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Miami 28, EMU 21 game recap

September 12, 2010

Well, that was disappointing.

Not just because it’s another loss — 14 in a row now, second among active losing streaks only to Western Kentucky’s 22 — and not just because it was a loss in a winnable game. This was EMU’s most winnable road game, and among the most winnable on the schedule this year.

The Good:

  • Through eight quarters of football, the Eagles have committed just two penalties for 20 yards, making them the least-penalized team in the country, just ahead of Penn State and Iowa.
  • EMU gained 256 yards through the air.
  • Kicking. Sean Graham made every kick asked of him, going 3-for-3 on extra point attempts, though when the first kick bounced off the left upright, I flashed back to 2005, when the game was decided by a missed EMU PAT.
  • Punting. Jay Karutz banged his four punts an average of 49.5 yards each, and forced Miami to start drives on the 1-yard line, the 16-yard line, the 1-yard line again, and the 30-yard line (EMU was backed up deep in  their own territory on that kick). For the season, Karutz is averaging 47.6, second-best in the MAC behind Scott Kovanda (Ball State) with 48.2
  • Kick returns. Corey Welch and Brandon Pratt returned five kickoffs an average of 22.8 yards each.
  • Protecting the ball. Despite wet weather, EMU only fumbled once, and the fumbler (Priest) recovered it, only taking a 1-yard loss.
  • Trick plays. Well, one trick play in particular. That was the second-longest passing play in the MAC so far this season. According to Yahoo!, LeDuc now sports a career quarterback rating of 1026.4, second in the nation!

The Bad:

  • EMU only managed 66 yards rushing. Even worse, it took 32 carries to get there, for an average of 2.1 yards per rush. In other words, Miami was ready for the Eagles’ ground attack, and pretty well stuffed it. Dwayne Preist, who was the MACWDOPotW after gaining 142 yards on Army last week, was held to 8 yards on 8 attempts. Gillett, who also ran all over the Black Knights, only managed 37 yards on 14 carries.
  • Lack of big offensive plays. There was LeDuc’s pass to Thomas late in the first quarter that Thomas took 71 yards for the touchdown. A few minutes later, Payne tossed a 14-yard pass to Hunter, but threw an interception on the next play. Late in the second quarter Gillett threw four 10- and 11-yard passes in the drive that led to the Eagles’ second touchdown. In the third quarter, Gillett had one 10-yard run, and later threw a 40-yard pass to Thomas for EMU’s final touchdown. Late in the third quarter, Gillett threw a 14-yarder to Thomas, but again, it was followed two plays later by an interception. In the fourth quarter, Gillett passed 15 yards to DeMaster, but again, followed it up two players later with an interception. That is every play EMU made for 10 or more yards. Ignoring the three that were subsequently negated by interceptions, EMU’s longest plays were for 71, 40, 11, 11, 11, 10, 10. Only two plays were longer than 11 yards, and it’s no coincidence that they were both touchdowns.
  • EMU kickoffs. While a couple of them were decent, two were just heinous, allowing Miami to start drives at the Miami 40-yard line to open the game (resulting in a touchdown) and at the EMU 44-yard line after a 41-yard return in the third quarter (resulting in a touchdown).
  • Devontae Payne. Was Ron English just jerking us around when, before the Army game, he said that Payne and Gillett would share quarterbacking duties? Payne didn’t help his cause with his performance in this game (in contrast with LeDuc’s gaudy number, Payne now sports a career quarterback rating of either 5.9 or 9.7, depending on where you look — either is terrible), but given a little time, I don’t know that he wouldn’t have redeemed himself. Gillett’s quarterbacking has yet to win a game for the Eagles; maybe it’s time to give Payne a more serious chance.
  • EMU’s run defense. Not quite as bad as last year, but possibly close.

The Ugly:

  • Punt returns for both teams. For the RedHawks, Nick Harwell took one punt return one yard. For the Eagles, Ryan Downard took one punt return for a one-yard loss.
  • EMU receivers. There were a bunch — I didn’t count them — of dropped passes that the receivers should have caught. I had thought Ron English’s play calling last week had to do with a lack of confidence in Gillett as a passer, but maybe it also had something to do with a lack of confidence in the receiving corps.
  • EMU interceptions. Three of them, and they were big. At the end of the first quarter, in EMU’s third offensive series, Devontae Payne saw his first action of the year. He got the Eagles to the Miami 38-yard line — nearly in field goal range — before having a pass picked off by Jordan Gafford. Late in the third quarter EMU was at midfield when Gillett was intercepted by Pat Hinkel. In the fourth quarter, EMU again put together a decent drive, making it to the Miami 33-yard line before Gillett threw another interception, this one snagged by Dayonne Nunley. Each interception came just moments after EMU had completed a play for 10 or more yards.

Looking ahead: I expected this game to be one of EMU’s best chances for a win. Going back to my pre-season expectation of 2-4 wins, I think it’s hard to imagine a team that lost at home to Army and then lost to Miami University to find four wins from the rest of the schedule. I still think they’ll get in that range, but the lower end (two wins, or maybe three) is looking a lot more probable.

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