Finn, Stuart lead Toledo to first MAC title since 2017

Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
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DETROIT – Dequan Finn passed for a touchdown and rushed for 86 yards on 18 carries as Toledo captured its first Mid-American Conference championship since 2017 by defeating Ohio 17-7 on Saturday afternoon.

Finn completed 16 of 25 passes for 154 yards. Jacquez Stuart rushed for 93 yards on nine carries, including a 29-yard touchdown. Micah Kelly added 53 rushing yards for the Rockets (8-5), who lost their last two conference games.

“We’ve been through a lot the whole year,” Finn said. “It’s been a rollercoaster for us. Up and down, fought through adversity and had some rough patches. But ultimately, we stayed together as one.”

Toledo is headed to a bowl game but since the MAC doesn’t have a postseason pecking order, its destination is unknown. The Arizona, Idaho Potato and Quick Lane bowls — the latter also at Detroit’s Ford Field — are the most likely possibilities.

“This is everybody’s goal,” Toledo coach Jason Candle said of the conference championship. “This is what everybody wants to do. This is where everybody says they’re going to be. It’s one thing to get there. It’s another to win it.”

Sieh Bangura rushed for 56 yards on 20 carries and the lone touchdown for the Bobcats (9-4), whose seven-game winning streak was snapped. CJ Harris completed 17 of 31 passes for 163 yards and was intercepted once.

Harris was making his second start since MAC Player of the Year Kurtis Rourke suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Ohio is 0-5 in the MAC title game.

“My heart hurts for our football team,” coach Tim Albin said. “This has been about our journey, not a destination. I boldly said on MAC (preseason) media day I thought we could make a championship run. That’s what we did and we came up short.”

The Rockets led 10-7 at halftime.

They drove 75 yards after the opening kickoff with Stuart scoring on his 29-yard run up the middle.

“Very efficient,” Candle said of first possession. “That kind of built some confidence to play efficient offense the rest of the way.”

Ohio tied it on Bangura’s 2-yard run midway through the second quarter, finishing off an 84-yard drive.

Toledo’s Thomas Cluckey kicked a 44-yard field goal with 16 seconds left in the half.

The Rockets drove to the Bobcats’ 10 midway through the third quarter but passed up a field goal attempt and turned the ball over on downs.

Finn’s 16-yard scoring pass to DeMeer Blankumsee completed a methodical 16-play, 90-yard drive that gave Toledo a 17-7 lead with 10:36 remaining.

Ohio was limited to 262 yards of total offense.

“Their front seven controlled it, particularly in the second half,” Albin said. “We had trouble running the ball in between the tackles and it made us one-dimensional.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Toledo is now 4-3 in the MAC title game, with its previous championships coming in 2001, ’04 and ’17. Ohio’s long drought without a conference championship continued. The Bobcats haven’t won a MAC championship since 1968.

UP NEXT

Both teams are headed to bowl games TBD on Sunday. Toledo is bowl eligible for the 13th straight season.

Akron at Buffalo postponed by winter storm

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AMHERST, N.Y. — The University at Buffalo’s game against Akron has been postponed due to a lake-effect snowstorm hitting the western New York region, the Mid-American Conference announced.

Officials are considering shifting the game pending travel conditions. The National Weather Service has a lake-effect storm warning, with a projection of two to four feet of snow expected to be dumped on the region.

With two games remaining, Buffalo (5-5, 4-2) sits third in the East Division and remains one win shy of becoming bowl-eligible. Akron (1-9, 0-5) is last in the East.

Buffalo also announced the storm has led to the cancellation of the women’s basketball home game against Princeton. The Tigers (3-1) opened the season 24th before falling out of the rankings this week.

No. 14 Michigan State runs for 6 TDs in 52-0 rout of Akron

Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK
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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Jalen Berger ran for 107 yards and three touchdowns and Michigan State’s defense forced four fumbles Saturday to help the 14th ranked Spartans to a 52-0 victory over Akron.

It was the largest margin of victory for Michigan State (2-0) since beating Eastern Michigan by 59 points in 2014.

“Our focus was better, our intensity throughout was better,” Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said. “There was a lot of good things for us to build upon with our team in all three phases. And we have some things to clean up if we expect to go on the road and get anything done.”

Kendell Brooks, filling in for injured starting safety Xavier Henderson, forced the ball out twice in the first quarter. He has forced three fumbles in the Spartans’ first two games.

“KB, he’s getting better,” Tucker said. “We have confidence in him to go in the game and get the job done and make plays and be physical and knock the ball off people. I think as he gains more experience he’s going to continue to get better. That’s good when guys can go in, execute and make plays.”

On Akron’s opening drive, the senior safety knocked the ball loose from tight end TJ Banks and linebacker Cal Haladay picked up the ball and ran 22 yards to the Michigan State 41. Six plays later, Jarek Broussard scored on a 1-yard run. Haladay later forced a fumble in the second half when he sacked backup quarterback Jeff Undercuffler.

“I was just reading my keys,” said Brooks who was making his first career start at Michigan State. “It was cover 3 so I was reading the quarterback. I saw him take his hand off the ball and throw. So I kind of just broke and I glanced over to the tight end to see where he was throwing, and I just ran through contact.”

Brooks also punched the ball out from receiver Shocky Jacques-Louis, leading to a 1-yard touchdown run by Berger.

Jacoby Windmon, who had four sacks against Western Michigan last week and another one and vs. Akron, forced his second fumble in two games when he pounced on a bobbled pitch to Jonzell Norrils and Berger followed with his second score on another 1-yard run.

Michigan State closed the first-half scoring with Jack Stone‘s 43-yard field goal to make it 24-0.

The Spartans continued the scoring in the second half with a 16-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Noah Kim to Tre Mosley, 2-yard touchdown runs by Broussard and Berger, and a 1-yard run by Elijah Collins.

Broussard said he doesn’t mind sharing the workload with Berger. In addition to the five touchdowns, the pair accounted for 188 of Michigan State’s 260 rushing yards.

“I feel like we complement each other really well running the ball,” Broussard said. “There’s no drop-off from my point of view.”

Akron coach Joe Moorhead said the turnovers killed any hope of pulling off an upset.

“Can’t turn it over once against a team like this, let alone four times and expect to win,” he said. “You can’t put your defense in adverse situations like that. Two or three of the turnovers resulted in scores for the other team. … You can’t let a team like Michigan State that’s big and physical get extra possessions and wear you down.”

INJURY REPORT

Akron (1-1) starting quarterback DJ Irons was knocked out of the game with just over six minutes left in the first half. The Big Ten Network broadcast reported that he was taken to a hospital with a lower body injury. Moorhead did not have an update on Irons’ condition after the game.

Michigan State’s leading receiver Jayden Reed suffered a cut on his back late in the first half when he was pushed out of bounds and was held out of the second half.

STREAKING SPARTANS

Michigan State has now won eight straight home games and also 14 straight games against Mid-American Conference teams. The last loss was to a MAC foe was to Central Michigan in 2009.

THE TAKEAWAY

Akron: With Irons knocked out of the game after completing 9 of 13 passes for 123 yards and running for 31 yards, the Zips could not move the ball much.

Michigan State: Even though he completed 18 of 28 passes for 212 yards, quarterback Payton Thorne continued to miss open receivers for the second straight game and threw two interceptions.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Spartans were expected to win convincingly against the Zips and may actually move up slightly in the poll.

UP NEXT

Akron: Stays on the road and will play at No. 24 Tennessee on Sept. 17 and at Liberty on Sept. 24.

Michigan State: Goes on the road Sept. 17 to play Washington and hosts Minnesota on Sept. 24 in both teams’ Big Ten openers.