For Eastern Michigan University, stringing wins together has been a challenge over the past two seasons.
The last time the team won back-to-back games was in 2011, over Central Michigan University and Western Michigan University.
The Eagles will be seeking back-to-back wins when they host the Bowling Green State University Falcons at Rynearson Stadium this Saturday for a 1 p.m. Kickoff.
After a 35-32 overtime win Nov. 9 against WMU, under Stan Parrish (who was named interim head coach less than 24 hours before kickoff), EMU will be well rested from the bye week that followed.
“I gave them a lot of time off,” Parrish said in the Mid-American Conference Teleconference Monday. “We needed to get away from football a little bit.”
After making his second career start and earning his first win against WMU, true freshman Brogan Roback should be expected to start at quarterback for the Eagles. He went 9-for-22 passing with 136 yards and a TD and had another rushing TD, as well.
Through six games, he has three touchdowns and three interceptions to go with 497 passing yards and a .442 completion percentage.
EMU’s single back offense led by Bronson Hill at the start of the season has seemingly turned into a dual-back running game with the recent emergence of Ryan Brumfield. Although both have five rushing TD’s, Hill has still been remained the number-one rusher with 166 touches for 928 yards, fifth-best in the MAC.
“Bronson Hill has put up big numbers and is one of the better tailbacks of the conference,” BGSU coach Dave Clawson said in the Teleconference.
But Hill and Brumfield are also contributors to the EMU passing game. Together they have 21 catches for 255 yards and three reception touchdowns. Tight end Tyreese Russell leads the team with 41 for 568 and three TDs.
“Offensively, they really challenge you. They line up in a lot of sets [where] they create extra gaps and it’s a lot different from the type of offenses we’ve been seeing,” Clawson said.
With BGSU’s game last week falling on a Tuesday, the leaders of the MAC East earned an extended rest as well after a 49-0 win against Ohio University.
That win featured BGSU sophomore running back Travis Greene who had his first 100 yard, multi-touchdown game of his career, rushing in two and taking 22 carries for 149 yards. He has 1,167 yards and seven TD’s on the season.
All 24 of the Falcons’ rushing TD’s have come from within the red zone. Freshman running back William Houston has been the team’s goal line back as he leads the team with 10 TDs but only has 79 yards on 35 carries. In his last seven touches, he’s accumulated five yards and four TDs.
The core of the Falcons’ offense this season in terms of moving the ball downfield has come from quarterback Matt Johnson. He has 2,308 passing yards along with 14 TDs and 5 interceptions, as well as a .659 completion percentage.
“[They’ve] always moved the ball well,” Parrish said. “Their quarterback’s playing better and they’re running the ball.”
The Falcons rank fourth in the conference in total offense with 451.9 yards per game, as 255.9 of those yards average from the passing game.
Opening Line: Bowling Green (-24.5)
BGSU has an all-time record of 19-6 against EMU, since 1976.
The Falcons have won 10 of the last 11 meetings between the teams.
EMU’s last win over the Falcons was a 24-21 victory on Oct. 4, 2008 at Perry Stadium, when the Eagles scored the game-winning touchdown with less than a minute left in the game.
The Eagles’ last home win against BGSU was Oct. 21, 1989, a 21-13 victory.
Keys to the Game
BGSU Third-Down Offense
Defensive woes have been the main focus when looking at the Eagles this season. Besides allowing 518 yards per game, ranking 118 of 123 in the Football Bowl Subdivision, EMU has the worst third-down defense in the conference, stopping opponents 52.6 percent of the time.
The Falcons lead the MAC and are 16th in the FBS alongside Stanford University on third-down offense at an even 50.0 percent.
In the past two games, the Falcons have only allowed three points (a field goal in the first quarter against Miami University). At 15.1 points allowed per game, BGSU leads the MAC and is sixth in the FBS. The five teams ranked above are all Bowl Championship Series ranked teams.
“I think they have the best defensive team in the conference,” Parrish said. “They’re very talented; they’re very quick.”
The Eagles are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, ranked last in the MAC with 44.2 points allowed per game.
With the Falcons’ recently excelling offense, this could cause a mismatch when BGSU marches the ball downfield. For EMU to keep up, it will need to find a way to get into the end zone against a defense that has allowed 21 touchdowns this season, a MAC-best.
Players to Watch
EMU Jr. RB Ryan Brumfield: Brumfield’s last game was the biggest of his career, with 148 yards on 15 touches and two rushing TDs. It will be interesting to see how the offense uses him.
Hill has been known as the starting back this season, but the two have been sharing carries more equally over the last three games after Hill had some apparent minor off-field issues.
The offensive line was given a lot of credit for opening up wide running lanes for Brumfield, so if it can continue to do that, we may just see him go for another 100-yard game and take one to the house.
BGSU Soph. QB Matt Johnson: The MAC’s number-two passer in yards per game (230.8) may just have the breakout game he’s been looking for all season long as he goes up against the 12th-ranked passing defense in the conference.
Johnson has had five games this season completing over 70.0 percent of his passes, but only one game of 300 passing yards and another single game of just three touchdowns. It would be the perfect time for him to explode with the MAC East division title and a spot in the conference championship up for grabs in two weeks.
Follow Derrick Vergolini on Twitter: @DerrickVergo