The Eastern Michigan football team continued its struggles with a 51-7 loss to Western Michigan Saturday in Kalamazoo.
This was EMU’s first loss to Western since Nov. 13, 2010.
“We got beat and we got beat soundly,” EMU coach Chris Creighton said. “It’s a tough one to swallow because we really were up and ready to play this game.”
WMU coach P.J. Fleck – in his second season with the Broncos – said he understands the challenges Creighton faces in his first year turning around a struggling program.
“I know Chris Creighton – I have a lot of respect for him,” he said. “We’re both doing similar things. He’s done it before so I think he’s got a little more experience but he’s a heck of a football coach and a heck of a person.”
Western finished with a 1-11 record in 2013.
Reggie Bell returned to action for the Eagles (2-8, 1-5 Mid-American Conference). He completed 14-of-22 passes for a career-high 283 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Bell also rushed 19 times for 33 yards and lost a fumble late in the fourth quarter.
Bell’s previous career-high was 144 on Oct. 11 against Buffalo.
“It’s his first year of playing college football and he’s learning every single snap,” Creighton said. “He’s got really good ability but we still have to bring him along as a quarterback. 14-of-22 is pretty good. Two interceptions didn’t need to happen and his fumble there certainly didn’t need to happen. He played well, but he’s capable of that. For us it’s not surprising or eye-opening or anything like that – he’s capable of having big games.”
Fleck said he thinks Bell will be a player to watch.
“He’s going to make a lot of people frustrated in this conference for a very long time,” Fleck said.
Bronson Hill carried eight times for 29 yards. He also caught a 76-yard screen pass for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Tyreese Russell led the Eagles in receiving with four catches for 98 yards – a career-high.
Zach Terrell was 17-of-19 for 357 yards and four touchdowns for the Broncos (7-3, 5-1 MAC). He also rushed six times for 41 yards and a score.
Cam Thomas entered the game for Western in the third quarter. He completed one pass for three yards.
Jarvion Franklin had five carries for 26 yards before leaving with an undisclosed leg injury before halftime.
Dareyon Chance replaced him and rushed for 53 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown.
Corey Davis was Western’s leading receiver. He caught four passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. Daniel Braverman added two touchdown catches while Franklin made one.
Darius Phillips opened the game with a 93-yard touchdown on the kickoff for WMU.
With 7:58 left in the first quarter, Terrell found Davis for the first of his four first half passing touchdowns – a 54-yard strike capping a seven play, 96 yard drive that took 3:52 off the clock.
On Western’s next drive, Terrell threw a 11-yard touchdown pass to Braverman with 4:56 left in the quarter. It was the second play of a 69 yard scoring drive that only lasted 33 seconds.
Following an interception from Bell, the Broncos marched 77 yards in three plays, ending with a 54-yard screen pass from Terrell to Franklin – putting the Broncos ahead 21-0.
With 12:13 left in the second quarter, Terrell scored on the 1-yard keeper – capping a six play, 58 yard drive in 2:40.
Chance added a one-yard touchdown run before Terrell connected with Braverman again with 43 seconds remaining in the half.
Andrew Haldeman added to the Western lead with a 31-yard field goal with 5:39 left in the third quarter. The kick capped a 13-play, 55 yard drive that took 6:18 off the clock.
Eastern got on the board with 4:03 left in the third quarter. Bell found Bronson Hill on a screen pass – a 76-yard touchdown.
The play was Eastern’s longest of the season – capping a five play, 77 yard drive.
Eastern nearly scored with 3:39 remaining in the game, but Bell fumbled at the 2-yard line. Western recovered the fumble.
Creighton spoke about his disappointment after the game.
“We’re better than what we played,” he said. “That’s my responsibility as coach – to get us to play to our potential.”
The Eagles travel to Muncie, Ind. to take on the Ball State University Cardinals next Saturday.
Ball State lost to the University of Massachusetts, 24-10 Wednesday night.
The two teams met on Sept. 21, 2013 – EMU’s homecoming game last season.
Ball State won 51-20.
Tyler Benz started for the Eagles. He was 20-of-32 for 212 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Ryan Brumfield and Darius Jackson scored rushing touchdowns for the Eagles.
Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho