COLUMN: Eagles improving despite record
Every year, football fans around Ypsilanti ask if Eastern Michigan will have a better football season than the preceding one, only to find yet another disappointment from the team.
Eagle fans have been patient with the program, but have seen the team amass a 90-219-3 record since its last bowl appearance in 1987. And their patience is being tested yet again with the team off to a 1-4 start this season after three consecutive 2-10 finishes following the promising 6-6 campaign in 2011.
It is hard to say this, but there must be more patience with the program despite the current fun of losing.
After years of poor coaching and less that par talent, EMU appears to be on the right track under head coach Chris Creighton and his staff.
Despite the 3-14 record at EMU in his 17 games coached, Creighton has instilled a new attitude for the players.
After averaging a being outscored 40-15 in his first season at the helm, Creighton has led a young team to a 1-4 record that could easily be 3-2 after losing two games in which the team had a double-digit lead. Add into that the unexpectedly positive performance last Saturday at Southeastern Conference powerhouse Louisiana State University, and things start to look good.
While being 44-point underdogs in a hostile environment down in Baton Rouge, EMU was able to keep close, only being down one possession at 30-22 entering the fourth quarter. LSU was able to pull away with a 44-22 win, but being well-prepared to hang in there with a much more talented team for the majority of the game is a reflection of the coaching.
As mentioned before, the Eagles also have two close losses early in the season, in which the team held double-digit leads. The first being Sept. 5, in a 38-34 loss to Old Dominion University and the Sept. 19, 28-17 loss to Ball State.
Close losses with the inability to finish the game are a very common trait among inexperienced and less talented teams in football. The key for Creighton now will be to get the team to complete those games and put them in the win column.
And it is not just the coaching aspect in which Creighton helps the program, his recruits are showing signs of real contributions for the future.
The talent pool that former coach Ron English brought in and left after his termination hasn’t been very strong. Only a handful of carry-overs from English's recruiting are producing on the field, with running back Darius Jackson and quarterbacks Reggie Bell and Brogan Roback being among the few.
Creighton’s recruits, on the other hand, are showing early dividends and potential futures early on this season.
Redshirt freshman running back Shaq Vann has rushed for 277 yards on 43 attempts, a 6.3 yards per rush average, and scored has four touchdowns this season. True freshman wide receiver Eddie Daugherty has caught 14 passes for 263 yards with two touchdowns from beyond 45 yards, while junior college transfer tight ends Cody Tuttle and Sam Browning have combined for 19 catches for 376 yards and one touchdown in a growing passing game.
Also, despite being an English recruit, left tackle Cole Gardner has played well in his first season at the position, and Creighton deserves credit for finding him a niche to help a strong offensive line after little production as a tight end.
A coach in college sports needs to be given at least four or five years to work on a program, as by that time, all players in the program would have been recruited by that current coach. Success hinges on the players, and Creighton has inserted good players into the program in only his second year on the job and needs time to bring more in and develop them.
“We’ve been the farthest thing from perfect,” said Creighton at Monday's press conference. “But folks who have hung with us have seen that we’re improving.”
So, more patience is needed from the fans and alumni, as it appears that the athletic department of Eastern Michigan University has found the right man for the job. He just needs time to work and build the program.