Coming off a 34-24 season-opening victory over Howard University, the Eastern Michigan University football team will look to stay unbeaten as they travel to University Park, PA, to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions.
This will be the second time in the last three seasons the Eagles will face the Nittany Lions, with the last meeting in 2011 ending in a Penn State 34-6 victory.
Against Howard, the Eagles found consistency on both sides of the ball in the late stages of the second half, but both the offense and defense failed to find a rhythm for the first three quarters of the game.
On offense, the EMU running game only gained a total of 63 yards through three quarters, but finished with a total of 170 yards.
They will need to put together a similar performance against a stout Nittany Lion defense.
“They look like a typical Penn State defense,” EMU head coach Ron English said of the opponent. “Big up front, dominant up front, linebackers sound and the secondary has some great athletes. Will be tough to play against that defense. This is just an excellent Penn State team.”
Led by junior running back Bronson Hill, who had 28 carries for 101 yards in the victory on Saturday, the Eagles need to find more explosive plays rather than the 3.6 yard per carry average Hill finished with against Howard to earn a victory.
“We had a tough time getting movement and opening some running lanes, but Bronson did a good job taking the four or five yard runs.” English said.
English also said backup running back Darius Jackson should see more carries on Saturday along with Hill, and have both of them be able to make more plays on offense.
“He is a very good back.” English said of Jackson. “We expect him to get the football and run hard and make more plays.”
The defense as a unit also needs to find consistency, particularly stopping big plays from happening. Howard gained over 380 yards of total offense, topped with runs of 75 and 65 yards along with a 32-yard pass.
Penn State’s offense features a freshman quarterback making his second career start in Christian Hackenberg, who last week went 22 of 31 for 278 yards and threw for two touchdowns, though he also threw for two interceptions. However, despite the inexperience, Hackenberg has a very dangerous receiving threat in junior Allen Robinson.
“When you have good players like (Robinson), you want to not give them plays,” English said. “You want to make them earn their plays, which they will do. But you want to keep leverage on him and stay with him to make him earn the plays. That is what you have to do.”
Robinson, who missed the first half for an unspecified reason caught seven passes for 133 yards and a touchdown.
Penn State struggled to run the football last week, so the first issue facing the Eagle defense is stopping Robinson and staying better disciplined with technique to stop the Nittany Lion offense.
How to watch/listen to the game:
The game is scheduled to kickoff Saturday at noon. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network and can be heard on WEMU 89.1 FM.
The results of the game can be found at www.easternecho.com/sports Saturday night.