The Eastern Michigan University football team lost a 65-0 blowout at the hands of the University of Florida Gators on Saturday – here are the five biggest things to take away from it.
The passing game
Redshirt freshman Reggie Bell got the start for the Eagles, going 2-of-6 for 12 yards. Sophomore Brogan Roback relieved him in the first quarter, going 5-of-10 for 29 yards.
Bell also lost two fumbles.
Redshirt senior Rob Bolden made his EMU debut in the fourth quarter, going 2-of-5 for 4 yards and an interception, which was returned for a touchdown.
The biggest takeaway from this is that Brogan Roback needs to be starting for the Eagles. I understand that first-year coach Chris Creighton is trying to utilize as much talent on this team as is possible, but Roback was the starter down the stretch last year, and he had a good week off the bench against Morgan State University in the season-opener last Saturday, going 7-of-14 for 40 yards.
If Creighton wants to maximize Bell’s potential, he needs to put him in the backfield with Bronson Hill and Ryan Brumfield, or have him return some kicks. Let the quarterback with the arm do the throwing.
The running game
Florida did a great job of stifling the Eastern Michigan run game, Saturday. Bell led the way with 7 carries for 26 yards. Hill, the team’s starter at running back, had 7 carries as well – except he didn’t gain a single yard.
I’m not too worried about that in the immediate aftermath of this game. Florida has a great defensive line and I didn’t expect Eastern to gain very many yards in the run game. Next week, the Eagles take on Old Dominion University. The Monarchs gave up 26 total rushes for 57 yards and a touchdown in their season-opener last week against Hampton University. I’ll be interested to see how Hill and company bounce back.
There weren’t many passes completed by the three Eagle quarterbacks, Saturday. Senior tight end Tyreese Russell caught two, for 16 yards, leading the team. Junior wide receiver Dustin Creel caught two more, for 12 yards.
Florida’s defense, as a whole, outmatched Eastern – but we all expected that going in. Old Dominion gave up 407 yards of passing and 3 touchdowns against Hampton, so I’d expect that Eastern will be able to regroup and get the job done in the air next week.
Eastern’s special teams unit made some big waves against Morgan State with a blocked punt for a touchdown and a blocked field goal in the first half of the 31-28 win last week. The story of the unit against Florida was the play of punter Austin Barnes. He had 7 punts for 310 yards, with a long of 49 yards.
That was the kind of punting that got him put on the Ray Guy watch list last year – but that’s not something to really be all too proud of.
On the return side, senior Tyler Allen did most of the work. He had 132 yards in kickoff returns, with a long of 29. Redshirt sophomore Juwan Lewis returned one for 29 yards, as well.
There’s some optimism there – decent returns mean good field position to start drives, but the offense couldn’t capitalize on that, so it was a wasted opportunity – in my opinion.
This week will be a real test for Creighton. Sure, he’s lost games in his career – 47 of them – but this team is doing some serious rebuilding, and I’m interested to see how he brings them through this blowout.
I like the charisma he brings to this team – when he was hired, I wanted to go grab some pads and a jersey and play, but this was a big loss and the schedule doesn’t get any easier – with Old Dominion next week and Michigan State University the week after.
The real answer will come at 6 p.m. next Saturday when the Eagles take the field next.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho