats turned it over on downs from the Broncos’ 6 with 1:17 left. Game over? It’s never over — this is midweek MACtion! Ohio’s defense forced a quick three-and-out, allowing Nathan Rourke one more shot at leading the offense down the field. Like a combo from Wendy’s, he was a perfect 4-for-4, and sent the game into overtime with a 12-yard pass to Tyler Tupa as nine seconds remained on the clock. But all Ohio managed in overtime was a field goal, and Western Michigan escaped a weeknight in Athens victorious with a walk-off LeVante Bellamy touchdown run.

1. Kent State 30, Buffalo 27

November 14 — Kent, OH

ESPN’s win probability stated Buffalo had a 99.7% chance to win when the Bulls kicked off with 11:18 remaining in the contest. The Bulls were victors of three-straight games and heated up each week as the season progressed. All-MAC running back Jaret Patterson put up typical NCAA 14-esque numbers with 141 rushing yards, co-partner in crime Kevin Marks added 53 and a touchdown, and Kyle Vantrease passed for 134 yards and a touchdown all without an interception. But then, one of the most insane comebacks of the 2019 college football season appeared out of thin air. In about four minutes, Kent State drove down the field for its first touchdown of the night, but the Flashes still trailed by 14 with less than half of the fourth quarter remaining. Here’s the game-changer: Kent State recovered Matthew Trickett’s onside kick, preventing Buffalo’s lethal running game from earning another clock-eating possession. With a short field, Kent State only needed two plays to score, the second being a 41-yard touchdown pass from Dustin Crum to Xavier Williams. Buffalo’s offense took the field again with 7:12 left. Two incomplete passes contributed to a brutal three-and-out, and even worse for the Bulls, the punt was blocked. Crum completed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Mike Carrigan at the 4:52 mark, and suddenly, in less than 6.5 minutes of clock time, a game that featured 99.7% win probability for Buffalo was tied. Buffalo reached midfield in effort to complete its game-winning possession, but the Bulls punted when facing a 4th and 3. On 3rd and 6 of Kent State’s final stand, Crum completed a clutch 17-yard pass to Kavious Price to the Buffalo 27 yard-line. Trickett, with a 44 yard field goal to ice it, was nails.

Kent State trailed 27-6 with less than eight minutes left in the fourth quarter with a 3-6 record. The Golden Flashes erased that deficit and used it as the spark for a 4-game win streak, which prolonged into the postseason where they defeated Utah State 51-41 in Frisco for their first-ever bowl victory.

Also check out: the top 10 non-conference games of 2019