The Eastern Michigan football team lost its fifth consecutive game Saturday, 45-30 to Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.
Each of the team’s last five losses have been against Mid-American Conference opponents.
“We can play with the people in this league, but we’re not playing with the people in this league,” EMU coach Chris Creighton said.
Reggie Bell started for the Eagles (2-9, 1-6 MAC). He had a career day – going 36-for-49 for 409 yards and three touchdowns.
Bell also rushed 18 times for 101 yards.
“He responded to us at halftime and led better in the second half,” Creighton said. “What’s way more important to a young quarterback is to develop the leadership.”
Dustin Creel led Eastern in receiving. He had a career-high of 14 catches for 152 yards. Tyreese Russell added eight catches for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Creel’s previous career high was six catches for 115 yards against Toledo on Nov. 2, 2012.
Kris Strange (six yards) and Darius Jackson (one yard) added receiving touchdowns.
Jack Milas started for Ball State (4-7, 3-4 MAC) before leaving in the third quarter with a wrist injury. He was 11-of-17 for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Milas also scored a rushing touchdown.
Ozzie Mann replaced him – going 4-of-7 for 48 yards and a touchdown.
Jahwan Edwards rushed 19 times for 131 yards and a touchdown for Ball State.
Down 35-3 on a fumble recovery for touchdown with 12:45 remaining in the third quarter, things looked out of reach for Eastern.
The Eagles scored on each of the following three drives – started by a 10-yard pass from Bell to Russell followed by two field goals from Dylan Mulder (25 yards and 36 yards, respectively).
EMU went on to score 27 points in the second half.
Creighton spoke after the game about the decision to kick the field goals. Mulder’s first of the third quarter was from the 8-yard line and the second was from the 19 – both in the red zone.
“We needed to score and keep momentum going,” Creighton said. “That’s why we decided to do that. If you want to get the first down and score, you do it on third down. On fourth down, kick the field goal, get the points, kick off [and] try to get the stop and give ourselves a chance to win.”
Creighton said that it isn’t enough to finish games anymore and that his team needs to take that next step and actively try to win games.
“We also declared that it is no longer something we are going to be receiving compliments for by playing hard,” he said. “Playing hard the entire game whether we’re up or down is the standard – the absolute standard – and if that’s the step we’ve taken this year, I would have liked to have taken more of a step. We now need to take another step and not talk about how we didn’t give up and how we played hard to the end.”
The Eagles will wrap up the regular season Friday afternoon with a home matchup against the University of Toledo.
Eastern took on Toledo on Nov. 2, 2013 – losing 55-16 in Ron English’s final game as coach.
Brogan Roback was 11-of-22 for 209 yards and two touchdowns.
Toledo played Bowling Green Wednesday, winning 27-20.
Kickoff for Friday’s game is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanSports