Tuesday, 1 October 2013

American football teams are true to the run

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- It is an absolute for both mathematics and football. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Run the football.
Last season the Mid-American Conference had arguably its best collective football season in years sending seven teams to bowl games including one to the Orange Bowl. It should not go unnoticed that six of those bowl teams had a 1,000-yard rusher and the seventh had one rush for 999.
This season the MAC is struggling as only four MAC teams have a winning record to date, the non-conference victory list vs. peer (FBS) opponents is less than a dozen and the winless teams in the conference sit at three.
By the way, the only three teams with a player definitely tracking for 1,000 yards rushing this season after last Saturday's games were Northern Illinois (Jordan Lynch, 439 yards, 3 TD), Toledo (David Fluellen, 626 yards 5 TD) and Bowling Green (Travis Greene, 551 yards 3 TD). NIU is 4-0, 0-0; Toledo is 2-3, 1-1 and Bowling Green is 4-1, 2-0.
On the run: Last season Kent State (2-3, 1-1) led the MAC with two 1,000-yard rushers in Dri Archer and Trayion Durham. Due to injury (Archer) it wasn't until Game 5 that the tandem hit the field for four quarters together, against Western Michigan.
The end result was 276 yards rushing for the Golden Flashes in the 32-14 victory with Durham delivering 154 of those yards including a pair of touchdowns. Archer, now primarily a receiver, still carried the ball six times for 73 yards, primarily on reverses, or bonsai sweeps.
Passing fancy: It's one thing to have a true pocket passer in the mold of Ball State's Keith Wenning, who has now passed for 1,650 yards and nine touchdowns five games into the season. He is complimented by an elite receiver in Willie Snead (35 catches, 611 yards). Clearly that's the exception to the rule.
On a roll: While the Jordan Lynch Heisman Trophy campaign may be in a slumber, that does not mean the 2012 MAC Player of the Year is not living up to expectations. On the contrary, the NIU quarterback still does it all offensively for the Huskies.
His rushing from the read option combines with his passing, which stands at a total of 1,308 yards of total offense with 13 touchdowns accounted for. In NIU's road victory last Saturday over Purdue (and former Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell) Lynch ran for 35 yards and a touchdown and passed for 207 yards and three touchdowns.
The Huskies play their first MAC game of the season this week at Kent State, which will be homecoming for the Golden Flashes. This is not quite the same KSU team that played NIU in the MAC title game last November, before losing in overtime, 44-37. But the return of Archer as a speedy counter to the bullish runs of Durham does give KSU a puncher's chance at a home field upset.
Man to man: The high praise for the Akron Zips rained heavy and thick after Bowling Green's 31-14 victory over the Zips this past Saturday. Both BG coach Dave Clawson and quarterback Matt Campbell called the Zips "tough" and "physical" while also proclaiming this was not traditional coach speak.
However, all that toughness and physical persona was not on display when the Zips needed it most, and probably cost Akron the game. Indeed, it may have cost the Zips two games; on the road at Michigan and at BG.
The Zips were given a pardon for not attacking the Wolverines, straight on, man to man, just inches from the game winning touchdown. Akron either passed, or ran wide to no avail as time expired in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The same situation showed itself early in the fourth quarter at BG. But instead of pounding the ball straight ahead on third-and-inches, man to man, to cut Bowling Green's then 24-14 lead down to a field goal, once again the Zips passed incomplete.
When the Zips then missed the field goal with 12:50 to play in the game, the Falcons answered with a 13-play 80-yard touchdown drive, practically in a straight line behind 11 plays rushing, to seal Akron's fate.

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