Western Michigan 45, EMU 30 recap
I don’t think EMU embarrassed themselves in this came the way they did against Central Michigan, who turned out not to be a particularly good team, but it was still disappointing to lose what was truly a winnable game.
- Three of the five suspended EMU players returned and started. Priest netted 89 yards on 27 carries (3.3 yards per carry) but failed to get into the end zone. Burke only had one catch, but he took it 40 yards for a touchdown shortly before halftime. Steve Brown started at linebacker, but registered just a single tackle for the game. Latarrius Thomas has been injured and, after starting the first two games, hasn’t played since. I’m not totally clear on medical redshirt rules, but, even though he’s redshirted previously, I believe it may be possible for him to get a sixth year of eligibility — but only if he doesn’t play any more games this year — so one way or the other, I don’t really expect to see him back on the field this fall. The puzzler was the absence of Tim Fort, who had no publicly announced injury and was the leading tackler for the EMU defense, with 68 through eight games, until he was suspended. If you know anything about why Fort didn’t play, or even if you have a somewhat informed guess, please drop me a line at: eagletotemblog at gmail dot com.
- EMU held an astounding 2-1 advantage in time of possession. Unfortunately, as astute observers of football have known for a while, time of possession doesn’t necessarily matter. In case there was any doubt, this game absolutely demonstrated the matter. Despite having their offense on the field for 20 minutes longer, the Eagles lost the game by a decisive 3-2 margin.
- Big plays on offense. Early in the season, I noted that EMU had very few big gains. Yesterday EMU had 19 plays that went for longer than 10 yards, including all four touchdowns, the shortest of which was a 29-yard pass. Part of this may be that the skill position players are getting more comfortable with each other, matching their timing, etc., but I think part of it is also that Ron English seems to be opening up the offense a bit. This was the second-highest score of the Ron English era (behind the 41 points scored at Ball State this year).
- Despite recovering two Western Michigan fumbles in the second quarter, EMU was unable to get any points from them. After EMU scored a touchdown with 1:38 left, bringing the score to 21-24, Clark Mussman fumbled the Western Michigan kickoff return and Martavius Cardwell recovered it for the Eagles. But, with the ball on the Western Michigan 35, EMU couldn’t even gain the 7 or 8 yards needed for a long field goal try. Instead, Priest ran for a 2 yard loss on first down, Gillett’s passes were incomplete on the second and third downs, and a 5-yard penalty left EMU with 4th and 17 at the Western Michigan 42. Thirty seconds later, EMU got another chance, when Jordan White caught and then fumbled a pass. Herb Waits knocked it loose, and Arrington Hicks recovered to give the Eagles the ball on the Western Michigan 43-yard line with 30 seconds left, but again it came to nothing, as Gillett gave it right back to the Broncos with an interception on the next play.
- Defensive stops. The Eagles managed just three defensive stops in the game. EMU held the Broncos to three-and-out twice: once near the end of the first quarter and once near the end of the game. There was also the aforementioned fumble recovery near the end of the second quarter. Aside from those, and the end of half/end of game, Western Michigan scored on every possession.
- EMU turnovers. In addition to the aforementioned second-quarter interception, EMU gave up the ball twice late in the fourth quarter, when they were trying to recover from the 15-point deficit. If EMU had been able to retain the ball in both those cases, it’s entirely possible that the Eagles might have at least forced the game into overtime. Gillett’s fumble, in particular, was a game-changer, made all the more galling by the fact that it might not really have been a fumble. Gillett was sliding down, and may have already been down when the ball came loose. I’m not clear on why Ron English didn’t challenge the call — he hadn’t used a challenge and he had a timeout, which he did call, so he definitely could have challenged it — and since EMU had driven 60 yards to get to the Western Michigan 20-yard line, and needed two touchdowns with about 4 minutes remaining, giving up the ball there pretty well ended the game.
Altogether, this game leaves me hopeful for a win at Buffalo next weekend. We’ll have the full preview later this week, but for now I’ll just say that EMU should match up pretty well against the Bulls, and with Northern Illinois coming to town to end the season the following week, this will represent EMU’s last realistic chance at getting second win this season.