There is a new meaning to the words “Eastern Michigan football.”
For years, Eastern Michigan served its purpose as the doormat of college football. Not one winning season creeped in between 1996 and 2015. But a young head coach who had never served on an FBS stepped into Ypsilanti, MI, in 2014 with nothing to lose. Five years later, on a 37-degree night in DeKalb, IL, he proved how much he had gained.
Eastern Michigan shattered an 11-game losing skid against perennial MAC contender Northern Illinois, Tuesday night, and the Eagles not only snapped the streak the Huskies spent more than a decade constructing — they napalmed it. After erupting for 24 points in the third quarter on the road, Eastern Michigan left DeKalb victorious in 45-17 fashion, improving to 6-5 on the season. The sixth win marks the milestone of bowl eligibility, and if selected to participate in the postseason, it would be the first time in program history the Eagles have gone bowling in consecutive seasons.
Eastern Michigan is bowl eligible for the third time in four years after a 28-year drought without a single postseason appearance. Creighton also is in the midst of a 3-game winning streak against Big Ten programs, which the Eagles never toppled until their coach’s arrival. And the new-look program was on full display Tuesday night in midweek MACtion.
In a nationally televised event, quarterback Mike Glass III led the transformed program with a near-perfect night. Glass nearly threw more touchdown passes than incompletions. He finished Tuesday 20/24 from the pocket with 235 yards and three touchdown strikes. His most notable was a third quarter heave to Arthur Jackson III in the front corner of the end zone. Jackson stretched his arm out and snagged the football one-handed, tapping one toe in bounds and stretching the ball across the plane.
Jackson actively battled the Northern Illinois secondary. The receiver caught five passes for 78 yards. Prior to his one-handed grab, Jackson created a 14-0 lead in the second quarter with a 36-yard catch-and-run in the open field, another great delivery by Glass.
For the second-straight week, Eastern Michigan set its new season-high in scoring output, generating over 40 on the road in consecutive outings. Outside of the passing game, Eastern Michigan earned a solid boost from its rushing attack. Shaq Vann surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark once again, launching the scoring effort of Eastern Michigan’s 24-point third quarter.
Prior to the scoring barrage, the Huskies kept it close in the first half with a 14-7 score at the break. But turnovers on three consecutive possessions ultimately ruined Northern Illinois’ chances of extending its win streak over Eastern Michigan to 12. The Huskies fumbled once and threw two interceptions on their opportunities from the middle of the third quarter to the start of the fourth. Marcus Childers, the hero of Northern Illinois’ win over Toledo, posted a solid performance in the rushing department with 92 yards on 13 carries, but the Eagles’ secondary made it a difficult night for the quarterback through the air.
Eastern Michigan strong safety Brody Hoying was the most dangerous threat to the Huskies’ offense. Hoying intercepted his third and fourth passes of the season in the contest, jumping a route and sprinting 48 yards the other direction. One play later, the Eagles extended their lead to 38-10 and they scored 17 points off three second half Northern Illinois turnovers.
Northern Illinois’ loss drops the Huskies to 4-7, failing to qualify for bowl eligibility for the second time since 2008. Entering the night, the Huskies had an outside shot at competing for a MAC West title, but the blowout loss to the Eagles officially puts a rest to those chances.
With a bevy of MAC teams hovering around the 6-win mark, Eastern Michigan can improve its bowl prospects by closing the season with another win at home against Kent State on Black Friday. With Eastern Michigan’s longest MAC losing streak shattered and another bowl game potentially on the horizon, Creighton continues his run as one of the most impressive rebuilding efforts in recent college football history.