NCF Nation: Ron English

English, Harnish win MAC honors

November, 30, 2011
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Eastern Michigan coach Ron English was selected MAC coach of the year after engineering a terrific turnaround, taking a program that went winless in 2009 to a 6-6 season in 2011.

Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish won the Vern Smith Leadership Award, as selected by the league coaches and given annually to the top player in the conference. Harnish also was selected the MAC offensive player of the year.

Harnish set a school single-season record with 4,043 total yards of offense as the Huskies earned a spot in the MAC title game against Ohio on Friday night.

Western Michigan defensive lineman Drew Nowak was selected defensive player of the year and Ohio kicker Matt Weller was selected special teams player of the year. Bowling Green running back Anthon Samuel was named freshman of the year.

English, in his third year at Eastern Michigan, went 2-22 in his first two seasons with the Golden Eagles. But this year, Eastern Michigan went 6-6 overall and 4-4 in conference play. Eastern Michigan had the third-best defense in the MAC and the fourth-best rushing offense.

Nowak tied for the lead in the MAC with 8.5 sacks and ranked second with 20 tackles for loss. He had 83 tackles this year.

Weller leads the conference with 22 field goals and his long of 49 yards is tied for the longest field goal made by any kicker in the conference this season.

Samuel rushed 144 times for 844 yards and five rushing touchdowns. His 844 yards rushing set a school record for the most rushing yards by a freshman.

Toledo led the way with five first-team selections. You can check out all the first, second and third-team selections here.

2011 All-MAC First Team Offense

QB: Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois

C: Scott Wedige, Northern Illinois

OL: Mike VanDerMeulen, Toledo

OL: Trevor Olson, Northern Illinois

OL: Joe Flading, Ohio

OL: Pat Boyle, Temple

TE: Evan Rodriquez, Temple

WR: Jordan White, Western Michigan

WR: Eric Page, Toledo

WR: Nick Harwell, Miami (Ohio)

WR: Kamar Jorden, Bowling Green

RB: Bernard Pierce, Temple

RB: Branden Oliver, Buffalo

PK: Mathew Sims, Northern Illinois

2011 All-MAC First Team Defense

OLB: Aaron Morris, Ball State

OLB: Khalil Mack, Buffalo

ILB: Brian Wagner, Akron

ILB: Dwayne Woods, Bowling Green

DL: Roosevelt Nix, Kent State

DL: Adrian Robinson, Temple

DL: Chris Jones, Bowling Green

DL: Drew Nowak, Western Michigan

DB: Jahleel Addae, Central Michigan

DB: Dayonne Nunley, Miami (Ohio)

DB: Desmond Marrow, Toledo

DB: Sean Baker, Ball State

P: Brian Schmeidebusch, Bowling Green

2011 All-MAC First Team Specialists

KR: Eric Page, Toledo

PR: Eric Page, Toledo

Big Ten predictions: Week 3

September, 15, 2011
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Before we get to pad our stats (hopefully) in Week 4, it's time to forecast an intriguing slate of Week 3 games.

Thus far, neither of us has had anything resembling perfection. Will it change this week?

Let's get to the picking ...

EASTERN MICHIGAN at MICHIGAN

Brian Bennett: Michigan's biggest problem will be adjusting to the weirdness of playing during the day. Other than that, former Wolverines defensive coordinator Ron English's team has no answer for Denard Robinson. ... Michigan 42, Eastern Michigan 10

Adam Rittenberg: I see the Wolverines starting off a bit slowly against the 2-0 Eagles, but Robinson and the running backs will get going in this one and coordinator Al Borges can stick to his system more. Don't see Brady Hoke running up the score on English and Mike Hart. ... Michigan 36, Eastern Michigan 14

PENN STATE at TEMPLE

Adam Rittenberg: Penn State's ongoing indecision at quarterback concerns me, especially against a Temple defense playing well. Like last year's game, this contest will be low scoring but Silas Redd and Brandon Beachum come up big in the second half with touchdowns. ... Penn State 23, Temple 16

Brian Bennett: I agree Temple will keep it close behind the running of Bernard Pierce at home. Penn State does just enough to win on a late TD pass to Derek Moye -- just don't ask me who throws it. ... Penn State 21, Temple 17

PITTSBURGH at IOWA

Brian Bennett: I covered Pitt closely the past three seasons and have no confidence in the Panthers to win a tough road game, especially the way quarterback Tino Sunseri has played. Iowa's defense rebounds after a rough day in Ames and grounds the High Octane. ... Iowa 28, Pitt 19

Adam Rittenberg: No love for the Big East? I hereby revoke your Primanti Bros. privileges. Pitt takes an early lead against a reeling Hawkeyes defense, but Iowa rallies in the second half behind running back Marcus Coker (last chance, Marcus). ... Iowa 27, Pitt 20

SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE at PURDUE

Adam Rittenberg: The heat is rising on coach Danny Hope, but Purdue should get through the fourth quarter without tension for the first time this year. Both Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve play at quarterback, but Purdue's run game makes the big difference in this one. ... Purdue 34, SE Missouri State 17

Brian Bennett: Just what Purdue needs after two shaky performances: a highly beatable FCS team. No field goal blocks needed this time. ... Purdue 35, SE Missouri State 10

SOUTH CAROLINA STATE at INDIANA

Brian Bennett: And just what Indiana needs, too. Finally a big offensive performance for Kevin Wilson's club against an overmatched FCS squad. ... Indiana 41, SCSU 17

Adam Rittenberg: Wilson can be as reckless as he wants to with big decisions and still get his first win as IU's coach. Matt Perez and the Hoosiers' run game show some signs of life for the first time this season. ... Indiana 30, SCSU 17

NO. 15 MICHIGAN STATE at NOTRE DAME

Adam Rittenberg: Las Vegas isn't giving Michigan State any respect, and the Notre-Dame-is-actually-good-honest-to-God rhetoric is getting tiresome. The Spartans typically play well in South Bend and win another close one against a desperate Irish team that doesn't know how to close. ... Michigan State 27, Notre Dame 24

Brian Bennett: How can anyone pick Notre Dame at this point? I wouldn't pick the Irish in an intrasquad scrimmage. The Spartans get a big step up in competition, but Kirk Cousins leads them to the first of what they hope are many road wins. ... Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 28

MIAMI (OHIO) at MINNESOTA

Brian Bennett: A tough game to predict, not knowing how the players will respond to the Jerry Kill situation. I'm thinking Kill returns to the sidelines and they play inspired to give their coach a dramatic first victory with the Gophers. ... Minnesota 21, Miami 20

Adam Rittenberg: I thought Minnesota would lose this game before the season, and then felt differently after the Gophers' gutsy performance at USC. But last week's clunker against New Mexico State soured me on Minnesota, and Miami has had two weeks to prepare. ... Miami 27, Minnesota 21

WASHINGTON at NO. 11 NEBRASKA

Adam Rittenberg: After a week of enduring Bo Pelini's wrath, the Blackshirts respond against young quarterback Keith Price as Nebraska pulls ahead in the fourth quarter. ... Nebraska 28, Washington 16

Brian Bennett: The defense simply has to get better, and I think it will slow down Washington's Chris Polk. Taylor Martinez atones for the bowl game as Huskers-Huskies III goes the home team's way. ... Nebraska 31, Washington 14

NORTHWESTERN at ARMY

Brian Bennett: If Dan Persa doesn't play, will either team pass the ball more than five times? Army's unique style will give the Wildcats fits, but they pull it out in the end. ... Northwestern 24, Army 20

Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern has to show more willingness to throw the ball with Kain Colter, as the Wildcats boast great weapons at receiver and tight end and Army struggles against the pass. Coordinator Mick McCall opens up the offense and the Wildcats' defensive line plays well enough for a win. ... Northwestern 27, Army 21

NO. 7 Wisconsin vs. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (at Chicago)

Adam Rittenberg: There will be no shutout this week as Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish makes some plays against Wisconsin. While former Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Doeren will improve the Huskies' defense eventually, NIU's youth and inability to stop the run proves costly against Montee Ball and James White. ... Wisconsin 45, Northern Illinois 31

Brian Bennett: Doeren's knowledge of the personnel makes this one interesting, and Northern Illinois is better offensively than Oregon State. Russell Wilson is the difference as Doeren sells out against the run. ... Wisconsin 38, Northern Illinois 24

NO. 22 ARIZONA STATE at ILLINOIS

Brian Bennett: Illinois is out to prove itself, but Arizona State is a little more battle tested after beating Missouri last week. Brock Osweiler throws the game-winning pass in overtime of a wild shootout. ... Arizona State 51, Illinois 48

Adam Rittenberg: This is the type of game both of these programs tend to lose. But I'm buying into Illinois and think the Illini rise to the occasion and notch a statement win at home. Vontaze Burfict introduces himself to Nathan Scheelhaase a few times, but Scheelhaase scores a touchdown in the final minute for the game winner. ... Illinois 33, Arizona State 31

NO. 17 OHIO STATE at MIAMI

Adam Rittenberg: This will be a slog for the Buckeyes, who remain shorthanded at key positions. Both Ohio State quarterbacks play and Jordan Hall helps in his return, but the main reason I'm picking the Buckeyes is because I simply don't trust Jacory Harris to limit mistakes. Ohio State 20, Miami 17

Brian Bennett: I'd rather purchase snake oil in bulk from a traveling salesman than pin my hopes on Harris. And yet ... I just don't think Ohio State can make enough explosive plays on offense after that Toledo showing. The Fightin' Shapiros pull the upset. ... Miami 21, Ohio State 16

SEASON RECORDS

Bennett: 19-5 (.792)

Rittenberg: 17-7 (.708)
Ron EnglishCourtesy of U.S. Army Golden KnightsEastern Michigan coach Ron English (bottom) went skydiving with The Golden Knights, an elite parachuting team for the U.S. Army, earlier this week.
This summer, I am going to be profiling coaches and players who have done something cool during their time off, whether it is an interesting internship or job or a daredevil feat. This is the first in a series entitled: "Summer vacation."

Eastern Michigan coach Ron English had no interest when he was first asked to skydive with the U.S. Army Golden Knights.

Scott Schultz, the school's assistant director of marketing, approached English with the idea in May. But skydiving never really appealed to English. "It wasn't on my bucket list," English said in a phone interview Friday. Schultz worked hard to convince English he should do it. "How many other head coaches can say they have done this?" Schultz asked English.

English finally changed his mind, intrigued by the opportunity. He would be doing it for a good cause, too. The Golden Knights are an elite U.S. Army parachuting team, and English would be helping to publicize the group with his jump. So he, associate athletic director Doug Dowdy and several other Eastern Michigan representatives decided to take the plunge.

On Wednesday, English arrived at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, Mich., and got a brief training session. No nerves then. He boarded the little prop plane and they went up in the air, all the way to 13,500 feet. No nerves then. The prop plane was as steady as can be, despite the chop in the air. But once it came time for English to jump out of the plane with his tandem partner, he got a little nervous.

"Then right after we jumped, it was a thrilling rush ... the feeling of the air, it was just awesome," English said.

They jumped over Lake Erie and free fell for about a minute. His parachute opened at about 5,000 feet, and his partner let him turn and steer as they made it down. It was windy that day, so they decided it would be easiest to land standing up. So English put his legs so his body formed an L-shape, and he stuck the landing perfectly. The jump lasted all of five minutes.

English was actually the second coach to skydive this week. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen also teamed with the Golden Knights in West Virginia. Holgorsen had a rougher landing but had a blast as well. But skydiving was always something Holgorsen wanted to do.

Even though English resisted the idea at first, he was thrilled he had the opportunity.

"After the experience, it deepened my appreciation for our Armed Services," English said. "These guys are the best in the world."

Would he do it again?

"I wanted to go right back up after it was over," he said.
My team-by-team breakdown of each Big Ten schedule continues with the Michigan Wolverines.

Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records)

Sept. 3: Western Michigan (6-6)
Sept. 10: Notre Dame (8-5)
Sept. 17: Eastern Michigan (2-10)
Sept. 24: San Diego State (9-4)

Legends division games

Oct. 1: Minnesota
Oct. 8: at Northwestern
Oct. 15: at Michigan State
Nov. 5: at Iowa
Nov. 19: Nebraska

Crossover games

Oct. 29: Purdue
Nov. 12: at Illinois
Nov. 26: Ohio State (protected)

No plays

Indiana
Penn State
Wisconsin

Gut-check game: At Michigan State. Michigan's trip to Northwestern a week before also could qualify, but we'll learn a lot about the Wolverines at Spartan Stadium. New coach Brady Hoke has played up Michigan's top two rivalries -- Michigan State and Ohio State -- placing countdown clocks to both games around Schembechler Hall. Hoke can gain some goodwill among Michigan fans if he leads the Wolverines to a victory in East Lansing, ending Michigan State's three-game win streak in the series. Michigan State has no intention of relinquishing the Paul Bunyan Trophy and still feels disrespected by Michigan, so this will be a test.

Trap game: Purdue. This non-division game falls between the Michigan State trip and another Legends division road game at Iowa. Michigan won an ugly game last year in West Lafayette, but Purdue ended its losing streak at the Big House in 2009 and should be a much improved offensive team. This is Michigan's only home game in a stretch of four out of five on the road, the Wolverines must handle their business against the Boilers.

Snoozer: Eastern Michigan. Other than the two schools being only a few miles apart, there isn't much upside to this game. The Ron English-Brady Hoke story is nice and will be rehashed leading up to kickoff, but Eastern Michigan still is building its program to a respectable level. Expect a big day for Denard Robinson and the Wolverines offense.

Non-con challenge: Notre Dame. The first night game at Michigan Stadium should be electric, and Notre Dame will bring in a squad likely ranked in the top 20. Unlike Michigan, the Irish ended 2010 on a good note and could take a significant step in Brian Kelly's second season as coach. Robinson went nuts against Notre Dame last year in South Bend. It'll be interesting to see how he fares in Michigan's new offense as the Wolverines get their first test. Michigan also shouldn't forget about San Diego State in Week 4. Obviously, there's a lot of familiarity between the two coaching staffs.

Key stretch: The home games against Nebraska and Ohio State in late November stand out, but Michigan's season likely hinges on how the team performs on the road. Michigan plays four out of five games away from Ann Arbor between Oct. 8-Nov. 12, including three Legends division road games (Michigan State, Northwestern, Iowa). The Wolverines could gain a lot of confidence from the stretch or stumble and be fighting to make a bowl game.

Analysis: Here's a case where the cross-division schedule isn't nearly as daunting as the division slate. Michigan misses both Wisconsin and Penn State and hosts rival Ohio State at a time when the Buckeyes could be reeling. On the flip side, the Wolverines play three of their five division games on the road before a tough finish against Nebraska and Ohio State. Michigan once again has a chance to start off strong as it plays five home games to open the season. The big key will be performing better against mid- to upper-tier Big Ten competition.

More B1G schedule analysis
Every year, there are coaches that land on the hot seat. So who are the non-AQ coaches who have to win in 2011? I have compiled a brief list. The no-brainer choice at the top of the list is New Mexico coach Mike Locksley, who goes into his third season having won two games and lost 22 with the Lobos.

Many thought he was on the hot seat last season, too. But the problem is he has a large buyout that New Mexico cannot afford to pay. According to local reports, it would have cost the program $1.4 million to fire him after last season. It would cost $1 million to fire him in 2011. So he may actually be safe if he has another bad season, unless New Mexico can find some serious cash.

I would put UAB coach Neil Callaway and Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild at the top of this list. Callaway goes into his fifth season at the school and has now been given plenty of time to get his players in to try and get into a bowl for just the second time in school history. He is 15-33 in four seasons and the Blazers went 4-8 last season. With 16 returning starters, including quarterback Bryan Ellis and running back Pat Shed, this could be bowl game or bust season for Callaway.

As for Fairchild, he took his team to a bowl game in his first season in 2008, but his teams have now posted back-to-back 3-9 seasons. The Rams also return 15 starters, including quarterback Pete Thomas. The Rams should be favored in four of their five nonconference games (Utah State, San Jose State, Northern Colorado, UTEP) so expectations will be high to return to a bowl.

Ron English also has gone 2-22 in his first two seasons. His team showed vast improvement last season over 2009. If that continues in 2011, he should be safe even with a losing record. But there are going to have to be more Ws in the win column. Bob Toledo is 12-37 in four seasons at Tulane

Non-AQ Tricks and Treats

October, 29, 2010
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Halloween time means we get to take a look at some of the tricks and treats the non-AQs have delivered so far this season. Have fun with this, and come up with some of your own in the comments section.

[+] EnlargeB.R. Holbrook
AP Photo/Rick BowmerNew Mexico did little right when it suffered a horrifying 72-0 loss against Oregon this season.
Scary movie: The worst loss of the season has to go to New Mexico, falling 72-0 to Oregon. The Lobos had eight first downs, 108 yards of total offense and trailed 59-0 at halftime. Did we mention that Oregon racked up 720 yards of total offense? The 72-point win for Oregon stands as the largest in school history over an FBS school. Not even FCS Portland State gave up that many points or yards to Oregon this year (though it did come close in the 69-0 loss).

Nightmare in Bronco Stadium: Yes, Boise State never loses at home, but watch out for Hawaii next week as a game that poses a threat to a contender. The Warriors are playing lights out football, and the Broncos have been less than impressive in the secondary this season. This one could impact the race for the national championship. On the other hand, the last time Boise State lost at home was to Washington State 42-20 on Sept. 8, 2001.

Boo (Boo): San Jose State and North Texas have been hit with major injuries, each losing at least 10 significant contributors for the season. But there is no bigger injury than the one Houston has had to overcome. Heisman Trophy candidate Case Keenum tore his ACL in the third game of the season and is out for the year. Backup Cotton Turner went out for the season in the same game. Houston has gone 2-2 without them and still stands atop the West Division of Conference USA. But it has been trying to deal with the huge loss of Keenum, who was poised to break the NCAA career passing record.

Night of the living dead: BYU is so not playing like BYU this season. The Cougars are 3-5 and are on the brink of failing to make a bowl game for the first time since 2004. The offense has looked like the living dead, ranking No. 106 in the nation. Spooky stuff in Provo.

Jigsaw team: San Diego State has put the pieces of the puzzle together in the second season under coach Brady Hoke and is one win away from being bowl eligible for the first time since 1998. The running game is working with Ronnie Hillman, and that has allowed the play-action to work with Ryan Lindley, DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown. The defense has played well, too. The Aztecs (5-2) have matched their best start in the past 14 seasons. To think they are two blown calls from being undefeated. Enough to make you scream, right Aztecs fans?

Halloween costumes: Time to play dress up. What would some of these guys go dressed up as on Halloween?

TCU coach Gary Patterson as Oregon coach Chip Kelly. Because seriously, those guys look so much alike with their visors on, they could have been switched at birth.

Boise State coach Chris Petersen as a scarecrow. You know, because he scares off teams from power conferences.

Utah punt returner Shaky Smithson as Zorro. You have to love the way he slices and dices through punt return units.

Temple coach Al Golden as a zombie. Nothing like bringing a program back from the dead.

FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger as Colonel Sanders. Anybody else see the resemblance?

Eastern Michigan coach Ron English and Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart as conquering heroes. Hey, they both ended long losing streaks this year.

Twilight Zone: You know Bowling Green would love a do-over. A year after going bowling, the Falcons are 1-7. Three of their losses are by three points or less. Quarterback Matt Schilz has been banged up, and the young team has not been able to come together. Of course, Akron (0-8) and New Mexico (0-7) probably wish this nightmare of a season would end. Now.

Eastern Michigan suspends five

October, 28, 2010
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Five Eastern Michigan players have been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules, coach Ron English said Thursday in a statement.

The five players are: starting linebackers Steve Brown and Tim Fort, starting receiver Tyrone Burke, backup running back Dwayne Priest and reserve defensive back Latarrius Thomas.

Fort leads the team with 68 tackles and three forced fumbles, while Brown has 21, plus a sack and a fumble recovery. Priest is second on the team in rushing with 378 yards and leads the team with five rushing touchdowns. Burke is third on the team with 137 yards receiving.

Eastern Michigan (1-7) hosts Toledo on Saturday.

Eastern Michigan gets a win to savor

October, 19, 2010
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The pass felt good when it left his hands, but Alex Gillett never saw Ben Thayer catch it.

No need for that. Not when he saw the mob of players hugging Thayer in the end zone. Gillett ran toward the euphoric celebration, and the group hugged with joy, relief and a feeling some never felt in their college careers.

Eastern Michigan had finally won a game.

[+] EnlargeEastern Michigan
Scott Olmstead/EMU AthleticsEastern Michigan notched its first win Saturday since the end of the 2008 season.
The Eagles ended their losing streak at 18 games -- the second longest in the nation -- with an exhilarating 41-38 overtime win over Ball State last Saturday. Though the last time they won was a 56-52 victory over Central Michigan to close out the 2008 season, the team was prepared for this moment.

Coach Ron English got the obligatory Gatorade bath for picking up his first win as a head coach. English made the team practice the fight song during fall practice so they would know what to do when they won a game. So after the touchdown celebration ended, the team walked over to the contingent of Eastern Michigan fans in the stands and they all sang together.

“There were a lot of emotions coming out of everybody,” said Gillett, who accounted for 414 total yards in the win. “Everyone had a big smile on their face. To see how happy everyone was, it was great feeling.”

Once they got into the locker room, more whoops and hollers. English told his team to remember how it feels to win, and to enjoy it. Then he stood back and watched his players celebrate, something he had never gotten the pleasure to see since he became head coach after the 2008 season following stints as a coordinator in Louisville and Michigan.

English said he felt a weight lifted, but was happier for the support system around him.

“I do have a strong belief system, but for our president who really loves football and our athletic director and our board of regents and our students and our players, the families of the coaches -- it’s hard when you’re not having success,” English said. “My family and my kids don’t know anything but success and then they have to go through this. It’s been difficult, of course, it’s going to take us some time to get this thing turned around but I feel relieved.”

Eastern Michigan did not make it easy. The Eagles trailed 28-7 late in the second quarter thanks to a series of mistakes and struggles on offense. But they did get a touchdown before the half to make it a more respectable 28-14.

Players kept their composure. Gillett said there was a belief they could come back, and no panic on the sideline. He certainly keyed the comeback: Gillett set school quarterback records for most rushes (35) and net rushing yards (189) while scoring two rushing touchdowns and also completing 10 of 18 passes for 225 yards and three touchdowns.

Ball State sent the game into overtime with 34 seconds left, but the Cardinals got a field goal on their first possession. Gillett did one better, with his 12-yard TD pass to Thayer.

“Our guys never quit the whole game, we didn’t get down on ourselves,” Gillett said. “The fight in everybody was awesome.”

Eastern Michigan had some close calls this season. In the opener against Army, the Eagles rallied to take a 27-24 lead with 2:59 left in the game. But Army won it with 38 seconds left on a 7-yard touchdown run. They had chances late in the fourth quarter against Miami (Ohio) but came up short 28-21.

There have also been blowout losses to Central Michigan, Ohio State and Vanderbilt. With each loss, it got harder and harder for the players.

“It’s been tough, you put in all that work, all that time, to go out on a Saturday and not get a win for a long time, you can fall into the trap of just saying, ‘Oh here we go again,’” Gillett said. “Our guys did a great job of staying with it and working hard and it paid off for us. Our coaches, they kept preparing us like we were going to win every game. We all want to win here. That’s what we need to keep going.”

No question the road to success at Eastern Michigan is a long one. The Eagles have a tough nonconference game at Virginia on Saturday before returning to MAC play.

But at least for one week, the team has a renewed pep in its step, with heads held higher and something to savor.

Non-AQ Helmet Stickers: Week 7

October, 17, 2010
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I realize there are still a few non-AQ teams playing, but thought you might want an early helmet stickers edition. Will add to it if necessary from Nevada-Hawaii and New Mexico State-Fresno State.

Ron English, Eastern Michigan. Congrats to the Eagles for getting their first win since 2008, beating Ball State 41-38 in overtime. The Eagles snapped an 18-game losing streak with a big-time comeback. Eastern Michigan trailed 28-7 in the second quarter before scoring 28 unanswered points. Ball State tied it up at 35 with 34 seconds left in regulation. But Alex Gillett threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ben Thayer in overtime to win it for the Eagles. They had come close in several games this season, giving English hope his team was coming close. He did more than come close Saturday.

Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio). Dysert threw a 71-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Cruse with 19 seconds left to give the RedHawks a 27-20 win over Central Michigan, their first road victory since 2008. Dysert went 29-of-47 for 399 yards, the second-best day of his career. Cruse had a career-high 179 yards on eight receptions and two touchdowns.

Dominique Davis, East Carolina. The quarterback had another outstanding game, throwing for 376 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for another in a huge 33-27 overtime win over N.C. State. Davis scored the touchdown in overtime, to help the Pirates win a game that they led 21-0 in the first quarter. Davis has three 300-yard games this season and has thrown from 1,439 total yards, with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Ross Jenkins, Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs have started three different quarterback this season, but it appears they should stick with Jenkins, the starter from last season. He has now led them to two straight wins after a career day in a 48-35 win over Idaho. Jenkins went 31-for-44 for 422 yards -- all career highs -- and tied a career high with three touchdown passes. He also added another score on the ground, as he has looked more and more comfortable running the new spread offense coach Sonny Dykes has installed. He became the first Louisiana Tech quarterback with over 400 yards passing since Luke McCown in 2003.

Jamon Hughes, Memphis. The senior linebacker has been a bright spot for Memphis this season. In a 41-19 loss to Southern Miss, Hughes notched a career-high 21 tackles (15 solo, 6 assists), plus one sack for a 4-yard loss. He has led the team in tackles in all seven games this season.

Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State. The true freshman had 191 yards on 24 carries, including touchdown runs of 65 and 44 yards to give the Aztecs a 27-25 win over No. 23 Air Force, their first win over a ranked team since 1996. He essentially went untouched on his 44-yarder with 2 minutes left to essentially seal the game. The Aztecs (4-2) had lost 25 straight games to ranked opponents, dating back to a 28-24 win over No. 16 Wyoming on Nov. 7, 1996. Hillman has three 150-yard games this season for 785 yards on the year, trailing only Marshall Faulk for most rushing yards by a San Diego State freshman (1,429).

Jerrel Jernigan, Troy. Jernigan had six receptions to set the school record for catches with 219 in a 31-24 win over Louisiana. He finished with 180 total yards, including one receiving touchdown and a 75-yard punt return for a score, two weeks after undergoing elbow surgery. His 12-yard TD reception with 4:43 left was the game-winning score.
Eastern Michigan coach Ron English has been under fire for comments he made about single moms during MAC media day. The criticism has gotten so bad, English today issued a letter to the editor to once again clarify comments he made at MAC media day. Here is his quote from July 31:
"You know what the real focus was? We wanted to recruit football players that love football. I felt like we had a lot of guys who really didn't love football. They maybe were playing football so that they could go to school or whatever, but not for the love of playing football.

"So when we went out, we wanted to do two things. We wanted players who love football, who have the physical ability to play football and then the other thing we wanted was guys that could be coached. We wanted guys that had a father in their background because if you don't, the hard part is, some guy like me coming in and corrects you. So you're working -- that's a whole another dynamic. A guy that's raised by his mom -- and please don't take me wrong -- but the reality is, you have to teach that guy how to be taught by a man. That's part of it."

Here is his letter to the editor:
"Media reports on comments attributed to me at the recent Mid American Conference Football Media Day have reached a point where I think it is important, as the Head Football Coach at Eastern Michigan University, to clarify for the record my position and to shed a little light on my history.

A July 31st article in The Detroit News quoted me as saying:

“We wanted guys that had a father in their background. A guy that is raised by his mom all the time, and please don’t get me wrong, but the reality is you’ve got to teach that guy how to be taught by a man."

The quote was an incomplete snippet of a lengthy conversation with a pool of reporters on my thoughts on our recruiting class. The comment was also made in the context of me providing insight into the first year of our program and, the prospects for our upcoming season. It was NOT a conversation about my thoughts on the value of single parent mothers or, the vitally important role father figures can play in not only those situations, but others as well. Had it been a discussion on those topics, I would have shared that my twin brother and I are products of being raised by our grandmother, Mamie Blaylock. My mother (who was not married to my father) passed away when I was 18-months old. In addition, I would have spoken about several coaches and other men who played an equally important role in whatever I have been able to achieve as a person.

I hold a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California and a Masters’ from Arizona State University. In December 2008, this great university (Eastern Michigan University) honored me by naming me its Head Football Coach, making me only one of five African-American Division I Head Football Coaches in America at the time (and one of only 13 today). To suggest I would dismiss or negate the critical role played by single parent mothers or, men who serve as mentors in young men’s lives, would contradict the very way I WAS RAISED (which would be absurd).

Throughout my 18-year coaching career, I have been privileged to not only have successfully coached several young men raised by their mothers but, to have personally been a father figure and mentor to many of them. As just one of many examples of which I am profoundly proud of, Jimmy Verdon, a Graduate Assistant on our Staff at EMU, comes particularly to mind. Verdon, who was raised by his Aunt, overcame a learning disability and was recruited by, and played for me at Arizona State. He not only went on to receive his Degree, but enjoyed a career in the National Football League before joining our Staff at EMU. In addition to working with our student athletes, he is presently enrolled in a Masters Degree Program at our School. As we work each day to give Eagle Nation, the Football Program, its students, faculty, Administrators, donors and Alumni so richly deserve, be assured we will continue to attract the very best student athletes for this Institution who meet our standards of decorum and personal responsibility, regardless of the demographic of the households they were raised in."

Sincerely,

Ron English

Head Football Coach

Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Michigan coach Ron English got himself into a bit of trouble for comments he made about single moms at MAC media days. Those comments were the fodder for a column in the Detroit Free Press Sunday that ripped English, forcing the second-year coach to apologize Monday.

Here is what English said July 31 when asked about his incoming recruiting class: "You know what the real focus was? We wanted to recruit football players that love football. I felt like we had a lot of guys who really didn't love football. They maybe were playing football so that they could go to school or whatever, but not for the love of playing football.

"So when we went out, we wanted to do two things. We wanted players who love football, who have the physical ability to play football and then the other thing we wanted was guys that could be coached. We wanted guys that had a father in their background because if you don't, the hard part is, some guy like me coming in and corrects you. So you're working -- that's a whole another dynamic. A guy that's raised by his mom -- and please don't take me wrong -- but the reality is, you have to teach that guy how to be taught by a man. That's part of it."

In his Sunday Free Press column, Mick McCabe wrote, "English has insulted every single mother in Michigan, not to mention a ton of high school coaches. ...

"Don't take him wrong? How do we take him right? English was given ample opportunity to explain his seemingly moronic and sexist comments, but declined to return several phone messages."

English finally spoke Monday, telling AnnArbor.com that he made a mistake.

"Where I've been, in high-profile situations, you always have to be very careful about what you say. But I want to say I made a mistake."

English has his own unique background. His mom died when he was 18 months old, leaving him to be raised by his grandmother.

"I don't know how you could say that. It doesn't even make sense," English said. "I know with families with the way they are today, there are going to be divorces and there are going to be single parents.

"As a program, if we said, 'We're only recruiting players with two parents in the home, our recruiting pool would go from big to very small."
Ron English isn’t making excuses for Eastern Michigan being one of just two FBS teams to go winless last season, but he does note that the Eagles were a team in transition.

As he tried to implement a different, more physical style in his first season as the Eagles' head coach, several players and coaches failed to adapt.

That’s why the Eagles added six new coaches this offseason, including defensive coordinator and former Detroit Lions linebacker coach Phil Snow, linebackers coach Steve Morrison (the former defensive coordinator at Western Michigan) and defensive line coach Ken Delgado. They also lost 39 players, only 14 of whom were seniors.

“I want a physical football team and a team that’s going to be able to run the ball and stop the run on defense,” English said during the Mid-American Conference coaches call. “And so, we changed everything and the way we practiced changed and the amount of contact changed. And to be frank with you, I think that was hard on a lot of guys here that were maybe recruited to another type of system.”

Among the players who left was quarterback Kyle McMahon, who transferred to Grand Valley State. McMahon threw for 634 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions last season and was supposed to be the main competition to Alex Gillett, who finished the season as the Eagles' starter. Gillett completed 49.7 percent of his passes for 763 yards, three touchdowns and seven interceptions last year, which caused English to reopen the starting quarterback competition this spring with redshirt freshman Devontae Payne.

English said both players had good spring campaigns, but that he wasn’t ready to name a starter.

“Both exceeded expectations,” English said of his young quarterbacks. “Now, we hope they don’t throw the ball to the wrong guy or mishandle the football, but they both have different strengths. Devontae Payne's a 6-6 guy, very strong arm, really can throw the ball, and you know, we were pleased with the fact that he learned the game a lot better than we thought, he assimilated a lot better to what we were asking him to do.

“And then, Alex Gillett is a kid who is just going to do everything right. He’s really a winner. He’s a tough guy. He could be a starting safety on our team. He can run the ball and he makes good decisions. He spends forever studying. So, we were really pleased with the play of both of those quarterbacks. Now, are they where they need to be? No. But did they make huge strides? Yes.”

At the very least, English said his team responded better this spring than it did a year ago. While he’s waiting for several players to arrive on campus this fall, he said the guys who participated in spring bought in and are excited for the 2010 season.

Now the next step is getting a win.

“I think going into your second spring, the players know what the expectations are and the coaches know what they are,” English said. “I think you can practice faster because everybody is aware of what is going to take place and I think you can really focus on the things that need to be addressed. So, I was pleased with the spring, but we have a long, long way to go.”
Eastern Michigan coach Ron English remains optimistic even after a winless first season.

For the second consecutive year, Southern Miss will hold a spring scrimmage at Ocean Springs High School.

Defensive coordinator Tommy Spangler is looking for some good character on the defensive line.

North Texas has hired Greg Peterson to coach wide receivers.

A new group of leaders is poised to take over at Wyoming this spring.
Before the season started, I looked at each of the new coaches in the Mid-American Conference and how they’d fare this season. Now, I’m looking back to see how I did. A couple MAC coaches had some rough inaugural seasons while one thrived and took his team to a bowl game.

Here’s a look back at the MAC’s new coaches:

[+] EnlargeStan Parrish
Michael Hickey/Getty ImagesDespite being an early MAC favorite, Ball State finished 5-3 in the conference.
BALL STATE

Coach: Stan Parrish

Previous school and position: Ball State, offensive coordinator

Head coaching experience: None

Ball State’s 2008 record: 12-2, 8-0 MAC

Returning players: Offense 4, defense 7

Likelihood of pulling off a winning season: Ball State will not be 12-2 again. Just forget about that right now. It probably won’t be undefeated in conference play either. But it will be a player in the race for the MAC West title. I really like Ball State’s defense. Sean Baker is one of my favorite players because I like the way he reads the game. He could easily lead the conference in interceptions.

The Cardinals have the luxury of three easy games -- North Texas, New Hampshire and Army -- to begin the season before travelling to Auburn to end non-conference play. It’s a nice 3-1 start for a team that will be looking for some confidence.

In fact, the bulk of the schedule sets up nicely for Ball State to have a pretty good record heading into the final month of the season. The Cardinals open conference play against Toledo, travel to Temple, host Bowling Green, travel to Eastern Michigan and then play Ohio at home to end October.

Then the season begins. The Cardinals end the year against Northern Illinois, Central Michigan and Western Michigan. All midweek games and against opponents that are going to be fighting for both bowl slots and the MAC West title.

So while the Cardinals’ record might be pretty good heading into November, those three games will be the telltale sign of how far the team has progressed in Parrish’s first season.

My prediction: 8-4, 5-3 MAC

What really happened: What we all realized early in the season was that quarterback Kelly Page was not Nate Davis and the Cardinals were not even close to the team that almost went undefeated in 2008. Ball State lost its first seven games, but started to come around in the latter half of the season and showed some progress despite some major injuries. While the Cardinals finished with two wins and appeared to take a step backward, it will probably be better for the experience.

The end result: 2-10, 2-6 MAC


[+] EnlargeDave Clawson
AP photo/L.G. PattersonClawson motivated his team to finish with a winning record and a bowl game appearance.
BOWLING GREEN

Coach: Dave Clawson

Previous school and position: Tennessee, offensive coordinator

Head coaching experience: Fordham 1999-2004, Richmond 2004-07

Bowling Green’s 2008 record: 6-6, 4-4 MAC

Returning players: Offense 7, defense 4

Likelihood of pulling off a winning season: Every year, at least for the past few years, the MAC East has been wide open. And during the last few years Bowling Green has either shared the division title been right in the thick of it. Even last year, Bowling Green finished tied for second in the East and was a win over Buffalo away from playing in the MAC title game. So, the desire to be a contender in the MAC is there. It’s a matter of learning a new system and putting it all together.

The Falcons don’t have an easy schedule. It opens against a talented Troy team, which is favored to with the Sun Belt, and then travels to Missouri and Marshall before coming home to face Boise State. That’s likely going to be a 1-3 start, perhaps 2-2 because they get Troy at home.

Conference play opens against Ohio and then a road game at Kent State, both winnable games. Then the Falcons hit a tough stretch at Ball State, against Central Michigan and at Buffalo. The Falcons haven’t played Central since 2006, haven’t played Ball State since 2005 and Buffalo edged them ultimately for the title last year.

Then Bowling Green drops into another winnable set of games at Miami (Ohio), and at home against Akron and Toledo.

My prediction: 6-6, 5-3 MAC

What really happened: Bowling Green had a tougher schedule to begin the season than many anticipated and it resulted in a 1-4 start. But once receiver Freddie Barnes and quarterback Tyler Sheehan started to hit their stride, the Falcons started to be more competitive and finish games. When the bye week hit, coach Dave Clawson told his team that it needed to win its final four games to make a bowl and it did. Bowling Green became the only non-AQ team with a new head coach to finish the regular season with a winning record.

The end result: 7-6, 6-2 MAC


[+] EnlargeRon English
AP Photo/Tony DingEastern Michigan was only one of two FBS teams to go winless.
EASTERN MICHIGAN

Coach: Ron English

Previous school and position: Louisville, defensive coordinator

Head coaching experience: None

Eastern Michigan’s 2008 record: 3-9, 2-6 MAC

Returning players: Offense 8, defense 8

Likelihood of pulling off a winning season: The Eagles have an offense that rivals any in the conference and most of the key players –- Andy Schmitt, Jacory Stone, Terrence Blevins –- return. The problem is that almost every team in the MAC has a great offense and EMU’s isn’t consistent enough to outscore its opponents.

The Eagles should open the season with a win over Army, but then they have tough road games against Northwestern and Michigan. It’s easily a 1-2 start, though they could steal the game at Michigan. The Eagles open conference against a deep and experienced Temple team that has a couple quarterbacks that can spread the ball around. The next game at Central Michigan could be ugly especially since the Chippewas will be looking for revenge for last season.

The Eagles could split their games against Kent State and Ball State before travelling to Arkansas for a mid-season non-conference loss. They come home to play Northern Illinois and Western Michigan, two teams that will contenders in the MAC West, and end the season on the road against Toledo and Akron teams that can be beaten.

Wins are going to be hard to come by with this schedule, but the Eagles should be a little better than they were a year ago.

My prediction: 4-8, 3-5 MAC

What really happened: I’ll admit that 4-8 was a little optimistic, but when starting quarterback Andy Schmitt went down with a season-ending injury, it became nearly impossible. Eastern Michigan spent the year learning new coaches, a new system, and a bunch of new players and stumbled to a winless season -- one of only two teams in the FBS not to win a game this year. But confidence English can turn the program around remains high.

The end result: 0-12, 0-8 MAC


[+] EnlargeMike Haywood
AP Photo/Matt CilleyEven though Haywood's team finished 1-11, the RedHawks started to play better later in the season.
MIAMI (OHIO)

Coach: Mike Haywood

Previous school and position: Notre Dame, offensive coordinator

Head coaching experience: None

Eastern Michigan’s 2008 record: 2-10, 1-7 MAC

Returning players: Offense 8, defense 5

Likelihood of pulling off a winning season: Haywood might have drawn the short straw of all the new MAC coaches. Unlike some of the other schools, Miami doesn’t have a name playmaker to build the team around. Raudabaugh could be that guy, but he’s not right now. Defensively, linebacker Caleb Bostic could be that guy, but he’s not there yet either.

This is an uphill climb. No doubt about it. The good thing is that Haywood is a big enough name that he can bring in some players to help turn the program around, but it’s going to take time especially with the brutal schedule it faces this year.

The RedHawks open the year with Kentucky and Boise State before dropping into conference play against Western Michigan and Kent State. That’s easily an 0-4 start especially with Kent State’s running game and Miami’s lack of running defense. Then the RedHawks go back into non-conference play against Cincinnati and Northwestern before playing Ohio, Northern Illinois and Toledo to end October. The RedHawks finish the year at Temple and then at home against Bowling Green and Buffalo.

This year could easily be a repeat of 2008.

My prediction: 2-10, 2-6 MAC

What really happened:This season was the uphill climb I predicted, but Miami-Ohio did start to get better as the season progressed. Quarterback Zac Dysert will be good for the RedHawks once coach Mike Haywood gets some players around him. Dysert had a tremendous second half of the season and was one of the team's lone bright spots. Despite the record, Miami has a pretty good upside and could be a player in the MAC in the next couple years.

The end result: 1-11, 1-7 MAC


[+] EnlargeTim Beckman
AP Photo/J.D. PooleyToledo started the year with a lot of talent, but Beckman could not get the Rockets to a bowl game.
TOLEDO

Coach: Tim Beckman

Previous school and position: Oklahoma State, defensive coordinator

Head coaching experience: None

Eastern Michigan’s 2008 record: 3-9, 2-6 MAC

Returning players: Offense 9, defense 9

Likelihood of pulling off a winning season: Of all the new MAC coaches, Beckman probably inherited the best and most underrated team available. Don’t be fooled by Toledo’s record or stats last season. There are good players on this team, they just needed a little bit of direction, which I believe Beckman can bring.

With that said, this season could go either way. Toledo hasn’t had a winning season since 2005, but it does have the personnel to turn that around.

The schedule could be challenging. The Rockets’ non-conference schedule consists of Purdue, Colorado, Ohio State and Florida International. I’m a big believer in Florida International, so I’m calling that a loss. I think Toledo could perhaps pick off Colorado at home.

It has a tough stretch to open conference play –- at Ball State, then at home against Western Michigan and Northern Illinois –- but then gets Temple and Miami. The Rockets end the schedule with another tough stretch against Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green.

Although the schedule is tough, I think Toledo can be one of the surprise teams of the season.

My prediction: 6-6, 5-3 MAC

What really happened: Toledo was one of the more disappointing MAC teams this season because coach Tim Beckman inherited a lot of talent, including a senior quarterback and receiver, and could not get much out of either of them through the duration of the year. The win against Colorado was a great win for the program, but a loss to Miami-Ohio cost the Rockets a potential bowl game. Four of the Rockets' seven losses were to teams in bowl games, but the others were to teams with losing records.

The end result: 5-7, 3-5 MAC
Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

Eastern Michigan coach Ron English is undecided as to who will take over for starting quarterback Andy Schmitt, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Michigan on Sept. 19.

The Eagles have been off since that game and both junior Kyle McMahon and freshman Alex Gillett have been taking first-team reps in practice.

Gillett came in at the end of the fourth quarter of the Michigan game after Schmitt was injured and completed 2-of-4 passes for nine yards and rushed for 36 yards.

Gillett is the frontrunner to start this weekend’s Mid-American Conference opener against Temple.

English said on Monday’s MAC teleconference, that he felt bad that Schmitt ended his career with an injury. Schmitt was the team’s best player and a team leader. He finished his career ranked second in school history in career completions (607) and total offensive plays (1,210), third in career pass attempts (966), passing yards (5,867), and total offensive yards (6,745) and tied for fourth in career touchdown passes (33).

In three games this season, Schmitt had completed 51-of-81 passes for 428 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions.

English said Schmitt would still be a part of the team.

“He’s been through a lot here in terms of playing and they haven’t had the great success that they would hope for,” English said. “I just think that he’s very valuable as a person. We want to always have him around. Like I told him, he needs to be at everything. And we’re going to still travel him with the team and keep him with the team because he can help our team that way.”

Eastern Michigan now faces a huge uphill battle at 0-3 and starting a inexperienced quarterback. The Eagles play a Temple team that defeated Buffalo 37-13 last week and is 4-0 all-time against Eastern Michigan.

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