After having a week off, the Eastern Michigan University football team will be taking on the University of Akron, Saturday.
This will be the Mid-American Conference opener for the Eagles (1-3). Akron is coming off a 21-10 victory against the University of Pittsburgh last week.
Eastern is coming off a nonconference gauntlet, in which the team was outscored 183-48 in four games.
“The bye week came at a good time,” EMU coach Chris Creighton said in the team’s weekly press conference, Monday.
He added: “We’re super excited about getting into MAC conference play.”
Senior cornerback Darius Scott was dismissed from the team, Wednesday. Read the story here
Junior wide receiver Dustin Creel, redshirt sophomore center Jake Hurcombe and redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Andrew Wylie are all doubtful for Saturday’s game with knee injuries.
Creighton said sophomore quarterback Brogan Roback (undisclosed injury) could possibly miss the next several weeks. One source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Echo that Roback is suffering from four broken bones in his face – reportedly after being elbowed by a teammate sometime prior to the Michigan State game.
He was seen on campus with a black eye.
Senior offensive tackle Lincoln Hansen (undisclosed) missed his first game as an Eagle, Saturday. Creighton said he would play at Akron.
“He’s good to go,” Creighton said.
A representative of the EMU athletic department declined to provide an official team injury report Wednesday, citing the Family Educational Rights and Protection Act as well as the Health Information Protection Act.
“Whether you’re listed or not, you’re banged up,” Creighton said during the conference.
The Eagles have struggled with turnovers this season. While the combined efforts of redshirt freshman Reggie Bell, Roback and redshirt senior Rob Bolden have only produced two interceptions this season, the Eagles have had trouble holding on to the football. Eastern players have combined to fumble 15 times – losing 11 of them.
On the flip side, EMU’s four opponents have combined to throw two interceptions, but have only fumbled four times. The Eagles recovered two of them.
“One spot we looked at [during the bye week] is our turnover ratio,” Creighton said. “We’re minus-9 right now and it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, where you’re playing [or] when you’re playing – if you’re turning the ball over and not creating turnovers, you’re in for a long day and a long nonconference season.”
Creighton announced that Bolden would be the starter at Akron – his second start as an Eagle.
Bolden started in Eastern’s 73-14 loss at Michigan State University two weeks ago. He was 10-of-29 for 115 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Bolden was knocked around throughout the game, even taking a shot near the end of the first half which left him with a bloody mouth.
“I give him a lot of credit because he’s a tough kid,” offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said. “He stood in there and took a lot of shots, and kept getting up.”
While both of Bolden’s touchdowns came in the second half, while the game was out of reach, he did find a rhythm with his receivers.
“He made the plays the second time around,” DeBoer said.
DeBoer said that the week off should help Bolden continue that rhythm and improve.
“I think that was the nice thing about the bye week – it gave Rob another week to kind of get his feet underneath of him,” DeBoer said. “Really we went back to square one – I mean base offensive concepts, lead progressions – all of that.”
The Eagles allowed a season-high 73 points, Saturday and will be facing an Akron team that averages 378.8 yards per game.
Akron’s quarterback, Kyle Pohl, was 15-of-29 for 193 yards, a touchdown and an interception in his team’s win over Pittsburgh, last Saturday.
The biggest focus for us was [that] we had a lot of alignment errors in that game [against MSU],” defensive coordinator Brad McCaslin said.
He said the defense was also focused on getting back to the basics during the week off.
McCaslin said the coaching staff hasn’t had the benefit of coaching the players who have been on the roster for more than a season, so they’re adjusting more after each game and practice.
“Each game, we’re learning a little bit more,” McCaslin said.
Saturday’s kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. You can also listen on WEMU 89.1 FM.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho