CFN Analysis ... MAC
Miami 26 ... NIU 21
Northern Illinois just can't get over the hump, but in this year's MAC title loss as well as in the 2005 defeat, the team didn't take care of business and left the door open. The Huskies were far, FAR better than Akron five years ago, but Domenik Hixon overcame cramps and dehydration to come off the bench and catch a 36-yard touchdown pass with :13 to play for a 31-30 Zip win and the MAC title. This Huskie team is far, FAR better than Miami, and it left Detroit with a major disaster and a major disappointment because it didn't do what it should've to put the game away.
Give MU credit for dominating on the defensive front to keep the normally unstoppable Chad Spann to just 54 yards, but make no mistake about it; NIU screwed this thing up. From misfires on deep balls, including a dropped bomb of a touchdown pass in the first half, to the dropped interception on 3rd-and-20 on MU's final drive, to the misplay on the unbelievable tipped ball into the hands of Chris Givens on 4th-and-20 for 31 yards, the Huskies had their chances, and blew it. The missed assignment on the 33-yard game-winning touchdown catch from Armand Robinson seemed like it was fait accompli after the stunner to keep the game alive.
The 2005 loss to Akron might have been painful for NIU, but this loss is going to truly sting. Play this game ten times and the Huskies win nine of them. The tenth time, MU came up with the plays and NIU didn't.
- The Miami defensive front whipped the NIU offensive line. The Huskie front five had been dominant all season long, but the RedHawk linebackers were completely and totally disciplined and didn't make any mistakes, while the line held its ground all game long.
- Coming into the game, NIU RB Chad Spann had rushed for 1,239 yards and 20 touchdowns with just one game under 70 yards. MU held the MAC Player of the Year to 54 yards on 17 carries.
- NIU came into the game seventh in the nation and first in the MAC in rushing offense averaging 279 yards per game. MU was 114th in the nation and 12th in the MAC averaging 97 yards per game. MU outgained NIU 99 yards to 92 on the ground, and the Huskies didn't score a rushing touchdown.
- The game is more about a completely and utterly dominant NIU team blowing another MAC title game, but this Miami team is better than the Akron squad of 2005. Remember, MU was 1-11 last year, and it's finishing off the regular season 9-4 with a MAC title. Not only did the RedHawks pull it off, but they did it with star QB Zac Dysert out over the last few weeks.
- Yes, NIU blew several big chances to take control of the game, but things would've been much different if the MU special teams didn't keep screwing up. NIU blocked two kicks and stuffed a fake field goal attempt from chip-shot short range that would've given the MU a nine-point lead in the third.
Mike Haywood may have just made himself a lot of money.
Okay, it's been just two years, but the Miami University head coach has done a remarkable job of turning this school around. A year ago, the RedHawks won just a single game, lumbering on both sides of the ball. After shocking ranked Northern Illinois, 26-21, they're the MAC champs. Hey, Haywood is saying all of the right things about loving the job he currently has, but you know he's going to listen if a bigger school wants to speak with his agent. And it's not as if a precedent hasn't been set within the conference and at the cradle of coaches. In just the last few years, Brady Hoke, Turner Gill, and Butch Jones have all used this league as a launching point to bigger paydays and higher profile opportunities. With the Big Ten already trying to fill a pair of openings at Minnesota and Indiana, Haywood could be next in line for a significant career bump.
If Haywood does get scooped up over the next few weeks, someone on that defensive staff ought to receive serious consideration for a promotion. The group of coaches has overachieved with a modest collection of talent. The D has been stout throughout the current five-game winning streak, allowing an average of just 14 points over that time. Friday night was its opus, holding the Huskies well below their season average in scoring and total yards. All-Star RB Chad Spann? Ordinary, picking up only 54 yards on 17 carries. The RedHawks have executed throughout the 9-4 season, but the coaches have been the unsung heroes, turning marginal talent into a group of champions.
By Matt Zemek
Go back in time to the biggest game of the 1985 NFL regular season. Then you'll have an historical comparison to the play that lifted Miami University to an improbable Mid-American Conference championship over the stunned and devastated Huskies from Northern Illinois.
Remember that steamy night in Miami, the night when the Chicago Bears strutted into the old Orange Bowl stadium to take on the AFC-leading Dolphins in a blockbuster battle? Remember when Dan Marino threw a pass that was deflected and traced a nice, curving arc over the Chicago secondary and right into the arms of receiver Mark Clayton? The better team – a team from the state of Illinois, mind you – lost to an opponent referred to as Miami. You can't make this stuff up – not in your wildest dreams (or nightmares, as the case may be). Roughly a quarter-century after one Miami team caused heartbreak in the Land Of Lincoln, a similar scenario unfolded at Ford Field in Detroit, where a 2008-style mindblower, another Buffalo-over-Ball State-level shocker, hit this FBS conference like a MAC truck. College football is always there, ready to provide a new twist of unpredictability just when you least expect it. That's why we love this sport, don't we?
- This game proved that you can be a great coach and still coach poorly. Mike Haywood was the best coach in the MAC this year, but his decision to fake a field goal when leading by six points (20-14) in the third quarter very nearly came back to bite him. His late use of timeouts (in the final eight minutes of play) also jeopardized his team's chances of winning. Haywood did not manage this game well in any way, shape or form.
- Yet, for all the bad things Haywood did in this game, he won. Imagine that. Don't try to overanalyze this game. It's college football – Miami won.