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EMU 14, Alabama State 7 recap

September 11, 2011

Let’s start this recap properly, by recognizing the players of the game for Alabama State:

Seriously, that officiating was ridiculous. Some of those penalties were legitimate, but an plenty of them were totally bogus. Alabama State had 3 penalties for 20 yards, while EMU had 12 penalties for 135 yards. It was worse than that, really, because several penalties negated big plays for EMU.

#8 Alex Gillett hands the ball off to #32 Javonti Greene.

Gillett handed off to Greene 22 times.

Offense: EMU’s offense shot themselves in the foot all day, though they got plenty of help from the refs. I’m not going to waste my time picking through the game to try to determine which were real penalties and which were bogus, so let’s just agree that, while some of the penalties were fictitious, enough of them were real to cause concern.

The rushing was again solid. Sherrer gained 111 net yards and a touchdown on 16 carries before fumbling the ball midway through the third quarter. Rumor has it that Sherrer also suffered a right knee injury, but whether it was due to the fumble or injury, he didn’t return for the rest of the game. Javonti Greene led the way running, with 146 net yards on 22 carries, and Gillett also ran eight times for 74 net yards, including a really nice 58-yard run early in the third quarter that set up Sherrer’s touchdown. Collectively, EMU averaged 7.1 yards per carry.

EMU’s passing, on the other hand, was abysmal. Gillett completed just seven of nineteen passes for 61 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Once again, not all of that was on him; at least four on-target passes were dropped, including one to Corey Welch, one to Nick Olds, and two to Greene. The passing game should certainly improve with Kinsman Thomas’s return next week — he served the second half of a two-game suspension today — but the other receivers have got to catch those passes. Greene, in particular, was wide open when he dropped a pass that hit him right between the numbers.

Devin Dominguez thought he was going to make a big play...

Devin Dominguez thought he was going to make a big play...

Defense: EMU’s run defense absolutely stuffed the Hornets. -13 net yards on 30 carries is crazy. Through two games, EMU is allowing 1.38 yards per carry. I’m not ready to proclaim that EMU’s horrendous run defense from the previous two seasons is completely fixed, given the level of opponents so far this year, but it sure seems better, and it looks better too.

...but Brad Ohrman had other thoughts!

...but Brad Ohrman had other thoughts!

EMU’s passing defense, was another story. Alabama State starting quarterback Greg Jenkins completed 10 of 15 passes for 100 yards before he left the game with a hip injury late in the second quarter. Senior backup Devin Dominguez stepped in and didn’t miss a beat, connecting on 11 of 19 attempts for 136 yards and a touchdown. The combined quarterback rating for Jenkins and Dominguez was 129.77 (that’s impressive). Nehemiah Henry (who? didn’t even mention him in the preview!) gained 78 yards on just three catches. Nick Andrews and T.C. McWilliams, both of whom we did look at in the preview, also had decent days. The unanswered question is whether Alabama State’s passing offense is that good or EMU’s passing defense is that weak. Right now I’d guess that it’s a little of each.

There was, however, one big bright spot in EMU’s pass defense — sacks. Specifically, sack, after sack, after sack. Eight of them altogether, for 61 yards. In fact, both halves ended with Brad Ohrman smashing Dominguez into the ground. Jabar Westerman, Brandon Slater, and Blake Poole all had big sacks as well, and Javon Reese, Marcus English, and Kalonji Kashama (shared with Ohrman) had shorter sacks. Poole also had a fumble recovery, Alabama State’s only turnover, and the fact that nothing came of it is the EMU offense’s fault, not his!

EMU's coverage team downed a Jay Karutz punt on the one-yard line.

EMU's coverage team downed a Jay Karutz punt on the one-yard line.

Special teams: Special teams gave EMU fans very little to complain about this afternoon. Jay Karutz’s first punt, early in the second quarter, was particularly bad — only 14 yards, not even making it across midfield — but overall he continues to kick well. He landed five of his seven punts inside the 20, and the coverage team was up to the task, downing one punt on the one-yard line, and holding the Hornets to -2 yards on punt returns. Of course, as a fan you always want more, but in this case, I think it was about as good as can be expected.

Did I mention that EMU's punt coverage was good? (Tip for #26: take the fair catch!)

EMU’s return game was also respectable. Corey Welch and Dominique Sherrer had a decent kickoff return each, and since Alabama State only kicked off twice, two returns were enough. Marlon Pollard had two really nice punt returns in the fourth quarter, both of which were mostly undone by penalties.

Overall: This win gave EMU their first 2-0 start since 1989, but let’s be realistic about the quality of play and not get too excited. EMU showed a solid running game today, and what might be a respectable running defense. The Eagles also have decent special teams. Depending on how good Alabama State’s passing offense turns out to be, they may have exposed a weak EMU secondary. And then there’s the passing offense, which continues to look like an afterthought you wish they hadn’t thought of. I still think this team will beat Akron, and maybe one or two other MAC teams, but, absent a big improvement in the passing — by which I also mean an improvement in the catching — this team is going to be closer to three wins than to six.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kenneth Barna permalink
    September 11, 2011 1:02 pm

    Dear cmadler,
    Again, I agree with what you have said, but I also believe, (not based on any interview or statement from coaches) that Eastern is playing a johnny one note offense, to hide some of it from U-M. In the two games I have watched, Eastern ran no reverses, no options, and if memory serves me, no screen passes. Now, one could argue they didn’t have to, with the way the running game is going, but I still believe they had to hold something back, to surprise U-M.
    There is no doubt that Denard Robinson needs to be controlled, if possible, he was their whole offense, both running and passing against Notre Dame. Notre Dame also showed, that for the most part U-M can be run on.

    • September 11, 2011 1:10 pm

      You know, I thought about that a little. Watching the game yesterday, I expected them to run some reverses toward the end, just to kill more time. I think I did see a short screen pass or two, but it’s hard to judge the passing game when more than half of the throws aren’t caught.

      Hiding your offense only makes sense if you think you have a shot to win. Now, far be it from me to say it can’t happen, but if I’m going to be realistic, I’ve got to say it’s unlikely. But it is possible…we saw that last year when the Eagles did nothing but run against Army and then turned around and went pass-crazy at Miami the next weekend. They also put up good passing numbers at Ball State and at Western Michigan last year, so we know Gillett can do it (whether the remaining receivers can do it seems to be another question), particularly if the offensive line gives him some protection.

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