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Akron shows the best of MAC

If anyone needed an indication of their power of the Mid-American Conference they just needed to watch the thrilling championship game featuring Akron and Northern Illinois.

Northern Illinois represented the old guard of the MAC. A perennial contender featuring a strong dose of offensive firepower and one of the best offensive players in the country – Garret Wolfe.

Akron represented the new school in the MAC. One of the many rebuilding upstarts that challenged the top dogs throughout the season including the surprising Western Michigan Broncos and the Central Michigan Chippewas.

Many complained that the greater parity in the league was not due to other teams getting better, but the top teams getting worse. Well, the MAC Championship game, played in Detroit’s Ford Field, dispelled that notion.

Both Akron and Northern Illinois were riding high on momentum and were playing their best football not only late in the season but in the championship game itself.

NIU’s Wolfe ran for a conference-record breaking 270 rushing yards – that is rushing yards, not total yards. He also contributed two touchdowns.

But, the underdog Zips didn’t go down without a fight. The Zips pressured NIU’s John Nicholson the entire game.

And of course there was the storybook ending that only a conference like the MAC could provide.

The Zips’ star receiver Dominic Hixon was worn-out, dehydrated and hurting on the sidelines. But, with his team trailing 24-30 with 10 seconds left in the game and his team a long way away from the endzone Hixon asked his coach for one more chance.

He got it – and he delivered.

Hixon scored the game-tying touchdown on a 36-yard bomb from Luke Getsy down the middle of the field.

It didn’t matter that everyone in the stadium knew that it was going to Hixon, he refused to be stopped and has now joined the heroics of Marshall’s Byron Leftwich and his broken ankle in the annals of all-time gutsy performances.

Hixon finished with eight receptions for 144 yards.

It wasn’t the best game in his storied collegiate career, but it was certainly his biggest.

He stepped up on the biggest stage an Akron player has ever been and brought his school its first ever MAC Championship.

These are the reasons the MAC is such a fun conference to follow. Anything can happen. And as the Akron’s and the Western Michigan’s get even stronger it will force team’s like Miami, Bowling Green and Toledo to improve.

I know it wasn’t Bowling Green and Omar Jacobs that grabbed the title, but it was great to see such a terrific game come out of the Falcons’ conference.

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