Five things to take away from Eastern Michigan’s 38-7 loss to Central Michigan.
Bell banged up
Reggie Bell started at quarterback for Eastern – but left after the team’s first drive with a head injury.
The redshirt freshman did not throw a pass, but rushed two times for 12 yards.
Rob Bolden replaced Bell – his first game action since Oct. 11 against the University at Buffalo. He was 7-of-19 for 76 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Bolden was sacked three times in a game that got out of hand very quickly. I saw from him the same lack of hustle and intensity that got him benched against Buffalo – leading to Bell’s career day.
Eastern’s second bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for Bell. He’ll be checked out this week and I don’t expect a decision on his status for the game against Western in two weeks to come right away.
Running in place
Without Bell – who one could argue is this team’s best offensive player – the EMU run game was non-existent. As a team, the Eagles rushed 29 times for 21 yards.
Bolden rushed 13 times for minus-five yards. Ryan Brumfield, Darius Jackson and Bronson Hill - the three running backs who are talented as EMU coach Chris Creighton has called them – combined to rush 13 times for 28 yards.
Creighton said the problem facing the run game was bad reads, but he would not make excuses for them.
Western Michigan – Eastern’s opponent in two weeks – allowed 87 rushing yards in its 42-10 win over Miami University-Ohio Saturday.
The Broncos have allowed 169.9 yards rushing per game this season – including Saturday. While Miami did not have a great day on the ground, there is a lot to be said about having a week off between conference games.
I still expect the EMU backs to bounce back against WMU. Hill and Brumfield each rushed for over 100 yards last November in Eastern’s 35-32 overtime win – including Brumfield’s game-winner.
The Eagles blocked a punt late in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of hand. Had it not been for some Benny Hill-esque play in the immediate aftermath, Eastern would have had a touchdown on special teams.
That set up Bolden’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Jackson – ruining CMU’s bid for a shutout.
In a game where almost nothing went right – even on the block – the special teams unit made the biggest impact.
Owen Dubiel – named this week to the list of nominees for the Ray Guy Award – had a rough day on the field, but you can blame the wind for that.
It looked to me as though he was trying to place his punts low, so the wind wouldn’t cause more problems. As a result, Dubiel made more problems than he seemed to try to avoid.
That said, I wouldn’t mind if he doesn’t see much time on the field against Western.
Cotton had a good day against CMU. He made eight tackles (five solo), 0.5 tackles for loss and recovered a fumble which he returned 15 yards. Cotton also had an interception – but it was wiped out by a flag.
On a defense that allowed 501 total yards, there aren’t many positives. While Kevin Johnson (14 tackles) and Jason Beck (12 tackles) highlighted a secondary that had nothing good to talk about besides those two – Cotton had arguably the most impactful individual performance Saturday.
Breaking down old walls
The Eagles lost 10 games last season and after most of them, I could see that they had not only lost the game, but they were defeated. Such was the signature of the Ron English Era. Creighton is different – and I said this after the loss to the University of Akron. While the team lost big this week – and has lost big at other points this season – they didn’t give up in the third quarter.
I said it earlier and I’ll say it again – the week off will help this team. While it might not make a huge difference against Western – a team that will be taking a 6-2 record into its own bye week next week – I think the Eagles will at least make a statement in two weeks.
We’ll find out what that statement is.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho