When programs are struggling and bring on a new head coach, one thing that fans always look for are reasons to stay optimistic heading into Year #2. Of course, at Eastern Michigan, that can get tough after a while. New offensive and defensive schemes, new field, new coaching staff, new promise, new vision, new plan, but the same heartache remains after another 2-win season from the Eagles.
But is there enough reason be at least a little bit more optimistic heading into next year? Let's talk about 2014 for a minute.
|8/30||vs. Morgan St.||W- 31-28|
|9/6||@ Florida||L- 0-65|
|9/13||@ Old Dominion||L 3-17|
|9/20||@ #11 Michigan State||L- 14-73|
|10/4||@ Akron||L 6-31|
|10/11||vs. Buffalo||W- 37-27|
|10/18||@ UMass||L- 14-36|
|10/25||vs. NIU||L- 17-28|
|11/1||vs. CMU||L- 7-38|
|11/15||vs. WMU||L- 7-51|
|11/22||@ Ball St||L- 30-45|
|11/28||vs. Toledo||L- 16-52|
New coach, new look
Chris Creighton was hired out of his old job at Drake University. Bringing over a whole new crew, Creighton (as well as everybody else in the Athletics department) helped change the face of what this program is about. A parking lot-themed gray field nicknamed The Factory, morphing players to be "E-Tough", knocking down walls before home games, all of these things were to help re-brand this football program, but all of the so-called "gimmicks" didn't make the biggest improvement with the W-L columns.
Both Kalen DeBoer and Brad McCaslin had coached up some successful offenses and defenses in their previous jobs, but they didn't have the results in their transition year into EMU. On offense, EMU easily had the worst season in the MAC, averaging 15.2 ppg and 289.6 ypg, both last in the conference. That really sucks because offense was supposed to be the strong suit for this team heading into the season. As for defense, well, same story. This defense allowed the most points per game (40.9) as well as the most yards per game (489.9) (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), which is never a good combo when it comes to trying to win football games, so I've heard.
For a while, it just seemed like Brogan Roback would be the starting quarterback for the Eagles in 2014. That was until Rob Bolden transferred from LSU (after he had transferred to there from Penn State, converting from quarterback to wide receiver) to EMU over the summer. Then it seemed like Bolden would be the new starter at this position, especially since it was his last year of eligibility, but that's when everybody was hit with the news of Reggie Bell named the starting quarterback for the home opener against Morgan State.
|Games||Comp-Att||Pass %||Pass Yards||Efficiency||TD||INT||Carries||Net Yards||TD|
A lot of things went down here. Roback got some early playing time, even though he didn't start the first game of the year. An injury kept him out on the sidelines really early, giving Rob Bolden an opportunity to do his thing, but things just weren't working there.
Eastern Michigan Unveils New Gray Turf at Rynearson Stadium, Represents Team's Work Ethic
Also known as "The Factory", the new gray turf is meant to represent that these Eagles are going to outwork their opponents on the field.
So Bell it is.
While all of the season stats are unimpressive, Bell had some damn good performances at times. Like when he took off for 202 rushing yards with 3 TDs against Buffalo: that was impressive. Or in the final three games of the season where he was 60-for-92 for 839 yards through the air: much better than he showed in all of the other games leading up that stretch.
...we'll save the debate on next year's starting quarterback for a later time.
Jeremy Rosenberg over at Eagle Totem was probably the first to really talk about this before anybody over here at the Belt or over at The Eastern Echo started asking about Bronson Hill's playing time. Early on, we started seeing more Ryan Brumfield and Darius Jackson and less of Bronson Hill. And not just carrying the ball, but wasn't even in on a ton of passing plays.
Last year, he accounted for 44 percent of the team's carries. He accounted for 18 percent this year.
Earning First Team All-MAC honors is more than what anybody else had expected as Pat O'Connor made a name for himself this year. He's only a junior, so fans should expect to see him hone the defensive line like he did this year. He led the MAC with 7.5 sacks and was fourth in the conference in tackles for loss with 14.
It's pronounced like eBay. Ibe led the team with 133 tackles (69 solo) last season. One hundred and thirty-three tackles. That's a big number. While O'Connor led the team in TFL, Ibe still managed to get 11 of those with a half a sack. In the switch to a 3-4 defense this year, Ibe was the only one to consistently do well. Hunter Matt saw less playing time as Anthony Zappone moved from outside to inside linebacker, which he did very well in. Ike Spearman hurt himself before the season, but the team-leading tackler from 2013 will be back next year, listed as a redshirt-junior. A lot was put on Ibe's shoulders this season, and he over-performed.
And then there's everybody else
That sounds harsh. But really, O'Connor and Ibe had really good years while the team, collectively, played miserably. Sure we've seen some good plays here and there but uh...
|Pass Yards||11th, 274.8 ypg|
|Pass TD||12th, 27|
|Rush Yards||Last, 223.9 ypg|
|Rush TD||12th, 34|
|Total Defense||Last, 498.8 ypg|
|Scoring Defense||Last, 40.9 ppg|
Say hasta la vista to Rob Bolden, Gary White Jr., Tyler Allen, Ryan Brumfield, Bronson Hill, Kevin Johnson, Campbell Allison, Lincoln Hansen, Robert McFadden, and Tyreese Russell. I might've missed a few guys. Sorry if I did.
Thanks for the memories, Rob.