Commentary: EMU faces biggest opponent yet

This is the big one for the Eastern Michigan University football team.

All 11 games have come down to this matchup against perhaps the biggest foe yet: Northern Illinois University. With a little bit of bad luck for Toledo and a win against Northern Illinois, Eastern has a chance at moving up in the division standings and might claim the Mid-American Conference West division.

This year has already been somewhat historic for EMU (6-5, 4-3 MAC). This team has accomplished so much such as: the first six-win season since 1995, winning the Michigan MAC trophy for the first time since 2008 and a chance to be bowl eligible. A win against a tough opponent like Northern Illinois (8-3, 6-1 MAC) in DeKalb, Ill. would be the icing on the cake for this 2011 campaign.

On Offense:

Junior quarterback Alex Gillett has had the golden arm lately. Gillett threw for 430 yards and eight passing touchdowns and a completion percent of 59.4 to five different receivers in the two weeks before Saturday’s loss to Kent State, where he had just 84 yards passing and no touchdowns.

With the ball going to different receivers, it will leave the opposing defense guessing on who they should cover. This shows the passing game has come alive and a combination with the running game has allowed EMU to score some points.

The rushing offense for EMU moved up to 13th in the country thanks to the trio of Dominique Sherrer, Javonti Greene and Dominique White. Gillett and Greene have more than 600 rushing yards for this season and could be relied upon to move the ball. If those players can get the ball going, they will have no trouble moving up the field and scoring some points.

On Defense:

This opponent will probably be the toughest one for the EMU defense. Northern Illinois comes in with a team ranked seventh nationally, second in the MAC in total offense, thanks to senior quarterback Chandler Harnish.

Harnish is the seventh best player in the country in total offense due to various weapons at his disposal, such as running back Jasmin Hopkins and receivers Nathan Palmer and Martel Moore. Both Palmer and Moore have five receiving touchdowns apiece and more than 400 receiving yards.

On special teams, some special attention must be paid to freshman kick returner Tommylee Smith, who brought back two kickoffs for touchdowns in the 63-60 victory against Toledo.

Senior defensive lineman Brad Ohrman was named the MAC West defensive player of the week after his performance against Buffalo where he recorded a sack for a 13-yard loss and eight tackles. This is the first award in Ohrman’s career.

The NIU offense will have to look out for him along with Willie Williams, the team leader in total tackles (80). For Eastern Michigan to get out of DeKalb with a win the defense has to take away any available options for Harnish and it can’t allow Harnish to run or throw. Both Ohrman and Williams have to lead the defense in order for Eastern to come away with a victory.

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