Yesterday, Carter penned (can you still say that?) an in-depth analysis of the current state of Eastern football and decided it is too early to panic. Today, I would like to present a counter-argument. I say, stock up on bottled water, MRE’s, and zombie-repellent—the time to panic is now.
After Saturday’s loss to FCS’s finest, the Fightin’ Redbirds of Illinois State, the EMU football team plummeted to a 0-2 start. With a loss to a FCS team, and MAC West rival Ball State, the road to anything other than a disappointing season seems unreachable. It isn’t just the fact that we lost; it is the fact that we got steamrolled, shut down, stifled, and subjugated. Incompetence reigned, from the coaching staff, to the players, even the play-clock operator who was admonished by the ref on multiple occasions.
Just last week I called Alex Gillett a dual-threat quarterback. I stand by that statement, because when Gillett has the ball there is equal threat of being sacked or throwing a pick. There is blame to go around, and I will address the offensive line, but Gillett does not look like a fourth year player with dozens of starts under his belt. He looks like an underclassman, jittery and indecisive. Two games into this season and Gillett has regressed. Time to panic.
The offensive line was supposed to be our greatest strength. Seniors Andrew Sorgatz, Corey Neal, and Corey Watman were supposed to anchor a cohesive unit that would open huge holes for our running backs. Clearly, that has not happened, and the line has also failed to provide adequate pass protection as well. The line looks completely out of sync, and when they do open a hole for a running back there have been holding and false start penalties to negate the gains. It is those penalties that are truly perplexing. Sorgatz alone committed multiple penalties against Illinois State. A senior leader on the offensive line should not be having the mental lapses that lead to these penalties. Time to panic.
I mentioned Alex Gillett’s propensity to be sacked. While Gillett could do more to avoid these sacks, I noticed a larger problem: our receivers aren’t getting open. They get next to no separation off the line. I’m not seeing crisp route-running; when FCS corners are shutting you down, there are serious problems. I’m also seeing numerous dropped passes. The play of senior TE Garrett Hoskins has been especially puzzling, inexperience is not the issue with him as it may be with our overall receiving corps. EMU needs a go to receiver, and if it isn’t Hoskins then we will not have one. Hoskins play has been uninspired, and our receivers can’t get open, leading to coverage sacks. Time to panic.
There are a few universal truths about the game of football. Here’s one I strongly believe–if you can’t stop the run, YOU WILL LOSE. EMU’s run defense gave up 329 rushing yards against Ball State, and 216 yards against Illinois State. Ball State time of possession, 35:52, Illinois State time of possession, 37:16. Those are dominating numbers. Is there any question that Purdue or Michigan State, our next two opponents, are aware of this? Any thought on what Le’Veon Bell will do to this defense? Time to panic.
Our pass defense has only been better statistically because, as any football mind knows, why throw the ball when you are dominating on the ground. I understand that Marlon Pollard was absent from the Illinois State game, but a quality team should have enough depth to weather a one game storm, especially against an FCS opponent. Our secondary is raw and inexperienced, lacking depth and seemingly mistake prone. Time to panic.
Kicker Kody Fulkerson was below average last year, and has been awful this year. After him, we have nothing. Time to panic.
But we do have a good punter. Woo-hoo.
What can be said about the coaching this year? The team has been undisciplined, unfocused, and unprepared. It seems like the coaching staff was more concerned with fashion, uniform combo possibilities, and removing names from the jerseys than actually preparing the team for the season. I don’t mean to blow up the whole “we’re a team and having the name on your jersey promotes selfish play” theory, but these guys played better when their names were on the jersey. Or, maybe, the whole name-on-the-jersey thing doesn’t matter either way. Poor preparation trumps removing names from the jersey. Oh yes, and the play-calling has been epically bad. Time to panic.
If this seems a little harsh, I have a solution in mind for the team: PLAY BETTER FOOTBALL. It just might work.
Having said all this, I would like to be on record that any talk of removing head coach Ron English is asinine. And barring a two-win-or-less season, any talk of removing him at the end of the season is equally foolish. But a wholesale change of the coaching staff under English will need to be seriously considered if the play doesn’t improve.
I have no illusions about the next two weeks. There is a real good chance that Eastern will be 0-4 next time we see them at Rynearson. But I’d like to end this on an optimistic note…
Ron English’s first season, 2009, was a complete disaster. Eastern finished 0-12. But hidden within that season, our intrepid Eagles went on the road and almost knocked off a Big Ten team—Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern Wildcats. Eastern lost 27-24 on a late Wildcat touchdown. Any of you out there who watched this game on the Big Ten Network will remember that we outplayed Northwestern, and should have won. Perhaps we can put it together next week against a demoralized Purdue team that lost a heartbreaker against Notre Dame.
You see, the season still has ten games to go. This can still be turned around, and I certainly hope it will be. But I gotta tell you, after the first two games, I have one overwhelming thought about this year’s football team. Time to panic.