Being winless this late in a football season can bring a lot of pressure and anxiety, arguably just as much as the undefeated teams have vying for a national championship.
There are six undefeated and four winless teams, including Eastern Michigan (0-9, 0-5 Mid-American Conference), remaining.
“There’s pressure on ourselves,” said senior safety Chris May, who leads the team with four interceptions. “If we get these last three wins, it sends this next class into next year with a little momentum.
“It puts a little better taste in people’s mouths. We want to show we’re working hard, and we’re going to get better.”
Most of the seniors in this season’s class of 14 know the situation all too well. They nearly went 0-fer in a 1-11 freshman season, with their win coming over Toledo in the seventh week.
EMU has three more cracks at that elusive win, starting with a 1 p.m. kickoff Saturday against Western Michigan (4-6, 3-3) in Senior Day for the final game at Rynearson Stadium.
“We’re going to do everything we can to win this last home game for the seniors,” coach Ron English said in his weekly teleconference. “Life can be hard, but you have to persevere. There’s a whole lot of life ahead of us and a lot of football.”
The class, which has gone 8-37, was the second recruited by former coach Jeff Genyk and features two who’ve played all 45 games – receiver Jacory Stone (37 starts) and defensive lineman Brandon Downs (21).
“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” said May, who’s from Jupiter, Fla., about his experience at EMU. “I’d do this in a second. My best friends are up here now, and I made a lot of memories and got an education (in exercise science).”
He added “it’s been the time of his life” and he obviously would’ve wanted to win more, starting Saturday.
Winning won’t get any easier as WMU is a potential bowl team that features likely future NFL quarterback Tim Hiller.
“If you don’t mix it up (defensively), and (Hiller) knows what you’re in – you’re in trouble,” English said. “The most important thing is not give up big plays and make teams march. We’re giving up so many big plays, were not giving ourselves a chance.”
WMU has another playmaker in tailback Brandon West, who has the most career return yards in the FBS. He has 3,045 and set the record against Michigan State last week, as he surpassed SMU’s Jesse Henderson’s 2,945. West is second in the conference in rushing (922 yards).
Like most coaches, WMU’s Bill Cubit, isn’t taking EMU lightly – regardless of its record.
“I think they play hard,” Cubit said in his weekly teleconference. “They just got some kids who don’t have a lot of experience.
“The biggest thing you watch on tape is if they’re playing hard, and they are. They have players over there; they’re just not in sync. We’re in the same boat.”
He said he sees a lot of similarities between the teams’ defenses, both of which are at the bottom of the conference in yards allowed per game – WMU (444) and EMU (436).