After lopsided loss to Florida, Eagles ready to regroup vs. Old Dominion

Coach Creighton disputes a referee call at the EMU vs. Morgan State football game on August 31, 2014 at Rynearson Stadium.

Following the Eastern Michigan University football team’s 65-0 loss to the University of Florida, Saturday, the team held its weekly press conference in the media room of the Convocation Center, Monday morning.

Coach Chris Creighton said one of the major goals for his team this week is to see how the players regroup after a tough loss.

“For me, the way I’m going to measure any kind of progress they’re making is in tough situations,” he said. “The excitement is genuine all the way through, the anticipation and what these guys have committed to – that is real – the reality is that things aren’t going to go perfectly all the way through the season and that includes a loss.”

Senior safety/linebacker and defensive co-captain Pudge Cotton said that his expectations and that of his team going into the Florida game were to win, or at least be competitive. Despite the loss, he said it will help his team grow.

“It was a disappointing loss, but those are the expectations you should have to be a good program – a winning program,” he said.

The run game

In the loss, starting running back – senior Bronson Hill – was held to 0 total yards on 7 carries. Redshirt freshman Reggie Bell – the starting quarterback – led the team with 7 carries for 20 yards. Creighton explained that he looks at the run game as more of a collective effort, as opposed to gauging individual performance.

“We don’t really ever look at it in terms of the individual – in terms of ‘This guy, how did he do’ – we look at it in terms of the overall run game,” he said. “We have three proven backs and they each do something different – they bring something different to the table.”

Creighton said, however, that the run game is definitely the team’s staple on offense.

“I think that’s the strength of our offense … our offensive line and our running game and it did not go as well in week two as it did in week one,” Creighton said. “Every time – whether it’s good, bad or indifferent – it’s a combination of our execution – going up against what we’re facing defensively, whether that be personnel or scheme, and so the first part is they’re [Florida] a pretty good defensive front and have some good players. But, there are some things that we can glean from the film to make us better.”

First-year offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said the team’s offensive struggles Saturday came in part because the Gator defense – ranked 8th in the Southeastern Conference, according to ESPN, was a very talented unit.

“I think the personnel that we were going up against defensively were pretty good,” he said. “From our standpoint, you know where we’re coming from offensively – we feel that we do have to get the run game going and that’s going to affect how the rest of the offense performs. They [Florida] made life tough.”

Breaking down the defense

A major issue with Eastern’s defense – which was exploited by Morgan State University in the season opener, and again by Florida on Saturday, was the team’s trend of giving up big plays. Four of Florida’s scoring drives came in three or fewer plays – two of them culminated in 70-plus yard touchdown passes.

Defensive coordinator Brad McCaslin explained the big plays from his perspective.

“The big play defense is a critical element to being successful as a defense – stopping the run and making everybody earn what they get,” he said. “[There were] three drives where I think they were 10, 12 play drives and that’s the goal in those situations – to make them drive the ball. So when you’re giving up a two play drive or one play drive to give up the big play – a lot of times when that happens, the ball’s going to be in the air.”

He also said that many of those situations came down to the individual matchups and the explosive nature of Florida’s play.

Cotton broke down the big plays from a player’s view.

“The way I look at those big plays – big plays are definitely essential when it comes to winning a game or losing a game,” Cotton said.

He said the big plays weren’t as a result of the team being outmatched – instead the team simply didn’t execute.

What’s next?

Old Dominion’s defense has given up an average of 125.5 yards per game on the ground and six rushing touchdowns, as opposed to giving up 330 yards and five touchdowns in the air.

DeBoer said the ODU defense would likely be keyed in to the Eastern run game, and that the offense would have to make adjustments. The key, he said, would be to complete high-percentage passes, such as screen passes, to move the ball up the field.

Redshirt junior linebacker Great Ibe – a walk-on for Eastern – said he and his teammates are ready to hit the field and get ready for Old Dominion.

“I know for most of the guys on defense, we’re just ready to go back and compete,” he said. “We can’t wait for practice tomorrow, we can’t wait to look at ODU and see what we’re going to see from them.”

Other notes

In Monday morning’s Mid-American Conference weekly teleconference, Creighton said he had not reached a decision regarding a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game.

Bell was 2-of-6 for 12 yards in the loss to Florida, also losing two fumbles. Sophomore Brogan Roback replaced him and went 5-of-10 for 29 yards. Redshirt senior Rob Bolden also saw some time, going 2-of-5 for 4 yards and an interception, which was returned for a touchdown.

All three quarterbacks were sacked once.

Looking Ahead

The game between EMU and Old Dominion is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, and will be televised locally on COX 110. The game can be heard in Ypsilanti on WEMU 89.1 FM where Matt Shepard and Rob Rubick will have the call. The game can also be streamed online at www.wemu.org. There is no word if the game will be televised in Michigan.

The EMU athletic department announced Monday that the game against Michigan State University, originally listed with a start time to be determined, would kick off at noon on Sept. 20. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

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Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho


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