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2016 Eastern Michigan Football Season in Review

The Eagles put in a heck of a season.

Eastern Michigan’s defense certainly improved in 2016
Kenneth Bailey

Back in August I wrote a preview for the season. In that article I threw out some numbers and I will throw out those numbers again. They were 29, 316, 3 and 11. Until yesterday, it was 29 years since Eastern Michigan played in a bowl game. That is a long time between bowls and hopefully the next one wont take so long. Eastern Michigan gave up an average of 316 rushing yards per game in 2015. When Chris Creighton started the season, he had three wins at Eastern Michigan. Finally, it was 11 years since the last time Eastern Michigan had a winning season.

I was going to do a game by game recap of the season but instead I decided to do a summary of the season that was. In my preview, I made the bold prediction that Eastern Michigan would finish the season at 6 and 6. Sadly, it turns out that I was wrong as Eastern Michigan finished 7-6 (counting the bowl loss). I really had no basis for that prediction other than a hunch.

Given that Eastern Michigan went from 1 win in 2015 to 7 wins in 2016, there was definitely some improvement. But how much did they improve? In 2015, the Eagles gave up 42 points per game while scoring 25 of their own. This year, the Eagles averaged 29 points per game and that’s what they gave up to their opponents. Rushing defense was a area of significant improvement. This year they cut that number in half to only allowing 167 yards per game. This year’s defense significantly improved in the turnover department by going from 12 total turnovers last year to 24 this year. The offensive line allowed 11 fewer sacks this year. I am hoping this translates to further success next year.

Eastern Michigan’s Impact Players

And to think, he’s only a junior.
Kenneth Bailey

Despite not starting at the beginning of the season, Brogan Roback took the reigns during the Bowling Green game and never looked back. He showed a great deal of poise at quarterback and averaged 269 passing yards per game. He was roughly 58% accurate. Most importantly, he was clutch in the Wyoming and Central Michigan games. Both games looked lost but he came up big.

Not particularly flashy, but effective.
Kenneth Bailey

With Shaq Vann getting injured in the second game of the season, Eastern Michigan had to rely on pretty much unproven running backs. None of put up particularly gaudy numbers but Ian Eriksen stands out in that bunch. He ended the season averaging 70 yards per game. Maybe with some experience, he will improve upon that.

In a season of big catches...this was probably Sergio’s biggest
Kenneth Bailey
A huge catch for Aristilde
Kenneth Bailey

It was a little tougher to pick a receiver, so I’ll throw out two names. At the top of my list is Sergio Bailey. He was almost a nice pair of sure hands and seemed to be there when Eastern Michigan needed a big catch. A latecomer to the season was Dieuly Aristilde. He was a redshirt freshman this season but made a nice mark to the tune of 82 yards per game. Both players can only get better next season. I should give props to Eastern’s Tight Ends as well.

Probably my favorite picture from the season.
Kenneth Bailey

Given that it was the defense that showed the biggest improvement between last year and this year, I would have to say probably the biggest impact was from Pat O’Connor. He spent 2015 recovering from an injury. If he returned to health, there was no question that he would make an impact. With his many sacks and tackles for loss, his presence was felt. Sadly, he will be missed next season as he is graduating. I wish him the best of luck.

Paul Fricano nails another one
Kenneth Bailey

And we can’t forget the kicker, Paul Fricano. He made some pretty clutch field goals but he was pretty much automatic on extra points.

I’ve been a fan of Eastern Michigan for a long time now. Given that history, I kept waiting for the moment when the other shoe would drop. It seems like in year’s past, the team would reach a certain point and quit. That didn’t happen this year and they managed to turn a couple of games that would have been loses last year into wins this year. Hopefully they can improve upon that next year. I don’t think we’ll be talking about Eastern in a New Years Six Bowl but who knows.