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Checking in on Eastern Michigan football at the midway point of 2020

A young team in a shortened season makes for mixed results.

The Passing Game Has been a bright spot
Kenneth Bailey

It’s odd to be thinking about the mid-point of the season right now.

Usually, we are talking about which teams still have a shot to win the divisions and consequently the MAC. This has been an unusual season though with the late start, compressed schedule and late finish. With three losses, I think Eastern Michigan is pretty much out of the championship picture. However, they might get redemption in facing rivals Central and Western Michigan. If they get wins against both of those teams, they get the Michigan MAC trophy— but that’s a tall order.

When I wrote the season preview in what seems like years ago now, I said that the team was young and has very little experience at the skill positions. All of their running backs are new this year. Their receivers got little play last year and their quarterback started twice last season. The line had some experience and that gave some hope. So how do things look?

On average, Eastern Michigan has scored 27 points per game, but they’ve given up 37 points per game. They lost by one score in their first two games, but the floor ultimately fell out in Week 3 vs. Toledo. In that game, their inadequacies showed up in spades, as EMU picked u only 34 yards on the ground and struggled to stop the run game in return. On average, Eastern Michigan has rushed for 119 yards per game but they have allowed 239 yards per game on the ground. The bright spot has been the Eastern Michigan passing attack and defense. They average 246 yards in the air and only give up 249 yards in the air per game. I’m not sure if the second part is because teams are running fairly well against them but I’ll give kudos where I can, I guess.

Quarterback Preston Hutchinson has been an absolute bright spot on a team which has struggled to see daylight. On the season, he’s 63-for-102 on passing attempts, averaging 246 yards per game, throwing seven touchdowns to only three interceptions. He’s also been an impressive rusher of the football, picking up four touchdowns on 43 rushing attempts for 112 yards. He has the potential to be even better were it not for his being sacked eight times in three games. I think if Eastern had more of ground game, his game in the air would improve greatly.

Preston Hutchinson has been pretty good in distributing balls to his receivers, to boot. The standout of the bunch has been Hassan Beydoun with an average of 88 yards per game. Eastern Michigan’s newest scholarship recipient in the form of Tanner Knue had a decent game last night with 64 yards, and has two touchdowns in the last two games. The receiving corps is rounded out wtih Bryson Cannon and Quian Williams who have 46 yards per game each.

There really hasn’t been a standout in the rushing game, although Preston Hutchinson ran for 119 yards in last week’s game against Ball State. Darius Boone was able to run for 68 yards in the game against Kent State before he went out for injury. Samson Evans ran for 80 yards against Ball State. Last night, the Rockets were able to hold the Eagles to 34 yards on the ground.

Another stand out player has been punter Jake Julien. He has averaged 44 yards per punt and has had five go inside the 20, cementing him as one of the better punters at flipping

Eastern Michigan’s tackle leader has been Terry Myrick with 34 total tackles. He has gotten 1 sack and 2.5 tackles for loss to help pace the defense. He has also recovered 1 fumble. Turan Rush has gotten 3.5 sacks to lead the pass rush, while Alvinoski LaFleur has gotten both of Eastern Michigan’s interceptions on the season.

So where do we go from here?

Eastern Michigan faces Central Michigan at home on Friday. Central Michigan currently stands at 2-1. I would love to see Eastern beat them but I’m not sure it’ll happed at this point. Then Eastern Michigan travels to Kalamazoo where they face undefeated Western Michigan. Western Michigan has been looking like a juggernaut by scoring an average of 50 points per game so far. Given that they beat mutual opponent Toledo, I expect that they will beat Eastern. Eastern Michigan finishes at Rynearson against currently winless Northern Illinois. Northern Illinois got beat by mutual opponent Ball State by 6 points, so I will guess that this game will be a toss-up. Since it is played at home, I’ll give Eastern Michigan the edge. So Eastern Michigan is likely to finish the season at 1 and 5.

So the important question in all of this, where does Chris Creighton stand? Personally, I think he will get another season.

He has taken Eastern Michigan to three bowl games. He has made them competitive. This season was an anomaly in the fact that it was a shortened season and the team was pretty young. I think if Eastern Michigan had the normal warming up period, the MAC record might be a little different at this point. But they aren’t any different than the other teams they’ve faced.