New to the Echo this year will be my weekly column on the five things to take away from each Eastern Michigan University football game, so I hope this will evoke some quality comments and discussion throughout the season.
1) Redshirt junior Tyler Benz’s Performance:
Despite throwing a first quarter interception, Benz was able to regain his composure and connect on 19 passes in 26 attempts for 210 yards and two touchdown passes.
Benz was accurate and efficient as the play calling became simplified for the most part after the turnover and was able to show the ability to slow the game down and not let everything get to him mentally.
If Benz can have similar performances like tonight, then the Eagles could move closer to their first bowl bid since 1987.
2) Running Backs:
Things picked right up from last season with junior Bronson Hill leading the way with 101 yards rushing on 28 carries to go along with two touchdowns. This was Hill’s fourth 100-yard game in his collegiate career.
Most EMU fans have been wondering for the last year, what would happen if Hill were to go down with an injury or be taken out for several plays? Well, that question might have been answered in sophomore Darius Jackson.
Jackson entered the game late in the fourth quarter and showcased his talents with a 28-yard rush to the Howard 20-yard line. Moments later, Jackson took the hand off from Benz and despite Howard’s Tabrian Resby hanging on to the bottom portion of his jersey, he managed to pull free and score from 19 yards to put the Eagles up for good at 34-24. Expect Jackson’s workload to slowly increase as the season moves forward.
Head coach Ron English’s first game as defensive coordinator had its ups and downs and a lot of improvement is still needed in order for the Eagles to fulfill their potential this season.
“We are going to learn and keep getting better, but I am not going to rate the performance,” English said. “What I am going to say is [that] we really legitimately should [have] had a goal line stand in there. We did some good things and there are some things that we are going to get better at.”
4) Filling The Starting Tight End Spot:
The void of tight end Garrett Hoskins to graduation appears to have been filled by junior Tyreese Russell as he caught two passes for 28 yards, including an 18-yard reception from Benz.
5) Red Zone Opportunities:
On this night, EMU’s offense was able to execute in the red zone as they scored on all four of their opportunities— Russell’s 18-yard reception, Hill’s two and three-yard runs and Jackson’s 19-yard run.
The Eagles will need to execute in the red zone in order to have any shot of upsetting the Penn State Nittany Lions next Saturday at Beaver Stadium and more importantly to get their first win against a Bowl Championship Series school.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @EasternEchoGeno.