Eastern Michigan University football is 1-2 to start the season after the team’s 28-10 loss to the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights on Saturday in Piscataway, N.J. Here are five things we know after week three:
1. EMU’s offense is the passing game
EMU’s running game tacked up 38 yards on 40 carries. It was the first time since 2005 the offense has had more rushing attempts than yards in a game.
The Eagles put together 373 total yards against the Scarlet Knights’ defense with 335 of them coming from the arm of redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Benz. Although his completion percentage was only 60.0%, Benz completed 21 passes, which was a season high.
Through three games this season, 71.3 percent of EMU’s yardage has come through the air.
2. Benz has more than Russell to throw to
At the beginning of the season there was concern that Benz would only have one option when throwing the ball, which was to junior tight end Tyreese Russell. Week three at RU showed that despite Russell being the leading receiver on the team, Benz has a handful of weapons he can rely on.
Six receivers caught for at least 25 yards and four of them had multiple-reception games. Russell led the team with nine catches for 84 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Dustin Creel followed with four for 77 yards.
EMU’s only touchdown was a 43-yard pass by Benz to junior running back Ryan Brumfield on a trick play in the second quarter.
3. The offense can have the ball, but still can’t finish the drive
Benz’s late interception against the Scarlet Knights was just the second turnover for EMU’s offense all season. The Eagles also led in time of possession (37:56) for the third consecutive game.
EMU has been able to keep its offense alive by converting on third downs. The Eagles went 7 for 19 on third down conversions, which brought the team to 32.6 percent this season.
The issue with the offense is the inability to complete a scoring drive. Of the Eagles 12 drives on Saturday, only two of them were converted into points.
Seven of the ten failed drives went for less than 20 yards. Three of those were three-and-outs.
4. Field goal issues
Despite sophomore kicker Dylan Mulder posting his first field goal of the season with a 39-yarder in the first half, he ended the afternoon at one-for-three on FG attempts.
Mulder is just 25 percent on field goal attempts with his longest tries being from 42 yards out.
To give him credit, Mulder is young and developing as a place kicker for the special teams unit. Four attempts in three games can’t tell us where he really is as a kicker, either. In addition, his kicks haven’t been in high-pressure situations or from long distance.
5. Poor field position
Part of the Eagles lack of scoring can be blamed on poor field position. For that, the finger is pointed at the kick returning.
Junior wide receiver and kick returner Tyler Allen averaged 13.3 yards on 3 returns. Four of EMU’s drives began from on or inside their own 15-yard-line.
For better scoring opportunities, the Eagles will need to start drives closer than 85 yards away from the end zone. The deeper in their own territory they start out, the more pressure there is on the offense.
Follow Derrick Vergolini on Twitter @derrickvergo.
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