Created:Monday, October 19, 2009 10:28 p.m.CDT

MAC Notebook

Toledo safety Barry Church (right) catches up to Northern Illinois wide receiver Marcus Lewis during Saturday night's game. (Andy Morrison - Toledo Blade)

Toledo coach Tim Beckman said he noticed something in Northern Illinois' blocking scheme on field goals against Idaho and a subsequent block installation paid off in the Rockets' 20-19 victory against the Huskies this past Saturday at Toledo.

Toledo safety Barry Church went through the middle of NIU's protection twice, blocking a Mike Salerno extra point and then a 42-yard field goal in the final minute to clinch the victory.

"We installed a middle block," Beckman said during Monday's Mid-American Conference coaches teleconference. "I think the first one definitely caught them off guard. The field goal was a max block."

NIU coach Jerry Kill complimented Church and said he watched the film and talked about the blocks with Salerno.

"We wish we could have gotten the ball up a little more," Kill said. "It was a good snap and hold. They just made a good play."

Kill also said Salerno's confidence level shouldn't fall.

"I think he'll be fine," Kill said. "That's part of that position."

Looking ahead: Kill also offered up a preview of Saturday's game at 0-7 Miami (Ohio).

"Defensively, I think they're getting better and better," Kill said. "Fundamentally, they're playing very sound football and getting better each week. You can say what you want, but their schedule, they have played a very, very, very difficult schedule.

"I think coach [Michael Haywood] has done a great job of keeping his kids in the wheelbarrow so to speak and having them get better each week. There's no question they've gotten better every week."
Opelt upgraded:
Toledo quarterback Aaron Opelt, who missed Saturday's game against the Huskies with an injured throwing shoulder, has been upgraded to probable while freshman Austin Dantin, who suffered a sprained ankle against NIU, is questionable for the Rockets' game against Temple.

"We could have probably played [Opelt] a little on Saturday night but that probably wasn't in the best interest of him," Beckman said.
A tipping point:
Central Michigan has been one of the top teams in the MAC for a few seasons now, but this year especially the Chippewas are playing at a level above most teams in the conference at 6-1, 4-0 in the conference and owning a win at Michigan State.

Central Michigan coach Butch Jones said losing to Florida Atlantic in last season's Motor City Bowl played a major role in setting up this season.

"Our kids were very disappointed with the bowl game and I thought that set the temperament for the offseason," Jone said.

Elimination game: Western Michigan travels to Buffalo on Saturday and both teams are 3-4 overall, with the Broncos at 2-2 in the MAC while the Bulls are 1-2. The loser of the game likely can count themselves out of their divisional race and possibly a bowl game.

"We're both pretty desperate for a win so it should be a battle here," Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit said.

Quotable: "That's the high and the low of the day isn't it?" – Ball State coach Stan Parrish on having to follow Central Michigan coach Butch Jones. Central Michigan is 6-1 and leading the MAC West while Ball State is 0-7.

Will NIU football win the MAC this season?