For the third week in a row, the Eastern Michigan University football team (2-3, 0-2) lost by a single possession as they fell to Mid-American Conference West Division rival, the University of Toledo (4-1, 1-0) 20-15 Saturday Oct. 7.
The EMU defense held the Rockets to well under their 42 points-per-game average. It was also their lowest points scored since Sept. 2015. Sophomore defensive back Vince Calhoun recorded a career high 16 tackles, including 10 solo for the Eagles.
Offensively, Eastern totaled 326 yards of total offense, including 253 yards passing and 73 yards on the ground. Fifth-year senior and Ohio native Brogan Roback threw for 226 yards, completing 23 of 39 passes along with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He now has 43 for his EMU career, tying him with Walter Church for second all-time in school history.
“We’ve played five games now and it’s gone down to the last play for four out of five,” Eagles Head Coach Chris Creighton said in his postgame comments. “It’s my job to make sure we’re making the plays in the end to win. We did that at Rutgers, but we haven’t done it the last three weeks.”
Toledo received the first half kickoff, and proceeded to drive into EMU territory on a pair of long passes from UT Quarterback Logan Woodside. EMU’s defense stood up Toledo with a sack from Maxx Crosby. Toledo would settle for a 27-yard field goal to open the score 3-0.
EMU started their first possession on their own 43-yard line following a penalty. Roback connected with Sergio Bailey and Jaron Johnson for a pair of passes that moved the drive to the UT 33. A 50-yard FG attempt from Paulie Fricano sailed wide right, and the score would stay 3-0.
The Rockets would drive the length of the field only to botch the snap on the short FG attempt. Eastern put the three minutes left on the clock to good use with an 80 yard, 7 play scoring drive which culminated in Roback finding Johnnie Niupalau for an 11-yard touchdown pass to make it 6-3. A missed PAT attempt would keep the score the same.
After another EMU punt, a Crosby tackle for loss forced a third and long for the Rockets, but then a pass interference call kept the drive alive. Toledo would take advantage of this as, six plays later, UT punched in a one-yard run on fourth down to regain the lead, 10-6, which remained in the half.
After another EMU punt, the Rockets would get the ball with a short field, and it took one 18-yard run from Running back Art Thompkins to make the score 17-6 with 7:51 left in the third quarter.
EMU's offense got to work, starting with a 29-yard screen pass from Roback to junior Shaq Vann to set up EMU at the Toledo 39. Roback would manage the drive which led to a Fricano drilling a 46-yard FG attempt to close the deficit to 8 points, 17-9.
Toledo would hit back on their next possession, as they would get three straight first downs to advance the ball to the EMU 31. Back to back sacks from Brody Hoying and Luke Maclean would force a three and out. A short punt into the wind from Toledo gave the Eagles the ball from their own 28. EMU didn’t get far on the drive, and would give the ball back to Toledo to end the fourth.
With just under ten minutes remaining, Roback hit Antoine Porter in the back of the end zone to make the score 17-15. The subsequent two-point conversion was initially ruled good but overturned keeping the score 17-15.
After a UT punt, EMU’s offense got to the 32 after a late hit penalty after starting from their own 9-yard line. His third down pass would bounce off the hands of Porter into the arms of the UT secondary and give Toledo the ball with just a bit over five minutes left in regulation. After a goal line pass from UT was knocked down by EMU’s Jalen Phelps, the Rockets would settle for a 20 yard FG attempt to make it 20-15.
“Offensively, we just need to be better. It took too long for us to get into things that we liked and that we wanted to do,” Roback said. “We need to finish as an offensive group because defensively they’re doing everything they can.”
On the game’s last drive, the offense would get to midfield with just over a minute left on the clock. On fourth and long, Roback avoided the pressure to find Matthew Sexton for an 11-yard gain. Ian Eriksen would take the ball to the 32-yard line, but a holding call brought the ball back. The very next play, a UT defender jumped the route and picked off the pass to end the game 20-15.
“Our head coach and defensive coordinator had a good plan. We knew what they were going to run, and we were just waiting on it really,” Calhoun said. “Them against us. I’ll take my guys anytime.”
EMU wraps up their road trip in New York against the Army West Point Black Knights. Kickoff from Michie Stadium is set for high noon, Saturday, Oct. 14.