Eastern Michigan University’s football team is hungry for a win, as it should be.
It certainly could use one after an 0-3 start for first-year coach Ron English, for injured quarterback Andy Schmitt and to start Mid-American Conference play on a good note.
“We want to sing the fight song,” English said with an ear-to-ear grin after Tuesday’s practice. “I’m serious, I want to run over (to the student section) and sing it.
“I think that’s one of the great traditions in college football. I look forward to the day when I can do that here in Rynearson Stadium.”
His chance to lead his team to a performance of that long-awaited victory chant will be the homecoming game against Temple at 1 p.m. Saturday, but it won’t be an easy task.
Temple (1-2) is coming off a 37-13 victory over defending-MAC champion Buffalo. EMU is without four-year starter Schmitt, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Michigan on Sept. 19, and has to compromise with a two-quarterback system.
“All of us wanted Andy on this field,” McMahon said following Tuesday’s practice. “This is his senior season. We all want him out here. We all got to push just a little bit harder if nothing else for him.
“Every game you want to win badly. It’s not the fact that we want to win this one more than any other game. I think the team is putting in all the effort they can to get this next win right here against Temple.”
More pressure is likely to fall on the running game and junior tailback Dwayne Priest. He’s been averaging 100 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. His play and that of his line could be one of the deciding factors.
Another is the defense. EMU has allowed 865 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. It’ll have to keep the tailback tandem of Bernard Pierce and Kee-ayre Griffin in check in order to win.
“I think they can run the ball,” English said. “I also think they have a couple receivers that can get behind you.”
Temple has three receivers who average at least 50 yards, but junior quarterback Vaughn Charlton has been shaky. He’s thrown for 617 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Temple defense has reigning MAC East defensive player of the week in junior linebacker Elijah “Peanut” Joseph, who had three tackles and a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown against Buffalo.
Joseph’s interception was one of five turnovers the defense forced against Buffalo. EMU has committed seven turnovers and 21 penalties, part of the reason it’s winless.
“These guys really want to win, and that’s why I really want it for them,” English said. “Eventually it’s going to happen, but I would like for this team right now to validate what they’re doing.”
He said he wasn’t sure if the homecoming pageantry will be a distraction.
“It’ll be interesting after this year to see how I feel about all that stuff because I’m kind of removed,” English said. “These are kids, and I’m sure they’re in the thick of it.”
EMU has won three of its past four homecoming games but lost 37-0 to Northern Illinois last season. It’s 43-36-2 in the contests.
English said he thinks his team is more focused than it was in the season-opening home game, a 27-17 loss to Army on Sept. 5. He also said he was excited to get into conference play.
“They count for the league championship, and that’s the fun thing,” he said. “The league games are a little different. In the other leagues I’ve been in, there’s a definite flavor to a league game that’s totally different than a non-league game.”
In the short history – Temple fully joined the MAC in 2007 – between the teams, the games have been high-scoring affairs. In four games, there have been a 307 total points, and Temple has won each meeting.
“We want to win,” English said. “A defensive coach doesn’t like a lot of scoring against his defense, but I’ll take it however it comes, to be honest.”