The Eastern Michigan University football team goes to Toledo on Saturday for a 3 p.m. game, looking to run its record to 4-2 and 2-0 in the Mid-American Conference.
The Rockets, however, are coming off a big road victory against Temple and are looking to stop the Eagles program that is off to their best start in years.
For the Eagles to defeat the Rockets (2-3,1-0 MAC) they have to find a balance within their offense.
Dominique Sherrer and Javonti Greene are questionable to play on Saturday due to injuries suffered earlier in
the season. The Eagles need a capable backup to help Dominique White, who had 168 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns in last week’s victory against Akron.
The passing game has struggled all season and has resulted with EMU rarely throwing. Alex Gillett completed a pass to wide receiver Donald Scott last week against the Zips for 48 yards, which was the longest pass through five games this season. Gillett only had three more completions on eight other attempts the rest of the game, partly due to the performance given by White in the absence of Sherrer and Greene.
Tight end Garrett Hoskins is the leading receiver for the Eagles with nine catches for 127 yards and one touchdown. The tight end position is known as a security blanket for the quarterback, so the play calling can be aggressive with passing plays, but Gillett will need to look for Hoskins to set up deeper routes.
The passing game will need to be effective because the Rockets have played well enough to have a better record than 2-3. Toledo defeated New Hampshire 58-22 in its opener and last week defeated the Temple Owls 36-13. Its losses have been fairly close, with road losses at Ohio State on a last-minute touchdown to lose 27-22 in Columbus, and a loss in overtime 33-30 at Syracuse. Toledo’s other loss was to Boise State, 40-15.
Defensively, the Eagles will need to be as aggressive as the offense needs it to be. If the offense is ineffective, the defense will need to step up to put less pressure on the offense to score. Toledo is ranked 42nd in the nation out of 120 teams for passing yards per game and is mediocre at running, as it is ranked 66th.
The pass rushers will need to get after quarterback Austin Danton, who started the last couple of weeks for injured Terrence Owens. Danton has been effective, completing 65 percent of his passes for 739 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception.
As far as running for the Rockets, their leading rusher is Adonis Thomas with 38 carries. The Rocket quarterbacks have just as many carries each, so the pass rush needs to be aggressive but also have the discipline to contain if the quarterbacks decides to run.
The Eagles are 0-2 on the road. Granted, the only road games have been against Big Ten opponents Michigan and Penn State, but if the program wishes to make a bowl game, they’re going to need to step up. The task might be tougher than expected because the opening victories against Howard and Alabama State will only count as half a win each toward decisions on bowl games because they are in the Football Championship Subdivision.
With only three more home games left, EMU needs to win on the road.
Balance on offense and aggressive discipline on defense are the keys for Eastern in Saturday’s game.
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