Eagles beat Falcons 34-31 on Senior Night

  After a what if season that was full of ups and downs, Eastern Michigan's (5-7, 3-5) 2017 season ended with a 34-31 win against the Falcons from Bowling Green State University (2-10, 2-6) Tuesday Nov. 21 at Rynearson Stadium. 

It also marked the end of the 2017 senior class. All twenty seniors were honored before kickoff, including Jason Beck, Sergio Bailey, and Brogan Roback -- who will graduate in December as the most decorated quarterback in EMU school history as the all-time leader in touchdown passes (57) and total offense (8,876). The Eagles totaled 12 wins in two seasons, marking their best two -year stretch since winning 13 in 1988-89. 

Roback was lost to injury near the close of the first quarter. Thus beginning the era of freshman Isaac Stiebeling. He was solid at what he was asked to do which was manage the game and limit turnovers. Stiebeling completed eight passes for 49 yards, and added 48 yards on the ground. 

"The coaches all year and starting the week were like 'you got to be prepared to play every single week," Stiebeling said. "You never know what's going to happen and it's the worst that Brogan had to go down in a way like that, but ultimately I was prepared just like I did every single week." 

Juniors Shaq Vann and Ian Eriksen anchored the rushing load finishing with 117 and 104 rushing yards, respectively, as the Eagles out gained BGSU on the ground 266-209. Eriksen also scored three touchdowns, marking another career high for the Clarkston product. 

"Our twenty seniors, we had to send them out right tonight," Vann said post game. "Unfortunately, we couldn't get to a bowl game so this was our bowl game and we just had to go out right for the seniors. That's what we played for tonight." 

Defensively, EMU came through in the clutch moments. Sophomore Brody Hoying led the team with 10 tackles, two for loss and his fourth forced fumble and recovery of the season. The defense also held BGSU to only four successful third down conversions, a strong selling point headed into the 2018 season. Senior Juan Giraldo also added his first interception of the season in the first half. 

After six consecutive rushing plays, the offense took advantage of the Falcon defense honing in on the rushing attack with a screen pass to set up a first and goal on the BGSU 6-yard line. It was on the tenth play of that scoring drive, Eriksen pounded it in from one yard out to give the Eagles a 20-17 lead and some momentum going into halftime. 

The Falcons opened the second half with a couple of offensive penalties, one of which that negated a 32-yard touchdown run, BGSU then came up short on a 51-yard field goal attempt to give the Eagles the ball back on their own 34-yard line. 

"Even in the pregame meal, I just said tonight will be incredibly special, and the way that it can be special is the combination of realizing the moment," Eagles Head Coach Chris Creighton said. "Also coupled with the fact that we have to have a razor focus on doing our job." 

THE TAKEAWAY 

It was the ninth time that the Eagles had a contest decided by three points or less, a point in the favor of the team moving forward. The team was compelling and competitive all season and they were in every one of these football games all season long. With the win last Tuesday, EMU moved to 3-6 in games decided by just one possession. 

With Roback and the rest of the class graduating, it's going to be interesting watching this team going forward as there are some remarkable players returning on both sides of the ball. Since Creighton and the staff have been successful at changing the culture around here, I predict a 7-5 season for EMU in 2018, en route to their second bowl game in three seasons. 


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