Five things to take away from Eastern Michigan’s 37-27 homecoming victory over the University at Buffalo.
The number three
You know how the saying goes: “Everything happens in threes.” Saturday’s game was no different. Redshirt freshman quarterback Reggie Bell stole the show. He ran for three touchdowns on Saturday – the first of several career-highs. He finished the day with 17 carries for 202 yards.
Rob Bolden – starting his third consecutive game as an Eagle – passed for three yards before being replaced before halftime. He also completed a pass which lost three yards – to third-string running back Darius Jackson (who wears number six, or three plus three).
The EMU defense also sacked Joe Licata three times. Things weren’t terrible for Buffalo’s quarterback – he passed for three touchdowns to three different receivers (Marcus McGill, Devon Hughes and Matt Weiser).
Some other occurrences of the number three: Ryan Brumfield had three receiving yards for Eastern, Buffalo’s Devin Campbell returned three kickoffs (his long was 30 yards, which is a multiple of three).
Anthony Zappone had three tackles for loss in Saturday’s win (on the way to 13 total tackles – which has a three in it).
Three different Eagles had three solo tackles (Hunter Matt, DaQuan Pace and Pat O’Connor) while Pudge Cotton broke up three passes. Jason Beck had one interception for Eastern – which he returned three yards.
For Buffalo, Nick Gilbo made three solo tackles (four total). Jake Stockman had a tackle for a loss of three yards. Five different Bulls made a total of three tackles.
There are also some more important iterations of the number three, which I’ll get to in a little while.
Like I mentioned before, Bell had a great day for the Eagles – and he came off the bench. In addition to his 202 rushing yards and three touchdowns, he was 8-of-13 for 144 yards and a passing touchdown (to David Gibson). Bell also lost one fumble.
After the game, Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton expanded on Bell’s role and said there was a plan going into Saturday’s matchup to get him some playing time.
“We were going to play Reggie and everybody knew it some just to get him in and had some packages for him,” Creighton said.
He added: “[Bell] led us down to a score and there was a little bit of spark, so I think over halftime I decided to give him another series. He’s a really good athlete and he’s a really good quarterback and you know a lot of people have doubted him … our decision making and all that. I know I’m the farthest thing from perfect, but we’ve believed in Reggie all the way through and that Rob [Bolden] is a good quarterback and that Brogan [Roback] is a good quarterback. Reggie did a really nice job today.”
Creighton has said since August that those three quarterbacks would compete for time and has started each of them at some point this season. At this point, you might wonder if there is a quarterback controversy in the works – given Bell’s performance on Saturday.
“We’ll figure all that out,” Creighton said.
For Buffalo, the offense came almost exclusively in the passing game. Licata was 27-of-44 for 383 yards and his three touchdowns. Licata was also intercepted twice.
The running game
For all intents and purposes Bell was the running game. Brumfield also got some carries (16 for 62 yards), but essentially absent was listed starter Bronson Hill – who had one rush for six yards.
“Bronson gets a lot of the attention, but we really feel as though we’ve had three quality backs and I think we’ve seen that,” Creighton said. “The Morgan State game Brummy was so light on his feet and it was just a great touchdown when he hurtles the guy – he’s a good player.”
He also said he considers Jackson to be a good running back.
Creighton didn’t indicate who the starter might be for next week’s game at the University of Massachusetts.
Anthone Taylor was the Bulls run game – almost exclusively. He ran for 128 yards on 24 carries.
Bell spread the ball around – throwing to eight different receivers.
Gibson led the way for Eastern with two catches for 47 yards to go with his touchdown. Kenny Jones also had a 29-yard reception and three different Eagles (Dustin Creel – who wears number three – Tyreese Russell and Cole Gardner) had 20-yard catches.
Eight Buffalo receivers had catches on Saturday. Hughes led the way with seven, including his touchdown. Three other Bulls caught four passes.
I’m lumping these two units together because they combined to not only keep Eastern in the game long enough to take the lead, but they provided what I saw as the biggest momentum swings in the game. The Eagles made four different goal line stands. The first resulted in a missed field goal early in the game. The next ended with a Buffalo field goal. Then, Buffalo was intercepted inside the 10. Finally on the fourth, the Bulls turned the ball over on downs.
The Eagles also blocked a field goal – something they’ve now done in both home games this season.
I’m a little concerned about the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that this team seems to be showing between Rynearson and everywhere else, but at this point in the season I’ll take what I can get.
The real test will come next week when the Eagles face the Minutemen of UMass – a team that just won its first game in nearly a year in commanding fashion.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho