Eastern Michigan football set to trek to Northwestern

Army quarterback Trent Steelman gets sacked by EMU player Tim Fort in the second half. EMU had 10 tackles in the game.

After losing 27-14 to Army in the season opener, Eastern Michigan has a trip to play Northwestern at noon (11 a.m. CT) on Saturday.

Against Army, the Eagles couldn’t consistently produce on offense. They had just 223 yards and made three turnovers. The defense didn’t fair much better either, allowing 300 rushing yards and struggling against Army’s triple option attack.

Despite the glaring problems, Eastern pulled within a touchdown in the fourth quarter only to see that deficit grow to 20 points a few Army possessions later.

“That in the effect was the ball game,” first-year coach Ron English said at his weekly teleconference Monday. “Times here in the past, they tell me, that guys would’ve really kind of given up. I don’t think we did that. We didn’t seize the moment.”

Northwestern cruised to a 47-14 victory Saturday over Townson, an FCS team from Maryland. And, like that game, NU coach Pat Fitzgerald isn’t underestimating his opponent this week.

“I know we’ll have our hands full,” Fitzgerald said about EMU at his weekly news conference Monday. “As I watch them on tape, they played better as the game went along, and it’ll be a great challenge in our second game.”

Who: Eastern Michigan @ Northwestern

Where: Ryan Field — Evanston, Ill.

When: Noon (11 a.m. CT)

TV/Radio: Big Ten Network/89.1 FM WEMU

Line: Northwestern -18

English said he feels the same way about Northwestern, which won 26-14 in the last game between the teams in 2007 at Ford Field.

“Fitz’ is doing a great job with that team,” he said. “They do a lot of good things. They have a system in place there now. It was always a hard-fought game when we played them, and we have to play well to win those games.”

Coaches are familiar with each other
English has coached against Fitzgerald before when he was an assistant at Michigan. They also know each other from their days as assistants for Arizona State and Idaho. The two even recruited some of the same players from California.

“Ron and I have known each other for a long time,” said Fitzgerald, who’s in his fourth year as NU’s coach. “He’s a tremendous defensive mind and football coach, and he’s assembled a great staff.”

Larger crowd in opener
The official attendance at Rynearson Stadium on Saturday was 14,499 – a decently sized crowd for an EMU game. The university invited incoming freshman and their parents to the game as part of move-in day.

“I appreciated it, and I’m sure our program did,” English said of the crowd. “Although I’d heard some things about the lack of fan support here, I never really thought about it.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in empty stadiums. I hope that it continues. If we give the fans something to be encouraged about and if we’re competitive, I think they’ll keep coming.”

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