MAC Championship: Bowling Green Runs Over Northern Illinois

    MAC Championship: Bowling Green runs over Northern Illinois for its second MAC title game in three years.

    December 5, 2015

    MAC Championship: Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois 14

    Final Score: Bowling Green 34, Northern Illinois 14
    Pick: Bowling Green 38, Northern Illinois 27
    Line: Bowling Green -12, o/u: 70

    Bowling Green won its second MAC championship in the last three seasons with few problems. The Falcons got up 28-0 with Travis Greene and Fred Coppet each running for scores, and Matt Johnson finding Derek Lee and Roger Lewis for touchdowns as they appeared to be coasting. Northern Illinois made it a bit of a fight with a fourth-string QB Tommy Fiedler finding Desroy Maxwell for a 32-yard score, and the defense getting involved with a pick-six from Shawun Lurry to make it a 14-point game. But before it could get interesting, the Falcons put it away with an 83-yard drive finishing up with a one-yard Greene run. NIU turned it over five times, Bowling Green twice.

    Player of the Game: Bowling Green RB Travis Greene ran 29 times for 183 yards and two scores.  

    Bowling Green did what Ohio State wanted to.

    With Connor Cook on the sideline, Ohio State went relatively conservative against Michigan State, didn’t take a whole bunch of chances, and lost. Bowling Green opened it up on the Huskies more than the Buckeyes did against the Spartans, but the same sort of gameplan worked. The ground attack took over in the first half and it kept on working with Travis Greene averaging 6.3 yards per carry and Fred Coppett running for 5.3 yards per pop. Matt Johnson took a few shots down the field, and got nailed with an interception for a score, but with the running game controlling the game, and the defense coming up with third down stops and getting off the field, that didn’t matter.

    Northern Illinois just didn’t have the firepower.

    It was asking way, way too much out of a fourth-string quarterback with almost no experience to step in and win the MAC title game. Bowling Green would’ve been favored if every Huskie was healthy, but with the defense being able to load up against the run, and with NIU’s Tommy Fiedler struggling with his accuracy, this was over early. Fiedler completed 12-of-28 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions. Plagued by a few drops and a tough situation, it wasn’t all his fault. This wasn’t the same NIU team of a few weeks ago.

    Where are the coaches going?

    The two programs are strong enough to keep on rolling with whatever head coach takes over – Bowling Green won the MAC in 2014 with Dave Clawson, and NIU with Dave Doeren – but this might have been the last conference game for the Falcons’ Dino Babers and the Huskies’ Rod Carey.

    It’s not a lock quite yet, but Babers is all but set to try ramping up the Syracuse offense, while East Carolina might be the landing spot for Carey after his successful run.

    Can Babers make Syracuse another Baylor? Babers was part of the Art Briles offensive staff before taking over Eastern Illinois and then Bowling Green, winning three conference championships now in his four years as a head coach, and losing to NIU in last year’s MAC title game.

    Carey isn’t a Jerry Kill disciple, but he’s like a typical Northern Illinois head coach with tough offenses, sound defenses, and a great O line. In his three years at the help he has a MAC title and two second-place finishes to Bowling Green in the last three years.

    Losing coaches is never fun, but it can be spun as a positive for the MAC. These two schools are true stepping-stones – plenty of top options will be lining up wanting these gigs. Of course, they have to become open first.

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