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Five Things Learned: Western Michigan vs. Eastern Michigan

Eastern Michigan downs their other cross state rival, but what does it mean?

Coach Creighton should be pleased with the results from Saturday
Kenneth Bailey

Eastern Michigan defeated Western Michigan with another thrilling finish. This is their third win of a touchdown or less. Despite everything, they were still in the Ball State game. They were only blown out by Kentucky and Central Michigan. So what does all this mean?

  1. Eastern Michigan was able to establish their running game.
Shaq Vann during a run for his 97 yards for the game
Kenneth Bailey

I was surprised to hear Shaq Vann called out at first in the game. I didn’t realize that he was back and healthy. It seems like his running game started slow and then built up during the game. When all was said and done, he gained a net of 97 yards. That seemed to take some of the pressure off the Eastern Michigan passing game. It wasn’t a pretty running game because the results tapered off with the other backs, but it was a start. The running game has been by far EMU’s biggest weakness this season, and the fact they were able to depend on one in this game is encouraging, even if they had to get creative to make it happen.

2. Eastern Michigan may have a quarterback controversy.

Preston Hutchinson setting up to pass.
Kenneth Bailey

It didn’t register until I looked through the lens, but Mike Glass III was in sweat pants during warmups. I’m not sure what the injury was (and EMU did not discolose the details of it either, only saying he sustained it in practice,) but that meant Eastern Michigan had to go to the well just hours before kickoff. Apparently the well must be champagne because backup quarterback looked excellent.

Hutchinson was 31 for 36 for 357 yards. He threw for three touchdowns and ran for another. His performance against Western was enough to earn him MAC West Offensive Player of the Week honors. Not bad for someone who was told they woudl be starting that day.

The fact that he’s a sophomore bodes well for the future in Ypsilanti.

3. The Eastern Michigan defense was solid enough.

While the defense didn’t register any sacks, they did get 3 tackles for loss. They also broke up 4 passes. But the biggest play was when Jeff Hubbard sealed the deal with a last minute interception to pretty much any chance for Western Michigan to tie it. They were also able to hold John Wassink to 192 yards for the game.

4. Eastern Michigan still has a shot at bowl game.

The combined losses against Ball State and Central Michigan really hurt in the way of ompting for the MAC West crown, especially as the Road to Detroit now seems to run through Muncie, Indiana. Toledo, Buffalo and Nothern Illinois look mortal this year. Eastern Michigan should be able to beat Akron. Kent State may be the wild card. But I could easily see Eastern Michigan finishing 8 and 4 and that should be enough to get them to a bowl game. The MAC West would be a reach at this point, but with how unpredictable the conferene has been this year.... you never know.

5. Chris Creighton’s future is still in the air.

There is some degree of worry in Ypsilanti that Creighton may bolt.

He’s taken a program that was a perennial basement dweller and has brought them to bowl contention. The program has embraced Creighton’s eccentricity, seen most plainly with the grey playing field and the adoption of “The Factory” moniker for Rynearson Stadium. You can’t blame the program at all; Creighton has managed to bring them out of the basement and given the fans in Ypsilanti somtheing to cheer about.

I’m not sure he’s done enough to get a head coach job higher on the ladder, but he might have a shot at a coordinator spot at a more prestigious team. What will ultimately determine his fate is if outside athletic directors are willing to look past the win-loss record and take a risk on Creighton’s ability to tear something to the bare bones and craft an identity over several years. I’m not sure he’s ready to bolt but I hope that Eastern Michigan is ready to hire someone if he does, because momentum at this point in the program’s development is too important to ignore.