High on late-game dramatics, it wasn’t a pretty win, but when a Mid-American Conference team goes on the road against a B1G team, any way you can get one, you take one. Such was the case with the Eastern Michigan Eagles on Saturday as they held on to defeat the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 16-13. It would extend Rutgers’ ten-game losing streak to eleven, the nation’s worst. It also marked the first time in 39 attempts that EMU defeated a Big Ten Conference team, their first P5 win in 58 attempts.
In a game that featured only one more combined points (13) than punts (12) in the first half, it appeared to be anything but a defensive struggle as EMU took their opening drive 73 yards in 8 plays to crack open a 7-0 lead. EMU and Rutgers would trade field goals amidst the punt-fest to hold a 10-3 halftime lead, a lead EMU would hold until just over six minutes remained in the third quarter.
That feat, in and of itself, on the road against a B1G team, is an accomplishment and speaks volumes to the quality of football, coaching, and execution happening in Ypsilanti. The Eagles weren’t ready for moral victories.
Rutgers would break EMU’s lead and take a 13-10 lead on a Gus Edwards 23-yard touchdown scamper. In true EMU fashion recently, the Eagles would answer with two consecutive field goal producing drives to reclaim a 16-13 lead with just over ten minutes to go. After trading punts, EMU’s Brody Hoying would intercept a Kyle Bolin pass with a 71-yard return setting up the final EMU drive on the Rutgers 5-yard line.
A game that lacked in dramatics quickly went into overdrive in the Garden State as Rutgers blocked an EMU 31-yard field goal with 1:34 remaining to take possession, down three on their own 15. After 9 plays and 43 yards, Rutgers appeared to stall but would be prolonged with an EMU roughing the passer penalty with :36 seconds remaining that would move the Scarlet Knights to the 27-yard line making a tying field goal a near certainty. Rutgers would answer that boneheaded play with their own 15-yard penalty with :12 seconds remaining that would move the Scarlet Knights out of field goal range. An EMU sack sealed the win for the Eagles as time expired.
In a game high on slop and low on offense, EMU would finish with 374 total yards to Rutgers’ 326, and both teams combined for 18 penalties for 181 yards. That outpaced both teams’ rushing attacks (Rutgers: 128, EMU: 114). QB Brogan Roback would finish 19/36 for 260 yards and 1 TD, outpacing Kyle Bolin’s 17/37 for 198 yards and 2 INTs. Sergio Bailey would lead Eagles receivers with 107 yards on 5 catches. Shaq Vann would add 67 yards on the ground.
The win, while perhaps not program-defining given the quality of play or opponent, does move the Eagles to 2-0 and should remove any doubt about whether or not Creighton and company are for real. The Eagles are in action again on September 23 when they open conference play hosting the Ohio Bobcats.