The Eastern Michigan University football team opened up the 2013 campaign with a 34-24 victory over Howard University. The victory for the Eagles (1-0) is the second time in the last three seasons they opened the season with a victory over the Bison (0-1).
The first half started off slow, as each team drove the ball to midfield only to have the drives stall. There was no score until the start of the second quarter when redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Benz found junior tight end Tyreese Russell for an 18 yard touchdown pass to cap off a 77-yard drive to give the Eagles their first lead of the season.
Two Howard drives later, a 65 yard touchdown run by sophomore running back William Parker tied up the score, and then took the lead on their next possession with a 43-yard field goal from sophomore kicker John Fleck.
The Eagles followed that with a touchdown drive of their own, capped by a 33-yard touchdown pass from Benz to junior wide receiver Demarius Reed. The extra point was blocked and the Eagles went into halftime with a 13-10 lead.
The start of the second half was frustrating to say the least. Howard opened up the half with an 80-yard drive that ended with a 32-yard catch and run by sophomore wide receiver Jonathan Booker for the score and the recapture of the lead. The play was an eight-yard out route, but a couple missed tackles opened up the long run afterwards.
Missed tackles continued to be a problem, as two drives later, Howard junior quarterback Greg McGhee exploded on a keeper for 75 yards up the middle down to the EMU two-yard line. The Eagles came up with a great goal-line stand, but as the fourth down play from Howard failed, a roughing the passer penalty was called on senior defensive back Donald Coleman to give the Bison a new set of downs. The Bison scored on the ensuing play, giving them an 11-point lead with 4:20 left in the third quarter.
“The defense had a couple problems in the third, but they played tough to end the game.” head coach Ron English said. “There were missed tackles on a few plays, but it was a great finish.”
The Eagles came out on the next drive focused. An eight play drive gained 73 yards and was completed with running off-tackle for a two yard score to bring the Eagles within four points.
An interception by linebacker Sean Kurtz and runback to the Howard 15 yard line allowed EMU to regain the lead on another touchdown from junior running back Bronson Hill.
Following a Howard punt, the Eagles sealed the deal with an 18-yard touchdown run from sophomore running back Darius Jackson, as he carried a Howard defender for a couple yards en route to the end zone. The defense remained strong to complete the victory.
“I have great respect for Howard because they played extremely well in this game.” English said. “They played a wonderful game and kept it close. It was just a very respectable game from them.”
The Eagles travel to University Park, Pa. to face Penn State at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 7. Kick-off is at noon on Saturday and can be seen on the Big Ten Network and on radio on WEMU 89.1 FM.
Follow Thomas Bieszk on Twitter @TommyBeeswax.