Football battles Toledo for West crown

By Brian Earle

One final test stands in the way of football and its fourth consecutive MAC West Division title: a showdown against Toledo at 7 p.m. today at the Glass Bowl, viewable on ESPN2.

The Huskies will look to increase their conference winning streak to 24 games and their road winning streak to 15, both of which are nation-leading streaks.

This will be the second Wednesday night game in a row for the Huskies (10-0, 6-0 MAC), as they are coming off a 48-27 victory over Ball State at Huskie Stadium.

The Huskies broke a 27-27 tie in the fourth quarter of the game and ran off 21 straight points to finish off the Cardinals.

“Their team is really good, and I really believe to date that’s the best team we’ve played,” said coach Rod Carey in a news conference. “For us to come out on top in a close ball game, the final score, we kind of pulled away a little bit, but for most of the game it was a really tight back-and-forth match. I’m really pleased with the outcome, but not only the outcome but how all three phases played.”

The Rockets (7-3, 5-1 MAC) have won five straight games and are coming off a thrilling 51-41 Nov. 12 victory over Buffalo and need a win to stay alive for the MAC West Division title.

Coincidence or not, the last three meetings between the Huskies and Rockets have come late in November with serious implications for the MAC West title.

“You’re dealing with two good football programs,” Carey said in a teleconference. “And when you [have] two good football programs, it’s inevitable that you’re always going to play for something that matters, and this year is no different than the two previous that I’ve been a part of.”

In the Huskies’ 31-24 victory over Toledo last season, quarterback Jordan Lynch rewrote the record books, becoming the only quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards and rush for 150 yards in the same game.

The Rockets return a lot of key pieces from last season and are led by running back David Fluellen. Fluellen’s status is uncertain for this game after being banged up for a few weeks with a lower leg injury, but if he suits up he is a game changer for the Rockets’ offense. Fluellen is second in the MAC in rushing yards with 1,067 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In Fluellen’s absence, backup running back Kareem Hunt has filled his shoes nicely, rushing for 672 yards and six touchdowns. The Huskies’ defense will be ready for whichever running back is in the backfield.

“They have a fine football team,” Carey said in a news conference. “They have a great quarterback in [Terrance] Owens. Fluellen, I know he hasn’t played the last couple of weeks, but he’s special. [Bernard] Reedy, their wideout, is good. Their O-line is playing good again. Hunt — that’s the kid who’s the backup to Fluellen — he’s had a couple of career days, too, so he’s no slouch himself. He’s a good player.”