MAC notes: Fleck dreams big, WMU delivers
“My vision and dream is so big for this place and the challenging part is to get the people to actually see the unseen. I think this place can win a national championship and I really believe that, whether it’s 10 or 15 years down the road. I don’t have to be one of those coaches who just picks up and leaves after two years. I have an attachment to this place and I feel like I owe this place, which gave me my first opportunity.”
Those words were spoken by P.J. Fleck in April 2013, just after he completed his first spring camp with Western Michigan.
Fleck had a vision and now the results can been seen by college football fans across the country. The Broncos are 10-0 and ranked No. 14. They will play host to Buffalo (2-8, 1-5) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Waldo Stadium with ESPN’s “College GameDay” coming to town.
Fleck replaced the fired Bill Cubit at the conclusion of the 2012 season. The Broncos went 1-11 in Fleck’s first year, followed by consecutive 8-5 marks, earning their first bowl win in school history last year.
Now the Broncos are in position to earn their first MAC title since 1988. They are also positioning themselves to represent the Group of Five conferences in the Cotton Bowl Jan. 2.
The last time “College GameDay” came to a MAC school was back in 2003 when Fleck, a wide receiver for Northern Illinois, played at Bowling Green and Fleck caught a 50-yard TD pass.
“I think it will be way bigger because ‘GameDay’ is way bigger 12 years later and we’re excited,” Fleck said. “It’s priceless because of that exposure for your university.
“That type of exposure, not just for our football program, but for our engineering school, our business school, our fine arts, the city of Kalamazoo, our football players, our staff, our community, our restaurants, our hotels – it’s just priceless.”
Eagles aim for winning season
Eastern Michigan (6-4, 3-3) came back from a 21-point deficit to defeat Ball State 48-41 last Tuesday to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 1987, when it last won the MAC title.
Now, the Eagles will be looking to assure themselves their first winning season since 1995 with a victory at Rynearson Stadium Wednesday night against six-time defending MAC West champion Northern Illinois (3-7, 3-3).
Brogan Robak rallied the Eagles back against Ball State, completing 37-of-71 for a career-high 468 yards and three TDs without an interception. Ian Eriksen (Clarkston) rushed for 109 yards and two TDs.
“We still haven’t gone to a bowl and it's not a bowl guarantee, but we’re bowl-eligible and we certainly haven’t won that game so it’s all still out there,” said EMU third-year coach Chris Creighton. “We told them after the game we definitely took a monster step forward.”
Creighton is now focused on Northern Illinois and getting that seventh win.
“We know the tradition of Northern Illinois and their tradition is awesome,” Creighton said. “It’s a huge challenge for us. We’ve been at the bottom and they’ve been at the top and we have the opportunity to compete with them here at home on Wednesday night.”
Creighton is impressed with Eriksen, who scored the winning touchdown against Ball State.
“I’m really proud of the season that he’s having, not surprised by it,” Creighton said. “He just wasn’t shaken (when EMU trailed by 21). He just believed and willed victory. That’s just who he is, tough, a winner and a great teammate.”
Chips look to end slide
Central Michigan will face MAC East leader Ohio Tuesday night at Kelly/Shorts Stadium to try to end a three-game losing streak while in the process becoming bowl-eligible.
It will be Senior Night with quarterback Cooper Rush making his last appearance at Kelly/Shorts.
Rush will be challenged by an Ohio defense that ranks fifth nationally in sacks (36), just two shy of the Bobcats' school record set 20 years ago.
CMU (5-5, 2-4) will end its season at EMU.
Ohio at Central Michigan
Kickoff: Tuesday, 7 p.m., Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Mount Pleasant
Records: Ohio 7-3 (5-1 MAC), Central Michigan 5-5 (2-4)
Northern Illinois at Eastern Michigan
Kickoff: Wednesday, 8 p.m. Rynearson Stadium, Ypsilanti
Records: Northern Illinois 3-7 (3-3), Eastern Michigan 6-4 (3-3)
Buffalo at Western Michigan
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo
Records: Buffalo 2-8 (1-5), Western Michigan 10-0 (6-0)