Everyone knows turnovers are better as pastries and takeaways are better in football. We’re serving up our top four takeaways from the college football weekend:
You wouldn’t know it from this season, but Bowling Green and Northern Illinois played in the MAC Championship game last season. Really.
This season, they are a combined 1-7 thanks to Bowling Green’s 27-26 victory against FCS North Dakota in Week 2. Otherwise, the season has been a total loss for both teams.
The Falcons expected growing pains with a new head coach and the departure of Matt Johnson (4,946 yards and 46 touchdowns passing), Travis Greene (1,298 yards and 15 TDs rushing), Roger Lewis (1,544 and 16 TDS receiving) and Gehrig Dieter (1,033 yards and 10 TDs receiving). Credit Dieter for good instincts — he transferred to Alabama.
Bowling Green hit bottom on Saturday, losing 77-3 to Memphis — a team the Falcons almost beat last season.
Worse, it was the second time this season the Falcons gave up 77 points. They lost at Ohio State in the season-opener, 77-10.
“The mindset right now is not very good,” BGSU head coach Mike Jinks said after the game. “That was a poor showing, that was embarrassing. We’ve got to take ownership of it. We’ve got to take ownership as coaches and we’ve got to take ownership as players.”
Jinks lamented dropped passes, missed tackles and mental mistakes. He could have added inexperience.
Redshirt freshman James Morgan replaced senior quarterback James Knapke, who threw three interceptions. Morgan completed 17 of 34 passes for 126 yards and an interception. Freshman wide receiver Marquis Zimmerman caught four passes for 75 yards, including a 40-yarder from Knapke that set up Bowling Green’s only score.
“I know they’re 18-year-old young men, but they gotta play,” Jinks said. “We can’t go to the waiver wire and pick up some more players. This is our football team, for better or worse. We got to coach ’em hard, we got to love ’em hard and we got to find a way to put a better product on the football field.
“We’ll keep fighting,” Jink said, “I’ll promise you that. We’re 0-0 in conference.”
The Falcons player Eastern Michigan Saturday in their MAC opener.
The struggles are more puzzling at Northern Illinois, which has won six consecutive MAC West titles. The Huskies returned their leading rusher, two of three leading receivers, an all-conference left tackle, five of eight defensive linemen, five of six linebackers, and five of seven defensive backs.
But they fell to 0-4 for the first time since 1999 after a 28-23 loss to FCS Western Illinois. It was NIU’s first loss to an FCS opponent since 2007.
NIU rallied from a 28-7 deficit and may have found their quarterback in Anthony Maddie. The senior came off the bench to complete 11 of 17 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown.
“I saw a guy who took command of our team, I think we all saw that,” said Huskies head coach Rod Carey. “He operated faster, processed faster, made plays, he took some chances and we made plays for him. I was really happy with him coming in, with limited reps during the week, and he gave us a shot in that game.”
Carey said Maddie, a Western Michigan transfer who did not play last year because of an injury, will get a starting shot when the Huskies open MAC play against Ball State Saturday on ASN.
Five schools from the ASN family are in the top seven of the latest STATS FCS Top 25 — No. 2 Sam Houston State, No. 3 Jacksonville State, No. 5 Chattanooga, No. 6 Richmond and No. 7 James Madison. The Citadel and Charleston Southern also cracked the Top 10.
Meanwhile, Memphis moved into our Group of 5 Top 5 after the blowout victory against Bowling Green. The Tigers’ 77 points were the most in school history and their 11 TDs tied a school single-game record.
Western Michigan, led by quarterback Zach Terrell, the MAC West Offensive Player of the Week, also makes its G-5 Top 5 debut. The Broncos are off to their best start since 1994.
STATS OF THE WEEKEND
Louisiana Tech quarterback Ryan Higgins (below) is third in FBS with 408 passing yards per game after a career day against Middle Tennessee Saturday on ASN.
The redshirt senior completed 36 of 59 passes for a career-high 504 yards with 3 touchdowns in a 34-31 loss to Middle Tennessee Saturday on ASN. He became the third quarterback in school history to pass for 500 yards in a game and the first since Tim Rattay on Oct. 30, 1999.
The fifth 500-yard passing game in FBS this season gave Higgins 1,224 yards and 10 TDs in three games. He’s making the most of his second opportunity as the Bulldogs’ starter. A backup the past two seasons, he started six games in 2013.
Still, some chanted for redshirt freshman J’Mar Smith, who nearly led LA Tech to an upset at Arkansas.
“When you look at what Ryan Higgins has done, he’s the No. 3-rated quarterback in passing in the country. He hasn’t thrown an interception in 10 quarters. I think he is giving us a chance to win right now,” Bulldogs head coach Skip Holtz said on Monday. “I wish people would embrace him a little bit more.”
Trent Taylor, his leading receiver, is also third in FBS with 632 receiving yards. He also enjoyed a career day against Middle Tennessee with 17 catches for 210 yards and 2 TDs.
Southern Miss running back Ito Smith completes the charm. He’s third in FBS with 540 rushing yards.
UTEP’s Aaron Jones is second in FBS with 566 rushing yards. He and the Miners take on Higgins, Taylor and LA Tech Saturday on ASN.
BLURRING THE LINE
Craig Haley, STATS FCS Senior Editor, notes that FCS teams surpassed last year’s nine wins against FBS opponents with Saturday’s victories by Western Illinois and Central Arkansas.
The Leathernecks beat Northern Illinois and Central Arkansas knocked off the Sun Belt’s Arkansas State, both by 28-23 scores. That makes 10 FCS wins against the FBS this season. The record is 16 in 2013.
“We came in, there’s always that FBS-FCS middle line separating us,” said WIU quarterback Sean McGuire, who was named National Offensive Player of the Week by College Sports Madness. “But we’ve seen it’s a thin line and obviously a lot of teams have shown that this year. We showed it today.”
Meanwhile, Central Arkansas beat an FBS opponent for only the second time since moving up to FCS in 2006. The Southland Conference co-leaders play at Abilene Christian Saturday on ASN.
“I’ve been very proud of them before when we’ve come up short,” said Bears head coach Steve Campbell. “We played our butts off against Oklahoma State (last year). We played our butts off against Texas Tech (two years ago). And we played out butts off tonight. But this time we didn’t come up short.
“It’s great to be proud of a team for fighting their butts off and then getting rewarded for it by winning the football game.”