The Eastern Michigan University football team completed a 13-point comeback and won their homecoming matchup against the University of Massachusetts, 20-13, on Saturday, Oct. 1.
The comeback was the first time EMU was able to win despite a double-digit deficit at halftime in the Chris Creighton era. The Eagles’ come-from-behind win over the Minutemen was also the first time the team has won its homecoming in consecutive years since 2006 and 2007.
The 94th homecoming game was a tale of two halves for the Eagles on Saturday afternoon. The UMass Minutemen were in complete control of the first half of the contest, outscoring EMU 10-0 and forcing two turnovers, including a fumble on the Eagles’ opening drive.
UMass quarterback Gino Campiotti scored the Minutemen’s only touchdown of the game a little more than five minutes into the first quarter on a 14-yard scramble. The remainder of the Minutemen’s points would come from field goals, one with 4:05 left on the clock in the second quarter and another to start the third quarter on the team’s opening drive of the second half, stretching the UMass lead to thirteen.
On the ensuing possession, the Eagles finally found a rhythm on offense and put together an 11-play, 75-yard drive, the team’s longest drive of the outing, that was capped by an eight yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Austin Smith to junior receiver Darius Lassiter.
Saturday’s game marked Smith’s second career start under center while senior Taylor Powell remained on the sidelines with a shoulder injury sustained in the win against Arizona State.
EMU would build on the momentum gained during the long scoring drive and convert their next two out of three possessions into touchdowns. Eagles quarterback Smith would again find the end zone, this time connecting with senior wideout Tanner Knue on a 39-yard go-ahead touchdown pass with twelve seconds left on the clock in the third quarter.
Knue’s 5 touchdown grabs this season are tied for first in the Middle American Conference, and the receiver’s 363 yards are fifth best in the MAC.
The Eagles would pad their lead on the next opportunity they received with a clock-eating, nine-play, 65-yard drive that was finished off by an eight yard touchdown run from junior running back Darius Boone Jr. to give EMU a 20-13 lead that would not be surrendered.
Senior running back Samson Evans was again a workhorse for EMU, this time rushing for 122 yards on 16 attempts, making it the second time the Eagle rusher has gone above the century mark this season. Evans’ 540 yards on the ground thus far in 2022, leads the MAC and is tenth in the NCAA Division 1 of FBS.
EMU’s defense played an instrumental role in the comeback effort as well. After surrendering a field goal to start the second half, the Eagle's Defense forced three straight three-and-outs while the offense did their part in regards to scoring. Junior defensive back Mark Lee Jr. caught his first career interception just moments after EMU had scored the team's third and final touchdown. The defense ended their day by forcing a turnover on downs that set up the offense to take victory formation and end the game.
As a unit the EMU defense had its best showing of the year, only allowing UMass 255 total yards of offense and amassing 7 tackles for loss, 7 quarterback hurries, and 5 pass breakups, all season highs. Junior linebacker Chase Kline led the Eagles in tackles individually with 12 on the day and is fourth in the MAC with 47 tackles on the season.
Next up, the Eagles will resume conference play next and head west to Kalamazoo on Saturday, Oct. 8. to compete in an in-state rivalry matchup against the Western Michigan University Broncos. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. and will be streamed nationally on the CBS Sports Network.
For more information on the Eastern Michigan University football team, you can visit EMUEagles.com.