The Eastern Michigan University Eagles made the short trip to East Lansing to take on the no. 11 ranked Michigan State University Spartans, Saturday, leaving on the losing end of a 73-14 blowout.
Redshirt senior Rob Bolden got the start for EMU – the third starting quarterback coach Chris Creighton has used this season – going 10-of-29 for 115 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Creighton said after the game that, despite the blowout loss, his team is going home with its heads held high, even with the criticism that might come.
“Our guys are proud,” Creighton said. “This [big loss] is really hard and I can’t keep them from the whole world – they can sit behind a computer and say what they’re going to say – I would if I could. I’d lock doors and sit with them 24/7. It’s a family – they’ve stuck together.”
Connor Cook started at quarterback for MSU, going 5-of-6 for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Tyler O’Connor replaced him, going 4-of-5 for 58 yards and a touchdown. Damion Terry also saw time, going 5-of-8 for 19 yards.
On the ground, the Eagles (1-3) were a mess. Bolden led the team in carries, with six (for five yards) while senior Bronson Hill rushed 5 times for 7 yards. Redshirt freshman Reggie Bell led in yards carried, with 9 yards (on one carry).
Senior receiver Tyler Allen said when the running game struggles, he feels the receiving corps can, and should help make more opportunities to help the backs.
“Some of us need to feel that pressure,” he said. “For me, I love our running backs – I can help and our wide receivers can help spread out the offense, and spread the defense out – we can run the ball better.”
Delton Williams led the rushing attack for the Spartans with 10 carries for 103 yards and three touchdowns – off the bench.
Jeremy Langford started at running back for MSU, rushing nine times for 60 yards and a touchdown. Nick Hill also played significant time off the bench, with 14 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown.
Allen had two catches for 53 yards and the team’s first touchdown in three weeks. Senior tight end Tyreese Russell had four catches for 38 yards and a touchdown. He also lost a fumble.
The Eagles struggled with turnovers, Saturday. They fumbled the ball five times, losing all of them. Michigan State was able to capitalize nearly every time, scoring 31 points from the turnovers. Michigan State did not fumble, however, the Spartans did turn the ball over once - an interception in the fourth quarter.
“There’s two reasons [MSU scored off turnovers] – one, because we have a short field and mathematically there’s a higher percentage of scoring,” Creighton said. “But part of that higher percentage is because of negative momentum. Nobody wants to give the ball to the other team on their own side of the field.”
Creighton added: “We, as a program, are learning how to deal with sudden change.”
The MSU defense caused pressure for Bolden all game long – hitting him throughout the game. Late in the first half, Bolden was hit as he was throwing, causing an interception. Initially MSU was called for targeting a defenseless player, but after further review, that was overturned. On the play, Bolden appeared to be injured.
“I didn’t see it – I just know he got a bloody mouth,” Creighton said.
Redshirt sophomore center Jake Hurcombe left the game because a knee injury, his status was not immediately known after the game.
Junior receiver Dustin Creel also missed the game with a knee injury, as did redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Andrew Wylie.
Sophomore quarterback Brogan Roback (undisclosed injury) and redshirt senior offensive lineman Lincoln Hansen (undisclosed) also missed the game.
Saturday’s game was Hansen’s first missed game in his 38-game EMU career.
The Eagles have a week off, before beginning Mid-American Conference play Oct. 4 when they travel to Akron, Ohio to take on the Zips.
“The team that comes out of a tough nonconference [schedule] and comes out of it believing in themselves, is going to have a pretty good chance,” Creighton said.
Allen said the week off will help his team.
“I think maybe we have a lot of guys who need a little rest,” Allen said. “We’re going to have our days where we work, and practice and prepare, as well – but having those extra days to get off our feet will help us to get ready.”
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho