Eagles look to impress homecoming crowd with first conference win of 2014

Eastern Michigan running back Juwan Lewis carries the sledgehammer onto the field before the Eagles took on Akron Saturday afternoon in Akron, Ohio.

Eastern Michigan University football coach Chris Creighton had high expectations for his team going into Mid-American Conference play. He said despite the team’s lack of punch in the second half of Saturday’s 31-6 loss to the Akron University Zips, all is not lost.

“You always talk about ‘winning begets winning’,” Creighton said in the team’s weekly news conference. “You want to have success to build off of. Well we’re at that point. Honestly it’s not fun, but at the same time I love it because I mean – it’s at the very core of our program and at the very core of of anyone’s self-confidence in life or however you want to say it is that you have to believe before it happens in order for it to happen. And you really only get sometimes one chance for that.”

After forcing the Zips to punt and then scoring on their first offensive drive, the Eagles stalled – allowing Akron to score 21 unanswered points in the second half.

“We were down 10-6 at halftime and [I] just didn’t feel as though we were able to punch back in the way that you need to in a tight game,” Creighton said.

After spending the last four games away from Rynearson Stadium, the Eagles will be returning home to take on the University at Buffalo Bulls this weekend.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been here – it was August,” Creighton said.

Quarterbacks

Rob Bolden will be starting under center for the Eagles. He was 17-of-30 for 185 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in the loss to Akron. Bolden also carried 15 times for 16 yards and lost a fumble.

This season, Bolden is 32-of-71 for 320 yards. He’s thrown three touchdowns and four interceptions.

“He’s not a finished product – none of us are,” Creighton said.

Reggie Bell – who started the first two games of the season – will be Bolden’s backup, while Brogan Roback (undisclosed injury) is listed as the third string quarterback.

The sophomore has not played since starting against Old Dominion University three weeks ago.

Creighton said after the game that Bolden will start for the foreseeable future.

Defense

Akron gained 552 yards on Saturday – 355 of which came through the air. Despite the play of the secondary, redshirt freshman Jason Beck – a safety – led the team with 10 tackles (eight solo). The rest of the defense actually played well – led by linebackers Great Ibe (eight tackles) and Anthony Zappone (six tackles - two for loss and a sack).

“I think our defense gave us a chance – it kept us in the game,” Creighton said. “I think that one thing that we’re going to challenge them on is to take the ball away.”

Buffalo features a balanced offense – with quarterback Joe Licata (16-of-24, 134 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT against Bowling Green State University last week) and running back Anthone Taylor (36 carries, 219 yards, 3 TDs vs. Bowling Green) leading the way.

“They’re [Buffalo] a mauling offensive line – a big physical group,” defensive coordinator Brad McCaslin said during the news conference. “The quarterback [Licata] has done a great job as well.”

He added: “We’re going to have to be disciplined. We’re going to have to align properly. That’s rule number one on defense…We’re going to have to take the ball away.”

Jump starting the run game

As a team, Eastern gained 94 total yards on the ground in the loss to Akron. Bronson Hill ran for 34 of them (on nine carries).

In the last two games, Hill has essentially been a non-factor. In the last two games, he has run for 41 yards on 14 carries. The senior has yet to score a touchdown.

Offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said Monday that Hill, as well as Ryan Brumfield and Darius Jackson have all done well this season. He said all three would continue to see consistent playing time.

The Hurt Locker Room

The Eagles have been fighting injuries most of the season – especially on the offensive line. Center Jake Hurcombe (knee) and his backup Campbell Allison (knee) have been banged up. Wide receiver Dustin Creel (knee) has also missed time.

With the exception of Hurcombe – who did not play Saturday - all of the players mentioned left the game at some point against Akron.

“We had some guys leave the game, but they’re not extensive injuries,” Creighton said.

Zappone and Creel left with apparent leg or knee injuries, but both practiced Wednesday and are expected to play.

Creighton said Hurcombe and linebacker Ike Spearman – who has not played this season – are still some time from playing.

“He [Spearman] gets better every day, [but] not to the point where he can go,” Creighton said. “We’re anxious.”

Editor’s Note: The EMU athletic department does not issue a formal injury report during the week, citing the Family Educational Rights and Protection Act as well as the Health Information Protection Act.

Other Notes

The athletic department announced Wednesday that kickoff for the game against the University of Massachusetts was scheduled for 3 p.m.

Before Saturday’s game, the athletic department in conjunction with the university’s athletic marketing staff will be hosting a pep rally. “Turn it up, turn it green” will be held in the Convocation Center starting at 10 a.m. Students will be able to see and interact with the football team as well as win prizes.

Looking Ahead

Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on WEMU 89.1 FM and ESPN3/WatchESPN.

Social Media

Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho


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