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Penn State 34, EMU 6 recap

September 24, 2011

Offense: Let’s start by stating something I hope is obvious: this was an unacceptable offensive performance. EMU’s offense has managed just 9 points (three field goals) over the last nine quarters of play. It’s not entirely coincidental (but probably is partly coincidental) that those are the nine quarters since Dominique Sherrer went out with an injury. Don’t get me wrong, Javonti Greene is an excellent running back, but there’s certainly an advantage to being able to share carries, and Dominique White and Ryan Brumfield don’t yet seem to be at the same level.

You might have noticed that Gillett threw the ball some today. Specifically, his 18 completions for 202 yards nearly matched his season-to-date totals of 22 for 205 yards. After the game, Ron English explained that he wanted to use this game as practice for the MAC: “We know that we’re going to have to throw the ball in our league and we wanted to work on it. We wanted to throw it a certain number of times in this game…we wanted to throw it 20-30 times.” That they did, with 31 attempts.

    Drive 1: EMU came out passing. Gillett completed 3 of 5 attempts for 28 yards, but Stephon Morris tackled Greene for a 3-yard loss and the pass on third-and-ten was incomplete to Trey Hunter. Punt.
    Drive 2:  A 6-yard rush by Greene and a 26-yard pass to Joe Fleming moved the Eagles across mid-field, but Gillett fumbled on a sack and Penn State recovered.
    Drive 3: EMU switched to rushing for this drive. The first five plays saw Dominique White carrying for 26 yards. Then Gillett took a sack, and although Greene recovered the yards and then some, Gillett took another sack on third and eight. Punt.
    Drive 4: This drive started with two decent runs by Greene totaling 10 yards. The Eagles looked like they were starting a nice drive, but a 5-yard penalty for 12 men on the field turned third-and-five into third-and-ten. Gillett’s pass fell incomplete, and that was that. Punt.
    Drive 5: This drive started with eight minutes left in the first half, and EMU down 10-0. My thought at this point was that if the EMU offense could chew up a bunch of time and put points on the board — even just a field goal — EMU might go to halftime down just one score. The Eagles started well, gaining 40 yards on three carries by Gillett, two by Brumfield, and one pass to Brumfield. Then Gillett took another sack, — OK, officially he was running and was tackled for a loss — fumbled the ball, and again Penn State recovered.
    Drive 6: After a huge play by Justin Cudworth (more on that later), EMU had the ball on their own 20-yard-line, still down 10-0 with just 2:43 left in the half. Again, it crossed my mind that with a field goal, EMU could well go to halftime down one score. Instead, Gillett heaved up a 26-yard pass on third-and-eleven. Interception.
    Drive 7: With 47 seconds left in the first half, down 17-0, EMU chose to run out the clock rather than risk a fourth turnover.
    Drive 8: To start the second half, three EMU rushes net four yards. Punt.
    Drive 9: Three complete passes to Garrett Hoskins, Trey Hunter, and Corey Welch, with carries by Greene between them, gained 24 yards. A three-yard loss  by Dominique White and an incomplete pass leave EMU at third-and-thirteen. Gillett had plenty of time as he rolled out, but with several defenders positioned between him and the first-down marker, chose to run rather than pass. Punt.
    Drive 10: A 20-yard pass to Kinsman Thomas, a short run by Tyler Allen, and a 6-yard pass to Demarius Reed took the Eagles across mid-field and gave them third-and-one. Not only did Dominique White not make the first down, he didn’t even come close to reaching the line of scrimmage. Punt.
    Drive 11: Following an interception by Brad Ohrman, a 13-yard pass to Hoskins gave EMU first-and-goal at the 9-yard-line. Two carries by Gillett brought the Eagles to the 2-yard-line, and an aggressive run on third down could have gotten the touchdown, but Gillett was hesitant and lost two yards. Field goal.
    Drive 12: Three catches by Nick Olds, two by Demarius Reed, and one by Hoskins gained 73 yards and gave the Eagles first-and-goal at the 4-yard-line. It was a very nice drive, with a lot of short/mid-range passes of the sort that I’d like to see while the game is still in doubt. Unfortunately, they followed that up with a rush for a loss by White and two incomplete passes. Field Goal.
    Drive 13: EMU got the ball with 21 seconds remaining and ran once, to run out the clock.

That hurt just to write.

Defense: In his post-game comments, it seemed like English was reasonably satisfied with the defensive effort, and on the whole, I was too.

I thought that defensively we came out and played really well in the first half. We were on short fields really most of the half, and the last turnover really hurt our team. I thought, “We go in to halftime 10 to 0 we’re still playing and its a closer game.” I thought that last turnover really hurt us. Justin [Cudworth] is flying around and playing hard, he’s getting better. I thought Latarrius Thomas did some great things today and as you mentioned Brad Ohrman, a senior, did some nice things too.

[On Penn State’s success passing:] Our guys were body-to-body on the receivers multiple times and their guy came away with they ball. They made plays today more than we did.

Cudworth was surely EMU’s defensive player of the game, probably followed by Latarrius Thomas. It seemed as though Cudworth was everywhere today, constantly making plays. None were bigger than when, late in the second quarter, he punched the ball loose a moment  before Michael Zordich would have scored a touchdown. Because the ball came loose and rolled through the end zone and out of bounds, it was ruled (correctly) a touchback; not only did Cudworth prevent a touchdown, but he got EMU’s offense back on the field. Of course, the offense gave the ball right back to Penn State, but that doesn’t lessen Cudworth’s play.

ESPN analyst Mike Bellotti commented that “You won’t see any quit in the Eastern Michigan defense.” Based on what we’ve seen the last two games, he was right. That’s one of the most-noticeable differences from 2010.

Special teams: Ignoring turnovers, Penn State started drives at their 7, 8, 37 (punting from the EMU 17), 24 (kickoff), 28, 13, 20, 24 (kickoff), and 32 (kickoff). Average starting position on kickoffs was 26.7.Average starting position on punts was 18.8. EMU started drives at their 29 (kickoff), 22, 20 (kickoff), 22, 31 (kickoff), 29 (kickoff), 22 (kickoff), 21, 23 (kickoff), and 23 (kickoff). Average starting position on kickoffs was 29.5. Averages starting position on punts was 21.47 There were no missed field goals or turnovers either way.

Injury notes: In EMU’s scoring drive in the middle of the fourth quarter, down 34-3, three key offensive players suffered injuries. First wide receiver Kinsman Thomas went out, and moments later, right guard Bridger Buche had to be helped off the field with some sort of injury in his left leg. Two minutes later, left guard Corey Watman had to be helped off the field with an injury to his right leg. Thomas was back on the field by the end of the drive, so he’s probably fine, but I’m not sure about Buche and Watman. Those are significant injuries on an offensive line that was already struggling in pass protection. Hopefully the injuries were minor and both will be back and at  full strength by the end of the week.

Speaking of being back and at full strength, freshman safety Pudge Cotton, who suffered a knee injury in the opener against Howard, tweeted today that he’ll be practicing this week and will play Saturday.

Overall: Heading into EMU’s MAC opener next week against Akron, I continue to be happy with the special teams play, satisfied with the defense, and disappointed by the offense. Having now started 19 games, Gillett should be more comfortable passing in the pocket, and he should be making better decisions. I still think this team is capable of three or four MAC wins (Akron, Buffalo, Kent State, and Central Michigan look like the weakest opponents), but the offense really needs to get things sorted out.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kenneth Barna permalink
    September 25, 2011 12:23 pm

    Dear cmadler,
    I really blame the offensive collapse on Gillett. He is a junior, and in this game, acted like he was a freshman, playing in his first game. At least twice that I can remember, he should have thrown the ball away, but didn’t, not only allowing a sack, but making it almost impossible to get a first down. He runs with the ball not really tucked in, and opens himself to fumbles.
    I wouldn’t necessarily start Benz next week, but I would have put him in the game, at least by the fourth quarter, to see what he may, or may not, be able to do. If, he did rather well, then maybe, he could be considered as a starter with Akron. Since he didn’t play at all, I don’t know if you could just throw him in there, and hope for the best. Until, Eastern gets some decent quarterback play, this could be a repeat of last years record. That’s my biggest beef with coaches. Never try someone else, even when the player in question, is under-performing.

    • September 27, 2011 9:50 pm

      Yeah, in the MAC phone interview yesterday English had nothing but good things to say about Gillett. Not a word about the bad decision-making, hesitant play, etc. It’s clear to me that barring an injury, Gillett will be EMU’s starting quarterback for the next 20 games.

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