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NIU Squeaks Past Buffalo on National Television


By Raymond Rolak | CNBNews Sports


  The Bulls to go to the Dollar General Bowl in Mobile

Dollar-General-Bowl-Mobile-logoPhoto courtesy of Dollar General Bowl.

DETROIT— Fabulous Ford Field has become a fond venue for coach Rod Carey and his Northern Illinois Huskies.  With 1:09 remaining, NIU struck on a 35-yard touchdown pass to defeat the University Buffalo football team, 30-29, in the 2018 Marathon Mid-American Conference Championship game.  The final touchdown gave the Huskies their first lead of the game.


NIU scored the final 20 points for the impressive comeback.  The game, before a sparse crowd was on prime-time television, available to a national audience on ESPN2.

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NIU wide-receiver Spencer Tears catches TD in the 2018 Marathon MAC Championship game at Ford Field in Detroit.
Photo courtesy of Lars Hjelmroth, Rolco Sports & Entertainment Network


NIU quarterback Marcus Childers passed for 300 yards on (21-33-1) but it was the spectacular catches of wide-receivers Spencer Tears (above) and D.J. Brown that Buffalo had no answer for.  They both had two touchdown receptions for the Huskies.


Northern Illinois junior Sutton Smith, was named the MAC Championship Game Defensive MVP after finishing with 10 tackles, including a pair of sacks.  Childers was named Offensive MVP.


Post-game NIU head coach Carey said, “Winning championships is hard and I am so proud of these guys, these student-athletes.  I'm proud of my coaches too … my years of coaching this is my favorite group to be around, and I've won championships before.”


Senior Anthony Johnson had two touchdown receptions for the Bulls.  NIU went to 8-5 and Buffalo is at 10-3. 


UB coach Lance Leipold said, “We got stops, but field position changed quite a bit.  Play calls changed a little bit.  The first half, we stayed out of third-and-longs and did a really good job. The second half, not as much, and you saw their pass rush really starting to take effect.”


Buffalo went ahead early with their first and second drives resulting in TD’s.  With a missed PAT it was 13-0.  The half-time break saw Buffalo in the lead 22-10. 


In related MAC football news, Bowling Green State announced that Scott Loeffler has been named the head coach of the BGSU football program and Central Michigan named Jim McElwain as the new football coach of the Chippewa’s. 


The Mid-American Conference also announced that six programs have accepted bowl invitations for the 2018 bowl season.  Northern Illinois (Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl), Buffalo (Dollar General Bowl), Ohio (DXL Frisco Bowl), Toledo (Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl), Western Michigan (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl) and Eastern Michigan (Raycom Media Camellia Bowl) will represent the MAC in bowl games this season.  “The matchups are compelling and should provide some great bowl games.  I appreciate our bowl partners who work all year to facilitate a great experience for the game participants and fans,” said MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, Ph.D.


For Buffalo, the date is December 22, and the Bulls will be rewarded to participate in the Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.  The event schedule and related festivities are considered to be the best bowl that the MAC has affiliation with.  The opponent will be Troy University of the Sunbelt Conference.  Former NFL quarterback, Archie Manning will serve as the keynote speaker at the annual Dollar General Bowl Mayor’s Luncheon on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 at noon at the Mobile Convention Center.  He is busy in retirement watching his three sons, Cooper, Peyton and Eli. 


Murray Cape, Selection Committee Chairman of the Dollar General Bowl said, “We are excited to be celebrating our 20th year and what better way to do so than by pairing Buffalo and Troy.” 

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After the Mayor’s Luncheon, the skies of downtown Mobile will be filled with beads and moon pies as the Dollar General Bowl presents Mobile’s largest Mardi Gras Parade.  Local high school marching bands and the Bowl teams’ bands and cheerleaders will all perform.  A huge crowd is expected to pack the streets for the first parade of the Mardi Gras season.   


The Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit at Ford Field on Wednesday, Dec. 26, at 5:00 p.m. and will feature Georgia Tech and Minnesota.       


2018 MAC Specialty Award Winners


Coach of the Year:  Lance Leipold, Buffalo

Offensive Player of the Year:  QB Tyree Jackson, Buffalo

Defensive Player of the Year:  DE Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois

Special Teams Player of the Year: KR/PR Diontae Johnson, Toledo

Freshman of the Year:  RB Jaret Patterson, Buffalo

Vern Smith Leadership Award Winner:  DE Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois