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Ohio 30, EMU 17 recap

October 2, 2010

Blech.

That was miserable, and I’m not just talking about the weather.

I really thought this was the week that EMU would pull together and earn Ron English his first win, and I had a lot of company in that opinion. The fact that the Eagles have not managed a win through the first five games of the season is pretty disheartening, because the rest of the schedule is looking tougher and tougher.

Next up are the Vanderbilt Commodores, who have already exceeded expectations for the season by winning at Ole Miss two weeks ago. Then the Eagles face Ball State, which is probably the only remaining game in which EMU has even a 25% chance of winning; the Cardinals are every bit as bad as the Eagles, and the only reason they have one win this year is because they scheduled two FCS teams. Yeah, you read that right.* The Eagles will wrap up three weeks of away games at Virginia, who are not a good team in the ACC, but should have little trouble with EMU. They return to Rynearson Stadium on October 30 to face Toledo, in a game that looked winnable before the season, but is now looking pretty tough; after an embarrassing season-opening loss to Arizona, the Rockets have ripped off three consecutive road wins over Ohio, Western Michigan, and Purdue. Then we have games at Western Michigan and at Buffalo, before ending the season the Friday after Thanksgiving in Rynearson Stadium against Northern Illinois.

In other words, the opportunities for a win this year are fast disappearing. But enough of looking ahead for today, and let’s consider the game we just saw.

The Good:

  • EMU managed more big plays on offense. Let’s run them down: Thayer had a 32 yard run; Priest had rushes for 15 yards and 52 yards; Gillett passed to LeDuc for 16 yards, 11 yards, and 13 yards; Gillett passed to Thomas for 23 yards and 13 yards; Gillett passed to Hunter for 49 yards; Gillett passed to Hoskins for 27 yards; Gillett passed to Scott for 12 yards.
  • Gillett did a pretty good job of spreading the ball around to his receivers.
  • The end of the first half. First, EMU scored a field goal with 53 seconds left to tie the game at 10 points. Then, in the last play of the half, Westerman sacked Boo Jackson — only a two yard loss, but still, a score and then a sack is a great way to end the half. It sure felt like the Eagles had some momentum at the end of the half, and it felt like it was still going when they started the second half with Priest’s 52-yard run.
  • Aggressive play calling. In addition to the aforementioned big plays, several of which were long passes down the field, the Eagles went for it on fourth down five times today. Unfortunately, EMU only converted one of the five, but I give English credit for the aggressive calls; you have to be aggressive to have any hope of recovering from a 20-point deficit.

The Bad:

  • Although the play calling was more aggressive, which I do like, it still didn’t strike me as particularly creative. Can we please see some reverses, double reverses, halfback options, throwbacks, etc.? Like the song says, “You gotta get a gimick, if you want to get ahead!”
  • Quarterback protection. Gillett took three sacks, all in the second half, and all potentially effecting the game outcome. The first was probably the turning point of the entire game. As I mentioned, EMU ended the first half by scoring a field goal to tie the game, and then sacking Boo Jackson. EMU started the second half with a great 52-yard run for Priest — for a moment I though he was going to take it in for the touchdown, but the Ohio defender was noticeably faster — giving the Eagles a first down on the Ohio 26, and Priest’s subsequent 2-yard run got them to the 24-yard line. A 41-yard field goal is a bit long for a relatively untested college sophomore, but it’s certainly not out of the question, and it would have given EMU the lead. Instead, Gillett was sacked for a six yard loss on second down, which forced a pass on third down and 14. The pass fell incomplete, English obviously judged that 47 yards was too long for Graham to kick, and in going for it on fourth down, Gillett was sacked again. Then, early in the fourth quarter, it looked as though the Eagles might make a comeback. EMU started the quarter with a 92-yard touchdown drive, and the defense held the Bobcats to three and out, one of only two times they were able to accomplish that today. After a bad punt, only 29 yards, and two passes from Gillett to Hoskins for 27 yards and then 7 more, EMU had a third down and a short three yards to go at the Ohio 25-yard line. A touchdown here would leave the Eagles down just six points, with more than eleven minutes left,  and they had clearly regained some confidence and momentum. But instead of going for the first down and continuing the drive, Gillett took a shot at the end zone, which fell incomplete. That forced EMU into the fourth-down attempt, and again, Gillett was sacked.
  • Lack of defensive stops. Through the end of the third quarter, Ohio had eight possessions, and EMU’s defense only managed to stop two of them. The results of those eight possessions were as follows: field goal, touchdown, punt, end of half, touchdown, touchdown, fumble, touchdown. The Bobcats were 7 of 12 (58%) on third downs. Coming into this game, Ohio had only converted 29% of their third downs this season.
  • Tackling at the line of scrimmage. In the entire game, out of 67 plays run by Ohio’s offense, EMU’s defense managed only six tackles for no gain or for a loss. That leads right into the next point…
  • Penalties. Through the first four games of the season, EMU was the least penalized team in the country, averaging just 2.5 penalties per game, and was tied for the third-fewest penalty yards per game, at 27.5. Today the Eagles committed nine penalties for 89 yards, nearly doubling their totals for the year in both categories. Don’t get me wrong, that wasn’t a game-changer, but it certainly didn’t help matters.

Key Stats:

Two statistics really sum up this game:

  • Gillett absolutely did not get it done as a passer today. The passing yards look respectable because of those big plays, but 15 of 30 with 1 touchdown and 1 interception is simply not a passable stat line. Incompletions killed a lot of the Eagles’ drives today.
  • When, your defense allows opposing offenses to perform at 50% above their average to date, you have a problem. Ohio averaged 4.5 yards per play through their first four games of the year. Today they averaged 6.7 yards per play.

*Update: I no longer know what to think of Ball State, after their 31-17 beat-down of Central Michigan (it wasn’t that close; it was 28-3 after three quarters). Plus they just swept our volleyball team 3-0.

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