After losing fifth-year senior and four-year starter Andy Schmitt to a season-ending knee injury, Eastern Michigan University plans to use two quarterbacks against Temple.
Enter junior Kyle McMahon and freshman Alex Gillett, both of whom will play Saturday, coach Ron English said. As of Tuesday, neither has been given the starting job, though McMahon took a majority of the first-team snaps at that day’s practice.
English wouldn’t speculate about which quarterback would play more. He would make that decision, along with offensive coordinator Ken Karcher, based on performance in later practices and during the game.
“It’ll be interesting to see what happens,” he said. “I don’t think we have a true two-quarterback system. It’ll be fun to continue to watch them. I think based on what we’re asking them to do, they seem fine.”
Gillett stepped in for the injured Schmitt in the fourth quarter against Michigan on Sept. 19. He was 2-of-4 passing for 9 yards and had six rushes for 36 yards.
McMahon has considerably more experience than Gillett. He’s backed up Schmitt, who’s been previously injured, although not of the season-ending magnitude. He said the mentality of a good backup quarterback is to be disciplined enough to be ready when called upon.
“It’s definitely helpful that I’ve got some game experience,” said McMahon, who added he’ll still look to the captain Schmitt for advice. “Those just help me in this first game, and it’ll continue to help me throughout the rest of the year.”
He’s played in 12 games, four of which he started, and has thrown for 1,118 yards, five touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He’s been effective rushing, too, with 273 yards and two touchdowns.
McMahon’s most recent start, and the last time he played, was against Northern Illinois University in last season’s 37-0 homecoming loss. He had 32 rushing yards and was 0-of-2 passing with an interception. English said a bright spot, if there is one to losing a starting quarterback, was that the injury came before a bye week, which gave his staff and new quarterbacks more time to prepare.
There was a possibility of McMahon being redshirted this season to give him two years as the starting quarterback. The team could’ve done so as long as he hadn’t played, but that plan is out of the question with Schmitt’s injury.
EMU has switched its offense from the spread, under former coach Jeff Genyk, to a pro-style. The team has run more this season, but English said the change of quarterbacks doesn’t mean its sole focus is on the running game.
English said his team has been “resilient” and “fine psychologically” in trying to overcome such an injury.
“I think you have to address it,” he said. “I think these kids are used to it because I think Andy’s been hurt before, and Kyle has played.”
English compared the situation to that of Pro Bowl NFL quarterback Tom Brady, who was injured in the New England Patriots’ first game of 2008. He said they still went out and played because that’s what football teams have to do.
“I love Andy, don’t misconstrue what I’m saying,” English said. “I’m just saying you have to get your team ready to go.”
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