MAC Football Notes - Aug. 27, 2001

Thursday Kickoff: Six games featuring seven MAC teams this Thursday night indicates the start of the 2001 Mid-American Conference season, the 55th in league history. The lone league matchup is the East Division encounter of Ohio at Akron. The remaining six teams will open their season Saturday. Seven MAC teams open at home, including Buffalo hosting a Big East team for the first time ever at UB Stadium. Marshall plays at No. 1 Florida.

Starting at the Top: Four-time defending MAC Champion Marshall opens the season at No. 1 Florida with a national audience via ESPN2 witnessing the Herd's '01 debut. Marshall will be the first MAC team to play a No. 1 ranked team since Toledo was at Ohio State on Sept. 12, 1998, a 49-0 Rocket loss.

Early Season Showdown: The Ohio at Akron is a key East Division matchup. The Zips have won the last two encounters against the Bobcats. UA has not won a season opener since 1993 in a 23-13 victory at Central Michigan. The Bobcats most recent season opening triumph came in 1997 against Kent State, 31-7.

Welcome Back, Don: MAC Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen returns to the league but this time as a television commentator on Fox Sports Ohio for Thursday‚s Ohio at Akron game. Nehlen compiled a 53-34-3 record as head coach at his alma mater Bowling Green from 1968-76. Nehlen gained further national fame as head coach at West Virginia, guiding the Mountaineers to a 149-93-4 record from 1980-2000. Nehlen played on the 1956 MAC champion Falcon squad that went 8-0-1 overall and 5-0-1 in the MAC. BG was 21-2-4 from 1955-57 while Nehlen played there.

Rocket Rising: As the season begins for the Toldo Rockets, there is a comfort level despite the loss of head coach Gary Pinkel, who had ran the program since 1991. Tom Amstutz, an assistant for 21 years at his alma mater, takes over and inherits a seven-game winning streak from last year. UT‚s current run is tied with Oregon State and Boise State for the fourth best in the nation. Oklahoma has won 13 in a row, Miami (Fla.) 10 and Washington 8.

Carryover: League teams that closed the 2000 campaign strong and may benefit include Toledo (7 wins in a row), Marshall (6-1 after a 2-4 start), Ball State (5-2 after an 0-4 start) Eastern Michigan (won 2 of last 3), Akron (won last 2), Ohio (won last 2 and 5 of last 6).

MAC Debuts: Four new head coaches will guide their team for the first time in the MAC this weekend. Thursday Toledo's Tom Amstutz, Ohio's Brian Knorr and Buffalo's Jim Hohfer call the shots while Saturday Bowling Green's Urban Meyer takes the reins of the Falcons‚ program.

Turf Time: Three school's have replaced their turf for the 2001 season. Toledo and Western Michigan installed NeXturf while Northern Illinois‚ Huskie Stadium playing surface is covered by FieldTurf.

MAC Brothers: Of the nine set of brothers starting for Division IA programs, two are from MAC schools. BG‚s Alex and Chris Glantzis (Mentor, Ohio) are on the DL for the Falcons and Kent State‚s Roy and Roger Attieh (Boonton, N.J.) are both DTs for the Golden Flashes.

This Week's Matchups - Thursday August 30, 2001 (records listed are from 2000 season)

South Florida Bulls (4-7) at Northern Illinois Huskies (6-5, 4-3 MAC, 2-3 MAC West) - 6:35 (CT) Huskie Stadium (31,000/Field Turf), DeKalb, Ill. The head coaches: USF: Jim Leavitt (Missouri 1978) 27-17/fifth year; NIU: Joe Novak (Miami 1967) 14-41/sixth year. The series: first meeting ... the Huskies last played an opponent from Florida in 1998 when Central Florida handed NIU a 38-17 loss in Orlando. Quick Notes: this will be NIU‚s 900th game in gridiron history dating back to 1899 ... former NIU head coach Jerry Pettibone (1985-90) recruited new USF AD Lee Roy Selmon in his days as recruiting coordinator under Chuck Fairbanks at Oklahoma in the early 1970s ... junior Huskie LB Larry Williams made the preseason watch list for the Rotary Lombardi and Butkus Awards ... PK Steve Azar is on the Lou Groza Award list ... o-line is a question mark for the Huskies as three departed starters combined for 7,519 career snaps (OT Ryan Diem, C McAllister Collins and OG Kyle Jakubek) ... Huskies‚ QB Chris Finlen is back as a starter after ranking among the top 30 national passing leaders the last two years ... NIU will honor former head coach Howard Fletcher prior to kickoff ... Fletcher, who passed away Aug. 23, produced a 74-48-1 record from 1956-68 and provided the impetus for the Huskie Stadium complex in 1965, major college status in football in 1969 and affiliation with the MAC in 1973 ... Fletcher guided the 1963 Huskie squad to a 10-0 record and a College Division National Championship.

Ohio Bobcats (7-4, 5-3 MAC, 4-2 MAC East) at Akron Zips (6-5, 5-3 MAC, 5-1 MAC East) - 7:00 Rubber Bowl (35,202 artificial turf) Akron, Ohio The head coaches:Ohio: Brian Knorr (Air Force Academy 1986) 0-0/first season; UA: Lee Owens (Bluffton College 1977) 25-41/7th season. The series: Ohio leads 9-7-1 ... the Zips have won the last two meetings ... UA won last year‚s game when Zac Derr booted an 18-yard FG with 24 seconds remaining. Quick Notes: Ohio has led the MAC in rushing the last five years and return three players who combined to rush for 2,258 yards last season (QB Dontrell Jackson 864, TB Chad Brinker 734 and TB Jamel Patterson 660) ... UA debuts new quarterback Nick Sparks, a transfer from West Virginia ... Sparks, a sophomore, replaces all-time Zip passing leader Butchie Washington (6,699 yards, 38 TDs) ... the Zips also must contend with the loss of consensus all-American DB Dwight Smith, but return offensive talents TB Brandon Payne (1,062 yards in 2000) and WR Jake Schifino (career 95 rec., 1,480 yards) ... both teams are programs on the rise ... the Zips have gone 13-9 the last two years after going 12-32 the previous four seasons ... Ohio defeated two bowl teams last year (Marshall and Minnesota) and are coming off a 7-4 campaign after back-to-back 5-6 slates ... Ohio head coach Brian Knorr makes his debut after serving six years as an assistant under Jim Grobe ... Grobe and his staff inherited a program that had gone 8-54-3 in the previous six years and compiled a 33-33-1 mark over six campaigns.

Minnesota Gophers (6-6, 4-4 Big Ten) at Toledo Rockets (10-1, 6-1 MAC, 4-1 MAC West) - 7:00 Glass Bowl (26,248 NeXturf) Toledo, Ohio The head coaches: UM: Glen Mason (Ohio State 1972) 22-25/fifth season at UM, 81-89-5/16th season overall; UT-Tom Amstutz (Toledo 1977) 0-0/first season. The series: UM leads 1-0 ... the Gophers won the only other meeting in history, 38-12 in 1978 ... Gopher head coach Glen Mason served as head coach at Kent State in 1986 and 1987, going 2-0 versus Toledo and also holds a 1991 win over UT while head coach at Kansas. Quick Notes: The Rockets‚ seven-game winning streak is tied for the fourth longest in the nation ... UT returns 18 starters as Tom Amstutz make his head coaching debut ... Amstutz spent 21 years as an assistant at UT and has spent the last 158 straight games in the press box as linebackers coach and then defensive coordinator ... the Rockets are the preseason favorite to win the MAC championship in a poll by the MAC News Media Association ... TB Chester Taylor (1,470 yards, 18 TDs) and all-MAC QB Tavares Bolden (1,597 passing yards, 390 rushing yards) pace the offense that averaged 36 ppg last year ... Taylor needs 925 yards to become UT‚s all-time leading rusher and PK Todd France requires 59 points to become UT‚s career scoring leader ... Minnesota is the third Big Ten team to play in the Glass Bowl in the last six years (Indiana, 1996 and Purdue 1997) ... UT is 3-9 all-time versus teams from the Big Ten ... UT defeated Penn State, 24-6, last year, and topped Purdue in 1997, 36-22 ... UT also topped the Boilermakers in 1992, 33-29 ... the preseason fever pitch has led to a school-record 9,500 season tickets sold for the Glass Bowl.

Eastern Kentucky Colonels (6-5, 3-4 OVC) at Central Michigan Chippewas (2-9, 2-6 MAC, 1-4 MAC West) - 7:30 Kelly/Shorts Stadium (30,199/artificial turf) Mount Pleasant, Mich. The head coaches: EKU: Roy Kidd (EKU 1955) 299-117-8/38th season; CMU: Mike DeBord (Manchester 1978) 2-9/second season. The series: CMU leads 5-1 ... the teams have not met since the Chippewas captured a 1973 encounter, 21-7, in Richmond, Ky ... CMU AD Herb Deromedi was the defensive coordinator and current assistant coach Jim Schukte a standout defensive end for that 1973 contest with EKU. Quick Notes: Mike DeBord begins his second year as Chippewa head coach with six true freshmen on the two-deep ... freshmen slated for duty include TEs Tory Humphrey and Dave Kurzen, WRs Jacob Brown, Justin Harper and Scott Gibson and OT Adam Kieft ... as many as 10 true freshmen could see action this year for CMU ... this will be just the fourth home night game in the history of Kelly/Shorts Stadium and the first since 1999 (Eastern Illinois) ... CMU has won its last four home openers.

Illinois State Redbirds (7-4, 4-2 Gateway) at Western Michigan Broncos (9-3, 7-1 MAC, 4-1 MAC West), 7:30 Waldo Stadium (30,200/NeXturf) Kalamazoo, Mich. The head coaches: ISU: Denver Johnson (Tulsa 1981) 7-4/second season at ISU, 28-16/fifth season overall; WMU: Gary Darnell (Oklahoma State 1970) 31-15/fifth season at WMU, 37-47/ninth season overall. The series: WMU leads 6-1 ... the Broncos won the last meeting, 44-14, in 1988 ... WMU is 4-0 versus the Redbirds at Waldo Stadium ... in last year‚s home opener versus Indiana State, WMU established a MAC single-game attendance record with 36,361. Quick Notes: WMU has is 4-0 under Gary Darnell is home openers ... since 1990 WMU has had just one losing season ... the Broncos are 17-3 under Darnell at home in his four years ... following this game, the Broncos have back-to-back road games against Virginia Tech and Michigan ... WMU loses all-time leading rusher Robert Sanford (4,219) but returns offensive talents QB Jeff Welsh (2,537 yards, 15 TDs), WR Josh Bush (40 rec., 463 yards) and TE Mobolaji Afariogun (32 rec., 365 yards).

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-8, 0-7 Big East) at Buffalo Bulls (2-9, 2-6 MAC, 2-4 MAC East) 7:30 - ESPN-R UB Stadium (31,000/natural grass) Buffalo, N.Y. The head coaches: RU - Greg Schiano (Bucknell 1988) 0-0/first season; UB - Jim Hohfer (Cornell 1979) 0-0/first season at UB, 44-36/ninth season overall. The series: Rutgers leads 1-0 ... the Scarlet Knights won last year‚s game 59-0 ... this meeting will mark the first time a Big East team has visited UB Stadium. Quick Notes: Jim Hohfer makes his UB head coaching debut after serving the 2000 campaign as the quarterbacks coach at Syracuse ... Hohfer‚s Syracuse team defeated Rutgers last year 49-21 ... Hohfer was the head coach at Cornell from 1990-97 and compiled a 44-36 record ... UB signalcaller Joe Freedy (2,060 yards, 14 TDs) returns for his third season as a starter and is supported by RBs Marquis Dwarte (611 yards) and Albert Grundy (422 yards) ... defensively, LB Duane Williams, who had 15 TFL and nine sacks last year, returns ... UB is in its third year as a Division IA program ... Chris Shelley, with 195 tackles at LB the last three years, was moved to defensive end in the spring and will make his first start at that position ... Craig Rohlfs returns to lead the secondary.

Saturday, September 1

Kent State Golden Flashes (1-10, 1-7 MAC, 0-6 MAC East) at Iowa Hawkeyes (3-9, 3-5 Big Ten), 11:10 a.m. (CT) Kinnick Stadium (70,397/grass) Iowa City, Iowa The head coaches: KSU - Dean Pees (Bowling Green 1971) 3-30/fourth season; Iowa - Kirk Ferentz (Connecticut 1978) 16-40/fifth season. The series: first meeting ... KSU lost to Purdue last year, 45-10, in the school‚s first ever meeting against a Big Ten school ... Iowa lost a 27-21 decision to MAC member Western Michigan last year ... the Hawkeyes host Miami on Sept. 8. Quick Notes: The Golden Flashes are looking for their first season opening win since 1995, a 17-14 win over Youngstown State ... KSU is looking to snap a five-game losing streak ... the competition at QB has Jeff Valentino and Ben McDaniels co-No. 1 on the depth chart ... Valentino completed 54-of-107 attempts for 545 yards and four TDs last year ... McDaniels saw limited action (4-of-10, 48 yards) after injuring his neck in mid-season ... the strength of the Golden Flashes may be its linebacker duo of James Harrison (106 tackles, 13 tfl) and Rashan Hall (98 tackles) ... KSU‚s LB corp was named as the best in the MAC by ... Anthony Henriquez (Outstanding Defensive Scout Award last fall) and Pierre Wilson (transfer from Michigan State) also add to the LB position.

Miami RedHawks (6-5, 5-3 MAC, 4-2 MAC East) at Michigan Wolverines (9-3, 6-2 Big Ten) , 3:30 - ESPN-R Michigan Stadium (107,501/prescription athletic turf) Ann Arbor, Mich. The head coaches: MU - Terry Hoeppner (Franklin College 1969) 13-9/third season; UM - Lloyd Carr (Northern Michigan 1968) 58-16/seventh season. The series: Michigan leads 2-0 ... the only two meetings resulted in Wolverine victories, 55-0 in 1924 and 38-19 in 1995 ... Miami is 12-30-2 all-time versus Big Ten opponents ... in 1995 the RedHawks handed Big Ten champion Northwestern its only regular season loss, 30-28 ... MAC teams are 0-14 all-time versus UM ... the crowd of 110,575 at last year‚s Bowling Green-Michigan matchup was the largest ever audience for any MAC team ... UM also hosts MAC member Western Michigan on Sept. 15. Quick Notes:This will be the 113th season of football for Miami ... the RedHawks begin the season with three consecutive road games for the second year in a row (Michigan, Iowa, Kent State) ... last year Miami won at Vanderbilt and Eastern Michigan before losing at Ohio State to open the season ... freshman Ben Roethlisberger takes over at QB, replacing the graduated and three-year starter Mike Bath (6,524 yards, 49 TDs) ... the last time a Miami QB made his first collegiate start as a freshman was on Nov. 15, 1994, when Sam Ricketts directed a come-from-behind 24-21 victory over Ball State ... Roethlisberger will have support in RB Steve Little (986 yards) and WR Jason Branch (24 rec., 351 yards, 4 TDs in last 5 games) ... LB Terrell Jones led all freshman in the nation last year with 11.75 tackles per game.

Ball State Cardinals (5-6, 4-3 MAC, 2-3 MAC West) at Auburn Tigers (9-4, 6-2 SEC West), 4:00 Jordan-Hare Stadium (85,612/natural grass) Auburn, Ala. The head coaches: BSU - Bill Lynch (Butler 1977) 26-41/seventh season at BSU, 62-53-3/12th season overall; AU - Tommy Tubberville (Southern Arkansas 1976) 14-10/third season at AU, 39-30/seventh year overall. The series: first meeting ... BSU opened last year at SEC member Florida and played well but lost 40-19 ... this will be the Cardinals‚ third season opener against an SEC foe in the last four years, in addition to UA and UF, BSU dropped a 38-20 decision at South Carolina in 1998 ... Auburn defeated MAC member Northern Illinois last year 31-14 ... Tommy Tubberville‚s success against MAC teams dates back to the first Motor City Bowl when his Ole Miss team beat Marshall 34-31. Quick Notes: BSU won five of its last seven games last year ... MAC Freshman of the Year QB Talmadge Hill (MAC leading 61.3% completion pct., 1,455 yards, 13 TDs) sparked a four-game winning streak when inserted into the starting lineup Oct. 7 at Miami ... that 15-10 win over the RedHawks snapped a 21-game losing streak ... 17 starters return for the Cardinals from last year‚s 5-6 team ... the season-ending shutout of Connecticut was the first by a Ball State team since 1995 ... BSU received one vote in the preseason poll of the MAC News Media Association to win the West Division.

SE Missouri State Indians (3-8, 1-6 Ohio Valley) at Eastern Michigan Eagles (3-8, 2-5 MAC, 2-3 MAC West), 6:00 Rynearson Stadium (30,200 AstroTurf) Ypsilanti, Mich. The head coaches: SEMO - Tim Billings (SE Oklahoma 1979) 3-8/second season; Jeff Woodruff (Kent State 1979) 3-8/second season. The series: first meeting ... SEMO head coach Tim Billings was an assistant coach at Marshall University from 1990-99 ... the Indians played at Marshall last year and lost 63-7 ... this meeting will be EMU‚s first against an OVC opponent since a 0-0 tie in 1971 at home versus EKU. Quick Notes: Troy Edwards and Jeff Crooks are in a battle at QB to replace the graduated Walter Church (9,142 yards, 43 TDs) ... Edwards (7-of-13, 81 yards, 1 TD) backed up Church last year ... Crooks is a transfer from Fullerton JUCO (2,293 yards, 18 TDs) ... whoever starts at QB they will have a target in Kenny Christian, who led the MAC last season in receptions with 78, including a MAC record 20 in the game at Temple ... the Eagles won two of their last three games last year ... SEMO lost its last three games last season ... keep an eye out for 5-foot 4-inch punt return specialist Justin Henry, a walk-on who is expected to see some action this year.

Bowling Green Falcons (2-9, 2-6 MAC, 1-5 MAC East) at Missouri Tigers (3-8, 2-6 Big 12 North, 7:30 Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field (68,349/natural grass) Columbia, Mo. The head coaches: BGSU - Urban Meyer (Cincinnati 1986) 0-0/first season; Gary Pinkel (Kent State 1975) 0-0/first season at UM, 73-37-3/11th season overall. The series: tied 1-1 ... BG won 17-10 in 1995 while UM defeated the Falcons 37-0 in 1998 with both games played in Columbia ... Missouri is slated to play at BG in 2002 ... Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel coached at Toledo for 10 seasons prior to accepting the Tigers‚ offer ... Pinkel is 5-5 all-time versus BG. Quick Notes: Urban Meyer makes his head coaching debut for the Falcons ... the 15th head coach in BG history, Meyer spent the last five years as an assistant at Notre Dame ... at 37, Meyer is the second youngest head coach in Division IA (Greg Schiano, Rutgers, 36) ... this marks the sixth consecutive season BG opens its season on the road ... the last time BG opened with a non-conference road win was in 1983 with a 35-27 triumph at Fresno State ... BG ended its 2000 season with a 51-17 loss at Toledo, then coached by Gary Pinkel ... WR Kurt Gerling has a streak of 29 consecutive games with a reception, tied for the sixth longest streak in the nation ... brothers Alex and Chris Glantzis, natives of Mentor, Ohio, start on the DL for the Falcons.

Marshall Thundering Herd (8-5, 5-3 MAC, 5-1 MAC East) at Florida Gators (10-3, 8-1 SEC) , 7:30 - ESPN2 Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (83,000/natural grass) Gainesville, Fla. The head coaches: MU - Bob Pruett (Marshall 1965) 58-9/sixth season; UF - Steve Spurrier (Florida 1967) 112-25-1/12th season at UF, 132-38-2/15th season overall. The series: first meeting ... Thundering Herd head coach Bob Pruett was defensive coordinator at Florida in 1994 and 1995 before taking his current position at Marshall ... Pruett is 1-1 versus SEC teams while at Marshall with a win over South Carolina (1998) and a loss to Ole Miss (1997 Motor City Bowl). Quick Notes: Marshall is the first MAC team since Toledo in 1998 to play a No. 1 ranked team (Rockets lost 49-0 at Ohio State on Sept. 12) ... the Thundering Herd has won the MAC four consecutive years ... QB Byron Leftwich will challenge the Gator defense ... last year Leftwich completed 279-of-457 pass attempts for 3,358 yards, 21 TDs and just nine interceptions ... LB Max Yates leads a talented defense as his 115 tackles were tops on the team last year ... the Herd started 2-4 last season but finished strong, winning six of its last seven games, including the league‚s championship game and the Motor City Bowl ... the Herd lost four of its five top receivers but returns Darius Watts (36 rec., 616 yards, 6 TDs) and its top three rushers in Franklin Wallace (55 yards, 7 TDs), Brandon Carey (232, 1) and Chanston Rodgers (204, 5) ... since joining the MAC in 1997, Marshall has wins over teams from the SEC (South Carolina), ACC (Clemson), Mountain West (BYU), Big East (Temple), and C-USA (Army, Louisville and Cincinnati) ... the wins over South Carolina, Clemson and Army came on the road while the triumphs against BYU, Louisville and Cincinnati came in the Motor City Bowl, only the win over Temple was at home.

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