With Eastern Michigan University losing its Mid-American Conference opener to Ball State 51-20, here are five things to take away from the game:
The Eagles offense did not help its cause in the blowout as the team turned the ball over four times — two interceptions thrown by redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Benz and two fumbles from sophomore Darius Jackson, which forced head coach Ron English to bench Jackson for a significant portion of the game.
“When you are playing a quality team like Ball State, you cannot turn the ball over,” English said. “We are going to struggle if you have four turnovers, particularly against a good offense.”
Benz went 22-of-32 passing for 212 yards and one touchdown. Injuries to redshirt junior offensive linemen Lincoln Hansen and Campbell Allison made matters worse for Benz as he was sacked three times.
With the game all but over, freshman Brogan Roback entered with eight seconds remaining in the game and his only play was a handoff to sophomore running back Darius Jackson.
The offense has been able to move the ball up and down the field this season, but its weakness has been the inability to finish possessions in the red zone.
“It has been an issue for us all year long,” English said. “We move the ball up and down the field, but we just have not been able to get it in the end zone enough.”
Junior Bronson Hill went over 100 yards rushing for the second time this season and the fifth time in his career by running a season-high 126 yards on 21 carries. Jackson, who started the game over Hill, ran nine times for 44 yards and a touchdown.
Given everything English has at stake in terms of job security and what we saw from Jackson with his two fumbles at critical stages of the first half, it might not have been the best move.
“He [Darius] had done some things that the coaches decided to start him this game in terms of his preparation,” English said.
Lack of tackling by the defense led to two early rushing touchdowns from Ball State running backs junior Jahwan Edwards (36 yards) and redshirt sophomore Horactio Banks (43 yards).
Senior quarterback Keith Wenning connected to sophomore wide receiver Jordan Williams twice for touchdowns and it seemed like there was almost nothing the Eagle defenders could have done after the snap of the ball.
“We did not defend the fade,” English said. “It is going to be a long day if you can not defend that route and he [Wenning] made more fade throws than I have ever seen in my 21 years of coaching.”
For the first time all season, sophomore wide receiver Dustin Creel led all Eagles players in receptions with five and yards with 60 to go along with a touchdown in the early stages of the third quarter.
Junior wide receiver Demarius Reed caught three passes for 55 yards. Junior tight end Tyreese Russell continued his impressive play this season with four receptions and 45 yards. Only time will tell if an actual receiver can take over and dominate a game.
There have been several bright spots for EMU this season, but if all of the elements cannot come together soon then it will become a matter of when, not if, English will be let go.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @EasternEchoGeno.
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