Saturday’s 51-7 loss to Western Michigan was disappointing for Eastern Michigan football coach Chris Creighton and his team – he said that after the game and he said it again Monday morning at the team’s weekly news conference at the Convocation Center.
Eastern’s lone touchdown came in the second half – a 76-yard screen pass from Reggie Bell to Bronson Hill.
“I refuse to believe that [Saturday’s effort] was everything we have,” Creighton said. “That wasn’t.”
Despite the disappointment, he said his team didn’t implode under the weight of the score.
“As tough as the day was, there was not negativity [in the locker room],” he said. “There was not in-fighting, there was not finger pointing or anything like that.”
Creighton said the final two games for the Eagles (2-8, 1-5 Mid-American Conference) are all about finishing and getting back to some of the successes they’ve had throughout the year – few as they may be.
“I want them to be able to fall back and get in that state of mind that they’ve worked so hard, they’ve put so much into it that they’re putting their foot down and when something negative happens they’re not going to let anything – not going to let anything stop them from getting, achieving, accomplishing anything they want to do on that day,” Creighton said. “That’s where we still need to grow. The thing about it is we are at the point where the guys can look themselves in the face and we [the coaches] can look at ourselves in the eyes and say we did do the things from January up until this season that can allow us to look at ourselves in the mirror and look each other in the eye and know that we had done all the things to be able to say we are going to fight for this.”
Bell will start under center for Eastern. He was 14-of-22 for 283 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions against Western.
Bell’s 283 yards set a new career high – surpassing his 144 passing yards against Buffalo on Oct. 11.
Offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said he was impressed with Bell’s first game back after suffering a concussion three weeks ago against Central Michigan.
“There just continues to be so many coachable moments throughout the course of the game,” DeBoer said. “I really felt that walking off the field on Saturday that as a passer, he took a huge step.”
He classified Bell’s fumble – on a four-yard dive attempt into the end zone late in Saturday’s game – as well as both interceptions as “coachable moments.”
Jack Milas will start for the Cardinals (3-7, 2-4 MAC). He was 23-of-37 for 210 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in the team’s 24-10 loss to the University of Massachusetts last Wednesday night.
Milas has passed for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He’s been intercepted five times.
“He seems to be doing a pretty good job,” defensive coordinator Brad McCaslin said.
McCaslin said the key would be for Eastern’s defense to get to Milas on Saturday.
The Eagles had a hard time against Zach Terrell Saturday – allowing Western’s quarterback to pass for 357 yards and four touchdowns.
“You’ve got to get to the quarterback,” McCaslin said. “If you’re one-on-one, you’ve got to be a factor in that quarterback’s ability to throw the football.”
He said the defense fought in the loss – but just didn’t do enough.
“Were we fighting – yeah we were fighting, but were we fighting enough,” McCaslin said. “Were we competing – yeah we were competing, but were we competing enough.”
Kick-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. and the game will be carried on WEMU 89.1 FM.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho