COLUMN: English fooling fans, team and self with losses
An old adage said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” coach and defensive coordinator Ron English has fooled fans of Eastern Michigan University football for three of the last four years, and he’s on his way to fooling you again.
We all know about the 51-20 blowout Ball State University handed to EMU on Saturday, but there’s a statistic many of you may not know.
Through four games this season, English’s defense has given up a total of 148 points, the second most since he became the team’s coach in 2009. The team has allowed its highest points against since the 2-10 season in 2010 when it allowed 183 points in the same number of games.
EMU’s only win this season came against the Howard University Bison, a Football Championship Subdivision team with a 1-2 record this season which has allowed 124 points in three games. The Eagles fell behind by 11 points late in the third quarter against the Bison, but managed to squeak out a win in the latter stages of the fourth quarter.
EMU’s next two games were a 45-7 loss at Penn State University and a 28-10 loss at Rutgers University. Those games were, according to many, “unwinnable” as the Eagles stood little chance of beating two much larger and more talented teams. But tell that to the University of Akron, which came 1-yard short of embarrassing the University of Michigan at Michigan Stadium two weeks ago.
The Mid-American Conference as a whole is improving, but Eastern hasn’t gone anywhere.
Teams like Northern Illinois University, who earned an at-large appearance in the Orange Bowl and Ohio University which finished last season with a 9-4 record, including a win at Penn State, are showing the rest of the country that the MAC is on the rise.
At this point, I will concede the notion that English will likely remain the team’s coach through the end of the season and absent a bowl game, he will not likely be retained after 2013.
As someone who has followed the team prior to transferring here last year, including the fluke 6-6 season two years ago, I’m not suggesting EMU’s first-year Athletic Director Heather Lyke fire English now, I’m merely stating an opinion which I know others at EMU share with me.
I said it last year, and I’ll say it again: English is just not getting the job done.
“I think that you’re almost immune, as a coach, to (the uncertainty) part of it,” English said about the pressure he faces as EMUs coach in an interview with AnnArbor.com at MAC Football Media Day in July.
EMU head coach Ron English looks on during Saturday's 51-20 loss to Ball State
And that was after Sports Illustrated called him one of the five worst coaches in all of college football.
Since English came to EMU in 2009, through the first four games of each season, his teams are 3-17.
This season, EMU is on pace to finish 3-9, which leaves me shaking my head and wondering when things will change.
Through four games, I have not seen anything telling me definitively that the team is going to finish with a winning record.
If you take the Penn State game out of the equation, a game in which the defense scored the only touchdown on a Hunter Matt fumble recovery, the offense really isn’t having that bad of a season. You can thank the new offensive coordinator, Stan Parrish, for that, at least in part.
Junior running back Bronson Hill has 295 yards rushing on 75 carries to date, and he has two touchdowns to show for it; good for seventh in the MAC in rushing.
In the air, junior tight end Tyreese Russell is picking up where predecessor Garrett Hoskins left off, pulling down 23 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown so far this season. Russell is tied for seventh in the MAC in yards with Western Michigan University’s Corey Davis.
Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Benz is currently sixth in the MAC in passing. He has completed 80 of his 124 pass attempts for 872 yards. Benz has found the end zone four times, but has also been intercepted four times as well.
At times, the defense plays well, but more often it is not much different than it has been since 2009.
The team leader in tackles is junior cornerback Darius Scott, with 14. Senior cornerback Mycal Swaim is second on the team with 13. EMU’s opponents have only thrown a total of three interceptions (Swaim, redshirt senior linebacker Sean Kurtz and junior cornerback Willie Creear).
One positive on defense is the number of sacks by Eagle defenders. The team has 12 sacks, good for second in the MAC.
For EMU to compete in the MAC, it needs to be consistent. Right now, the only consistency is coming from the Special Teams unit, which is consistently struggling.
Sophomore placekicker Dylan Mulder is only 1-of-4 in field goal attempts and has made 8-of-10 extra point attempts while freshman punter Austin Barnes has more punt yards (977) than the entire team has rushing yards (473) and passing yards (872). Add to that two botched snaps, one against Howard and the other at Penn State.
Play calling is also partially to blame, in my opinion. When the game is still in reach, as was the case at the end of the first half against Penn State, as well as the end of the first half against Ball State, don’t just run the ball for three yards from the 40-yard line: it’s the same thing as having freshman quarterback Brogan Roback hand the ball off with seven seconds left to go in the game. You’re essentially taking a knee standing up.
I don’t know if the handoffs were Parrish’s call or English’s, but you can’t keep your team in the game if you don’t take shots at the end zone.
I would love for this team to return after the bye week and show me what I hoped it would when the season started: that it was actually as improved as we were all told when Parrish was hired to be the new offensive coordinator and English took personal control of the defense.
If the team finishes with a winning record, I will be the first one to write about the amazing turnaround of the 2013 Eastern Michigan University football team under head coach Ron English and the first time the team went to a bowl game since 1987, but I don’t think that is going to happen.
Prove me wrong, coach.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho.
Al can be heard every week on the Eastern Echo Sports Podcast with Sports Editor Eugene Evans and Head Sports Photographer Andrew Mascharka. The podcast can be found at www.easternecho.com/multimedia or by searching for the podcast on YouTube