The Eastern Michigan University football team lost its second straight game, Saturday, 17-3, to the Old Dominion University Monarchs in Norfolk, Va.
Sophomore Brogan Roback started for the Eagles (1-2). He was 9-of-17 passing, for 56 yards. Redshirt senior Rob Bolden relieved him, going 3-of-7 for 16 yards.
After the game, EMU coach Chris Creighton said he’s still looking for one of the team’s three quarterbacks – including redshirt freshman Reggie Bell, the starter for the team’s first two games – to take the lead at the position.
“We feel as though we have three good quarterbacks,” Creighton said. “We spent the first three games – not intentionally – switching, but we had guys, multiple guys play and we’re still searching a little bit for who’s going to get to lead our team and who’s going to be able to help us execute the offense and score points and just be able to captain the team in terms of leadership.”
On the ground, senior Bronson Hill got the majority of the carries for the Eagles, with 16 rushes for 78 yards. Bolden had 12 carries for 31 yards.
Four EMU receivers led the way in catches – Hill (seven yards), junior running back Darius Jackson (15 yards), redshirt junior receiver Kris Strange (12 yards) and senior receiver Tyler Allen (10 yards) all had two catches.
Redshirt junior receiver David Gibson had Eastern’s longest reception of the game – a 31-yard catch from Roback in the first quarter.
The only scoring of the game for Eastern came in the fourth quarter on a 43-yard field goal from junior Dylan Mulder – which tied a career high for the kicker (Nov. 17, 2012 vs. Western Michigan University).
For the Monarchs (2-1), Tyler Heinicke was the story. He completed 17-of-30 passes for 187 yards and an interception. On the ground, he was not as effective – carrying the ball five times for seven yards. He also punted the ball three times, for 150 yards.
Heinicke spread the ball well, completing passes to eight different receivers.
Gerard Johnson was Old Dominion’s leading rusher. He had 19 rushes for 85 yards. Ray Lawry added four rushes for 69 yards and a touchdown – a 55-yard rush early in the first quarter.
Antonio Vaughan scored on a 46-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. He would have scored on another punt return in the third quarter – a 51-yarder, but it was negated by a holding call.
Despite the issues in the return game, the Eagles had a good day punting the football. Sophomore Austin Barnes and redshirt senior Owen Dubiel split time – each punting the ball five times. Barnes’s punts totaled 217 yards, while Dubiel tallied 206, but Dubiel had the upper hand, placing four punts inside the Old Dominion 20 yard line.
“Our punt team – we had a punt…we didn’t cover and they scored on it – it’s a lot like our defense,” Creighton said. “Our defense was fantastic for so much of the game, but they [Old Dominion] busted a run up the middle – that’s the one, the seven points – in a game like this – is too much. They [special teams] played great for so much of the game. Our punt team, I thought, was phenomenal. But giving up the score…you just can’t have that at the same time.”
Defensively, Eastern was able to hold the Monarchs to a field goal after Vaughan’s punt return for touchdown was called back. In addition, the Eagles did not give up a defensive touchdown after Lawry scored in the first quarter.
Creighton said, despite the team’s two consecutive losses, team morale is still good.
“They believe in themselves, they believe in each other – it’s hard when you’re not seeing the results,” he said.
The three points allowed by Old Dominion’s defense set the record for the fewest points allowed by the Monarchs in the school’s history.
The Eagles travel to East Lansing, Mich. for a close road matchup against the Michigan State University Spartans, next Saturday.
The Spartans did not play, Saturday, because of an off-week. MSU’s last game was Sept. 6, a 46-27 loss to the University of Oregon.
Connor Cook led the way for MSU, going 29-of-47 for 343 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Tony Lippett was the leading receiver – with 11 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown.
Kick-off is scheduled for noon and the game will be carried on the Big Ten Network and WEMU 89.1 FM.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho