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Northern Illinois 18, EMU 12 recap

November 26, 2011

That was a huge moral victory.

This was a far cry from 71-3. This was EMU’s first touchdown against the Huskies since 2007. This was holding the ninth-best offense in the country to less than half their scoring average — only Wisconsin did better.

I’m not satisfied with a moral victory.

But for a poor offensive performance, this could have been an actual victory — you remember those, the kind where your team ends the game with more points than the opponent. In sports, actual victories are the ones that count.

I’ll be honest, there were one or two blown defensive plays which, if they had gone differently, could have given EMU the win. But, if we’re being honest, and I think we must be, it was not EMU’s defense that lost this game. I’ve been searching — futilely — for statistics regarding points scored by losing teams, by which I’d hoped to get a handle on the likelihood of 1) winning a game while only scoring 12 points and 2) losing a game while holding the opponent to 18. My hunch, which is obviously unsupported by any actual numbers (which I hate!) is that holding an opponent to 18 points is usually enough to win (let’s say 70% of the time, maybe more) but that only scoring 12 is usually not enough to win (let’s say about 15% of the time).

We’ve talked previously about the Eagles’ struggles in goal-line offense, and that continued. EMU had two first-and-goal possessions, and when you add in an extra first down after a Northern Illinois penalty, they ran seven offensive plays. Five were rushes, which collectively netted a single yard. The other two were passes, one of which was incomplete (to Hoskins) and the other probably would have been a touchdown but for pass interference by the Huskies.

We’ve talked previously about how EMU’s offensive line excels at run blocking but struggles in pass protection. Yesterday we saw Gillett sacked four times for a total loss of 32 yards.

We’ve talked previously about Gillett’s struggles as a passer. One week he looks like Aaron Rodgers, the next week he looks like…well, like me trying to play quarterback. Yesterday he completed just 44% of his passes (11 of 25). One or two more on target, and EMU could have won.

We’ve talked previously (ad nauseum) about Ken Karcher’s playcalling: calling it uninspired would be generous. Yesterday, despite Northern Illinois stuffing the box, and despite some success in passing, the Eagles continued to run the ball on first and second downs, with generally poor results. I think every EMU fan watching the game saw that safety coming from the moment the Huskies downed the ball.

In other words, we really didn’t see anything new from EMU yesterday. There was nothing to cause us to question the legitimacy of the defense; to the  contrary, this game reinforced my perception that this defense was for real. There was also nothing to give us any confidence in the offense. I don’t know if it’s time to fire Ken Karcher — I think it might be, though part of me wants to give him one more year, with Gillett as a senior — but it is definitely time to make some changes to the offense.

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