Week 1 Takeaways: Flag etiquette

What’s the flag etiquette supposed to be for this conference? Fans everywhere were left with the  impression that these Mid-American Conference teams would wait until they beat a Power 5 school before they hoist up the MAC Jolly Roger, a tradition of sorts created by the league for goofball’s sake.

Ball State beat an FCS team and the flag was flying the next day. Eastern Michigan beat an FCS team and the flag didn’t fly at Rynearson Stadium. Buffalo beat an FCS team and had some fun with the flag, Ohio was reluctant to raise it after narrowly beating Howard and I didn’t see anything with Toledo after destroying VMI.

Against P5 teams, Western Michigan opened things up with a 55-42 loss against Syracuse, Kent State showed a lot of promise in its 31-24 loss to Illinois, Northern Illinois got embarrassed 33-7 to Iowa, Central Michigan put up a good fight for a moment but fell 35-20 to Kentucky and Bowling Green didn’t look too awful in its 58-21 loss at No. 24 Oregon. (The Akron at Nebraska contest was cancelled due to bad weather).

Going 0-5 against P5 teams is an easy way to not fly that brand new flag at all, but maybe there’s just no desire to follow any rules in the first place. The MAC probably wants teams to make up any reason to fly their jolly rogers. The whole point of the gimmick was to help make the MAC be more goofy-acting. The MAC will sell itself as a conference that ought to be taken seriously as the reason the flag to be raised by its member schools following big wins, but seeing the flag raised after wins over Central Connecticut, Howard and Delaware State is a stark reminder for everybody as we hit the start of college football: maybe we shouldn’t be taking things all too seriously.

Week 1 takeaways

Ball State 42, Central Connecticut State 6

The Cardinals put together a complete game against a team it was expected to beat. Had the game ended 12 seconds sooner, Ball State’s defense would’ve pitched a shutout. I’m not too concerned with the 42 on the scoreboard because I’m not surprised the talent on offense proved to be still talented. Ball State hasn’t had a good defense in a while, and this is a good look for a team that’s in its first year in the 3-4. Albeit against CCSU, playing shutout defense for basically the entire game is worth some sort of acknowledgement.

Syracuse 55, Western Michigan 42

A 24-7 score through the first quarter was ugly in real time, but the third quarter proved it to be an entertaining game, so to speak.

The defense was hot garbage early on, but things flipped when Najee Clayton caused a fumble on the first Syracuse play of the second half. Next thing you know, Jon Wassink makes a couple of nice throws and D’Wayne Eskridge put on a nice highlight with a 21-yard catch and run for a touchdown.

Eskridge just blew up, following that up with an 84-yard score later on to cut the lead to 34-21, then his next catch was for 59 yards. Eight catches for 240 yards and two scores. It’s only the second week of the season and it already feels safe to say that he’s [probably] an All-MAC receiver.

(But seriously, how do you average 10.5 yards per play and not win?)

Eastern Michigan 51, Monmouth 17

The Eagles kept changing the pace and schooled Monmouth on offense to break in some new faces in new places. Three quarterbacks saw the field and they’re all new. Of the eight guys to catch passes, half of them weren’t with EMU last year and Blake Banham, former walk-on turned captain that will wear No. 2 in EMU’s tradition to honor Demarius Reed and was also not a wide receiver until this season, led the way with eight catches for 103 yards and got the first touchdown of the game.

The quarterbacks were near perfect in the home opener. Iowa grad transfer Tyler Wiegers started and had the lion’s share of the snaps at QB and completed all but 21 of his pass attempts for 238 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. Mike Glass III was at Eastern last year as a redshirt player after transferring from Southwestern College (JUCO). He played a little bit and made the most of his limited playing time. He hit true freshman receiver Dylan Drummond for a 15-yard touchdown to open the second quarter, then a 20-yard score thrown to Line Latu, another junior college transfer. Jairus Grissom signed with EMU out of high school, attended EMU as a freshman student and joined the team officially this summer, caught a pass and ran in a 20-yard touchdown.

The defense pretty much shut down Monmouth until the fourth quarter, but it was already a blowout. Maxx Crosby was suspended for the game for a violation of team rules and it was hardly noticeable.

Illinois 31, Kent State 24

Kickoff came with a big alert for the newswire: five players, including three starters, were suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. But it’s still a Big Ten team against a MAC team that averaged roughly two touchdowns per game last year, so things can’t get that ugly, right?

Kent State played with a new swag, a more sped-up approach to offense and, to be blunt, finally looked like a Division-I team.

Woody Barrett, the one-time Auburn freshman turned junior college transfer quarterback, was 28-for-41 in his first career start for the flashes with a couple of touchdowns, but a couple of interceptions too. He also led the team in rushing with 117 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown.

Barrett’s first touchdown with the Flashes came as a 24-yard strike to Antwan Davis, who is back playing his first game in three seasons and had another sharp pass to wide receiver Michael Carrigan. The Flashes took a 17-3 lead at halftime, but Illinois got a tipped interception early on in the third, then big plays from Reggie Corbin and A.J. Bush gave Illinois a late edge.

Defensively, three Kent State players recorded sacks, two caused fumbles, four recorded pass breakups and three had seven or more tackles.

Ohio 38, Howard 32

The Bobcats probably aren’t in too bad of a spot, which sounds crazy and all but Howard probably just a pretty talented offense. Maybe Ohio’s defense isn’t as complete as we thought. Maybe Ohio’s just going to have problems against dual-threat quarterbacks. Maybe Nathan Rourke’s early benching doesn’t lead to anything. Maybe Quinton Maxwell beats out the guy who previously beat him out of the starting job.

But in all seriousness, Rourke did look pretty miserable throwing the ball. I’m willing to chalk all of this up as a big learning experience if Ohio’s willing to not let me down the rest of the way.

Kentucky 35, Central Michigan 20

It’s not everyday you find a team win the turnover battle 4-0 through the first half and still trail by one at the break, but that’s what happened in Lexington, Ky. on Saturday. CMU turned two fumble recoveries and two interceptions into two field goals and two touchdowns, but somehow that just wasn’t enough. The Wildcats still led 21-20 at halftime, then shutout the Chippewas in the second half with many thanks to its two running backs rushing for over 100 yards each.

Poljan didn’t look too bad in his first start behind center for CMU, but he certainly didn’t get enough help through the run game. Jonathan Ward had 36 yards on 11 carries, Kumehnnu Gwilly ran the ball 10 times for 26 yards and Poljan actually led the way with 14 rushes for 47 yards.

The biggest takeaway on defense is that if there’s anybody that could win the MAC Freshman of the Year title on that side of the ball, it’s Devonni Reed. The safety had 14 total tackles (11 solo) and a fumble recovery returned for 20 yards.

Iowa 33, Northern Illinois 7

The dagger? Iowa scored in three straight drives in the second half. And then there was a safety.

NIU’s favored to win the MAC West, but that was said and done before the Iowa game. Here’s what the box score reads for the NIU offense: 211 yards on 62 snaps, an average of 3.4 yards per play. Marcus Childers was sacked five times for 43 yards lost, Iowa defenders added three more tackles for loss, forced two fumbles, hurried Childers three times and picked him off once. He’d have a final line of 14 completions on 25 attempts for 105 yards (that’s 4.2 yards per attempt) and eventually got NIU on the board with a late touchdown throw to Juwaun Wesley.

Allow me to take things one step further. Taking the five sacks into consideration, NIU called 30 pass plays, which means that NIU averaged 3.5 yards per pass play called. It’d be pretty hard to win the MAC West at that rate.

Marshall 35, Miami-OH 28

Marshall’s a good team, Miami’s a good team. Naturally, the game was competitive throughout, but Miami still hasn’t figured out how to close out games. There was even a point where Marshall Miami’d on special teams to give the RedHawks a bloody good chance to flip the script, but nope.

Alonzo Smith and Kenny Young ran the ball eight times each and had 35 and 34 rushing yards, respectively. Maybe that’s more indicative of Miami trailing the entire game and compensated running the ball for Gus Ragland’s arm (25-46, 257 yards, 3 TD) than it is of Miami’s inability to run the ball well. It’s probably a mix of the two. Miami’s entire starting OL group from last year is back and the best they could do was get the team to average 3.2 yards per carry.

Buffalo 48, Delaware State 10

Having Tyree Jackson and Anthony Johnson is an unfair advantage to most FBS teams, so it’s no surprise that Jackson had five touchdowns in the first half, the first quarterback to do that in school history. He ended up with six, so he had an early day. The important thing to see is that there’s still good depth behind Johnson at receiver. Freshman Charlie Jones caught a pair of passes for 23 yards, including a hard-fought score. Wisconsin grad transfer had two catches, one of which was a nine-yard touchdown.

Odd thing to see in the box score: Buffalo was 2-for-13 on third downs and 5-for-5 on fourth downs.

Toledo 66, VMI 3

The score says it all, really. Mitch Guadagni showed he can run well and throw a little bit on the run, so it’ll be fun to see a lot of explosion out of the Toledo offense this fall.

Also, this:

Toledo paced itself to three touchdowns in each of the first three quarters. Everybody got some playing time, the starters looked dominant and the defense had no issues doing its job.

No. 24 Oregon 58, Bowling Green 24

This wasn’t as bad as a blowout as I expected. The Falcons got up to a 10-0 lead before the inevitable, but that’s a moral victory in its own right.

Even though things would turn ugly in a hurry with 30 points by the Ducks in the second quarter, BG made a few plays that were good to see. Scott Miller had 13 catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns, Andrew Clair had 113 rushing yards, three defensive players made tackles behind the line of scrimmage and two guys picked off Justin Herbert.

The defense is not even close to where the coaches want it to be, but the Falcons only gave up 7.4 yards per play to the ranked team on the road, which is much better than what I expected the figure to be. Bowling Green also held onto the ball for 38 minutes and ran the ball 50 times to keep it out of Oregon’s hands, so that’s some defense via offense for you.

Nebraska vs. Akron cancelled

The universe is unfair, but sometimes it works out in your favor. The universe did not want this football game to be played, so we should give thanks to the universe for this blessing.

Akron went to Nebraska and didn’t lose.

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