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Ohio's James Bostic (#85) pushes through a tackle during Ohio's game versus Syracuse on Saturday, Sep. 4, 2021. Ohio lost 29-9.

Football: Evaluating standout Week 1 performances around the Mid-American Conference

The opening weekend of Mid-American Conference football is in the books. While it’s too early to get a firm grasp on how each team will perform down the road, there was still a glimpse at some standout performances. 

The most difficult part of evaluating statistics from week one is the difference in schedules being played. It could be easy to lose confidence in teams such as Ohio, Bowling Green or Miami after their losses, but all three went against Power 5 or AP Top 25 ranked programs. 

The sentiment goes both ways, as some might be skeptical of Eastern Michigan or Toledo after beating Football Championship Subdivision teams. 

Still, there were programs and players who executed their jobs to near perfection in week one. Here’s how their performances compared to others in the MAC and what that means for the Bobcats: 

Standout team performance: Buffalo defeats Wagner 69-7

Wagner may be an FCS team, but it’s hard to fault Buffalo for what was almost a flawless performance on Sept. 2. First-year coach Maurice Linguist couldn’t have asked for a better debut.

Quarterback Kyle Vantrease completed a 63-yard touchdown pass to Jovany Ruiz within the first minute of the game and set the tone for the Bulls’ nonstop stampede. The Bulls led 38-0 by halftime and ran into the second half at the same speed, not allowing the Seahawks a touchdown until the fourth quarter. 

Buffalo finished with 569 total offensive yards, 312 of which were from rushing, and allowed just 97 yards. It didn’t punt once against Wagner. 

Standout individual performance: Lew Nichols, RB, Central Michigan

Central Michigan kept things closer than expected in its 34-24 loss to Missouri on Saturday. 

Keeping in close competition with a Southeastern Conference opponent can garner a team respect, and the Chippewas did so, thanks to the efforts of Nichols. The 2020 MAC Freshman of the Year picked up 135 yards and a touchdown on 19 rushes, averaging 7.1 yards per run. He ended week one with the second-most rushing yards in the MAC and the highest average yards per carry among rushers with at least 10 carries. 

Nichols can be expected to have more big games in the future alongside fellow running backs Darius Bracy and Marion Lukes, who averaged 20.7 yards on three carries and 8.8 yards per run on five attempts respectively against Missouri.

What this means for Ohio

Buffalo was the only team in the MAC East to win its first game, and it did so in dominant fashion. 

The Bobcats don’t play the Bulls until Oct. 16. However, allowing 283 rushing yards to Syracuse in week one makes it obvious that improving the run defense is critical if they want to contend in the MAC East. 

The same goes for Nichols’ performance. Nichols was one of three running backs in the MAC to put up over 100 rushing yards in week one. The only two running backs to also rush for over 100 yards were Eastern Michigan’s Darius Boone and Northern Illinois’s Harrison Waylee. The Chippewas come to Athens on Oct. 9, and the Bobcats travel to Ypsilanti to take on Boone and the Eagles Nov. 9. 


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