On Thursday night, I saw something I never thought I would see in my life.
The reported attendance was 34,765 which turned out to be a QuickLane Bowl record. By my reckoning, well over half of those people were Eastern Michigan fans. I never thought I would see that many Eastern Michigan fans in one place for a sporting event but it happened and it was nice.
I would love to see that number at Rynearson next season. The crowd was loud and supported their team for every second of the game.
Eastern Michigan would start the scoring off a Chad Ryland field goal. They would come to a 10-0 lead after a three yard run from Mike Glass. After a Pittsburgh field goal and touchdown, the game was tied. The Pittsburgh touchdown came when Eastern Michigan pinned the Panthers deep and quarterback Kenny Pickett would connect with Maurice Ffrench for a 96 yard strike. The next series would bring Eastern the 17-10 lead after a Mike Glass pass bounced off the Pittsburgh defender into the waiting hands of Quian Williams for a 50 yard strike. Eastern Michigan would take a 20-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.
After exchanging scores, Eastern Michigan would have a 30-27 lead with 6 minutes left in the game. At that point, it looked like Eastern Michigan would pull it off. I felt the excitement of a crowd that watched one of college football’s worst teams break the shackles of awfulness. It felt like it would be a crowning moment on Coach Creighton’s career at Eastern Michigan. He would finally get his elusive bowl victory. He would get another Power Five win.
A 25-yard pass from Kenny Pickett to Taysir Mack would change that with 47 seconds left in the game, a one-handed, SportsCenter Top 10-worthy grab which took the air out of the building. With their last gasp, Eastern Michigan would try to mount a comeback but a frustrated Mike Glass III would come out (literally) swinging after getting sacked in the waning moments, and the ensuing Preston Hutchinson pass would fall short to give Pittsburgh the chance to line up in the victory formation.
Kenny Pickett would end the game 27-of-39 for 361 yards and three touchdowns. Eastern Michigan managed to reach him 3 times and caused him to fumble once. Vincent Davis would get 69 yards on the ground with one touchdown. Mike Glass III would end up going 28-of-50 for 311 yards, two touchdowns and one pick. Mike Glass III would also lead Eastern Michigan’s rushers with 83 yards. Shaq Vann would add another 48 yards to that total. Both teams used a multitude of receivers.
All in all, it was a pretty good game but a shame that Eastern Michigan came up short.