Five things to take away from Eastern Michigan’s 28-17 loss to Northern Illinois.
The learning curve
Reggie Bell started his third game as an Eagle, completing 16-of-34 passes for 103 yards and an interception – a flea flicker gone wrong. He also rushed 25 times for 133 yards and a touchdown. It was his second consecutive home game with over 100 yards rushing.
Bell is doing well for a redshirt freshman. That said, he is still a young player and prone to making mistakes – holding on to the ball too long and getting sacked three times, or making a bad zone read and getting intercepted.
I am confident that Bell will continue to improve over the next four games. If you recall, I called for him to be benched at the beginning of the year. I’m glad I’m being proven wrong.
Going back to the ground
Eastern coach Chris Creighton and his offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer did exactly what I called for earlier this week – they utilized the run game against a team that was eighth in the MAC going into the game in overall run defense.
In addition to Bell, Ryan Brumfield woke up Saturday. He carried 18 times for 112 yards and a touchdown.
When more than one running back can gain over 100 yards, the team usually wins. This wasn’t the case against NIU, but it’s a good sign. In a disappointing loss like this, I’ll take what I can get.
The special teams unit definitely had a strong day – specifically the field goal unit. The Eagles blocked two Northern Illinois attempts (Mike Steals and Willie Creaar, respectively).
Eastern had three blocked field goals going into Saturday’s loss – if you add the two against NIU, that’s five blocks in seven games. I’d make the argument that it’s the most impressive statistic of the season.
I don’t see very many more wins adding up this season, but the team is starting to come together a little more consistently. Don’t overlook the special teams guys.
Seven different Eagles had catches Saturday. Tyreese Russell and Tyler Allen shared the lead with four catches, while David Gibson had three.
That said, there were a lot of drops. Of Bell’s other 17 misses (not counting the interception), I counted five that would have been for large gains or touchdowns – that’s not a good thing, and it’s not something you’ll ever see on a stat sheet.
Some of those bad passes were Bell’s fault and can be explained away with his youth and inexperience. You could argue that others were a result of good pressure by Northern Illinois – either on Bell or by the secondary.
We’ll see what happens next week against Central Michigan.
Handling on-field adversity
The Eagles have endured two very difficult losses in as many weeks. The loss against Akron last month was also disappointing. I’m looking very closely at how the Eagles play the next four weeks.
The games against Central, Western Michigan, Ball State and Toledo will not be easy, but a couple of them (WMU, Ball State) are definitely winnable.
Creighton and his team have some work to do.