It’s become a tradition for Eastern Michigan University to close out the regular season with a Friday Mid-American Conference game, as EMU has been doing so since 2006. This year the Eagles will venture to Mt. Pleasant, Mich. and face rival Central Michigan University for a 1p.m. kickoff.
John Bon’ Back Home:
John Bonamego was hired by CMU in February of 2015, which he stated was his dream job and was happy to return to where he spent his college days in the mid 1980’s. Through his first season at CMU he’s compiled a 6-5 overall record with a 5-2 record in the MAC.
Although CMU is batting just over .500, the Chips have had to face some tough competition each week, having losses handed to them by Oklahoma State and Michigan State; two teams in the Top 10, and have been in the playoff discussion. Other losses coming to nationally ranked Toledo, rival Western Michigan and one that got away in overtime, Syracuse.
Northern Illinois is atop the MAC West at 6-1, with that only conference loss coming against the Chippewas back in week 5 of the season, 29-19.
Going into the final game of the regular season, Central Michigan has six wins, which makes them bowl eligible, but does not guarantee them a spot in a bowl. They are in need of a win against the Eagles to improve their resume and keep the faith alive for a bowl bid.
Ring the Bell and Rejoice:
John Bonamego has fought an even bigger challenge this season, but not on the football field. In June, just four months after being hired by CMU, he was diagnosed with tonsil cancer. Throughout the season, Bonamego went back and forth between Mt. Pleasant and Ann Arbor for hospital visits at the University of Michigan.
In August, a couple weeks before the season kicked off, Bonamego had finished his last round of radiation treatment and got to ring the victory bell at the hospital signifying the accomplishment. Then on Saturday, Nov. 21 Bonamego announced he was cancer free.
“I wrote him earlier in the year,” said EMU coach Chris Creighton. “Have not talked to him since that news. But I look forward to talking to him [this Friday] and rejoicing with him about some awesome news.”
Contain (Cooper) Rush:
Junior quarterback Cooper Rush leads the Chippewas offense and could be considered the heart and soul of the team. Throughout the season, Rush has showcased his ability to be one of the most prolific players in conference.
Rush has thrown for 3,312-yards and 23 touchdowns, averaging just over 300-yards per game. His favorite target is wide receiver Jesse Kroll, who’s had 57-receptions for 835-yards this season. Rush has completion percentage is 67.5 percent, eleventh best in the nation, just one spot behind Matt Johnson of Bowling Green, and one spot ahead of Zach Terrell at Western Michigan.
The Chippewas offensive line has been a shaky spot in many games this year. Fortunately for them, Rush has the ability to scramble and throw a good ball on the run, but he has been sacked 24 times this season amounting to 186-yards lost. CMU hasn’t run the ball as well as they have in years past, but have used multiple running backs in each and every game.
EMU is coming off of a bye week and had the chance to fully evaluate themselves as a team and had an extra week to prepare for Central Michigan.
“Last week you have the opportunity to go out and practice some things that maybe you’re just kind of wondering,” said EMU defensive coordinator Brad McCaslin. “[Could] this be something we try to do; [try] to work on?”
Chips field Veteran Defense:
Central Michigan’s defense will look to slow down a fast paced EMU offense with the help of senior linebackers Malik Fountain and Tim Hamilton. The two have been the biggest run stoppers for CMU this season and will need to be able and contain the threat of Darius Jackson and Shaq Vann in EMU’s backfield.
“[We’re going to] go compete our butts off on Friday against the number one defense in the MAC,” said Creighton.
As a team the Chips have recorded 11-sacks this season, five of those sacks coming from pass rushers like Blake Serpa and Tyree Waller combined.
With the extra week to prepare for Central Michigan, EMU was able to have extra time looking over possible strategies they could experiment with.
“You have a lot of time to watch film, and you have some ideas that kind of pop in your head as you think about it,” said EMU offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer. But then you get to [Sunday] and [Monday] and you just really got to focus on, ‘okay what do we do best, and how can we attack them, and how can we get our guys in the right position.’ We’re going [there] to win a football game.”
Last Chance to Shine:
It’s the final game of the season for the Eastern Michigan Eagles and they look to upset the in-state rivals from Mt. Pleasant. EMU is 1-10 on the season, and this is the Eagles last shot at winning a game in 2015.
“It’s a long wait, before we get to coach and play again,” said Creighton. “In a rivalry game, I think you see it all levels all the time, it brings out something in people. So you often get people playing at a higher level.”
What can we expect to see out of EMU in this game?
“We’re not recreating the wheel, we’re still going after playing our best football,” said Creighton. “We’re still putting plans together to attack Central and to do what we can do best. We’ve had stretches where we’ve played pretty well, if we can do that together and do that consistently we’re going to be okay.”