After dismantling the Akron Zips, Eastern Michigan heads to Northern Illinois to battle with the Huskies on Tuesday night, Nov. 19. The game will be broadcasted live on ESPN2, EMU’s first appearance on the station since its 2011 game against Penn State. The game will be the final road game of the season for EMU.
The Eagles are 5-5, needing one win in its final two games to reach bowl eligibility. At just 2-4 in the MAC and 2-3 in their last five games, Eastern Michigan has a tall task at hand while playing the Huskies, who are 3-3 in the MAC.
“Our guys knew that our backs were against the wall,” Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton said. “Our guys are unbreakable. In terms of being defeated or being broken, that’s just not who we are. We’ve had some six-day weeks. I've had some five-day weeks here. You do have to adjust.”
Having an extra day of preparation for Northern Illinois could prove to be beneficial for Eastern Michigan, but coach Creighton downplayed the potential disadvantage for Northern Illinois: “Their guys are used to that kind of thing,” he said. “Once you’ve been in the MAC, you know that is how it rolls. NIU will be ready next Tuesday night.”
Eastern Michigan allows just under 200 rushing yards, which can present an issue for the Eagles defense against Tre Harbison. Harbison, who is averaging 4.5 yards per carry on the season, rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown in Northern Illinois’ 31-28 victory over Toledo last week. With injuries on the defensive line, the Eagles know they will have their work cut out for them against Harbison.
“We’ve been banged up for sure,” Creighton said about his front four. “We are banged up. Overall, our team has been pretty healthy. But on the defensive line, it’s been a tough year. But guys step up and step in.”
Mike Glass III threw for 246 yards against Akron. But he will have a chance to get back to the EMU average of 275 passing yards per game against the Huskies. The Huskies defensive unit allowed the University of Toledo’s Eli Peters to throw for 300 yards, including completions to eight different receivers in their most recent game.
Glass hasn’t thrown a touchdown since Oct. 26 against the University of Toledo, but the Eagles offense has not missed a beat. The running game has picked up its numbers where the passing game has fallen off. Senior running back Shaq Vann, who rushed for 142 yards and four touchdowns in his most recent game, will have a chance to repeat his dynamic performance as Northern Illinois allows 178 rush yards per game to opposing offenses.
Vann and the Eagles running back room have stepped up their game, more than doubling their total touchdown number for the total season in just the past two games. Jairus Grissom, Willie Parker and Breck Turner combined for 30 yards and one touchdown on three carries.
Northern Illinois has opened as a 4.5-point favorite over the Eagles.