I will have to admit, it is really hard to say what was learned from the non-conference games that Eastern Michigan has played. I sort of figured that Eastern Michigan was punching below their weight when they played Saint Francis, and much above their weight when they played Wisconsin.
UMass and Texas State, on the other hand, are enigmas to me. Since UMass was in the MAC were about equivalent to EMU in that time, I expected them to be roughly equal to Eastern Michigan. Eastern Michigan rolled over them, instead.
Since Texas State plays in the Sun Belt and I consider the Sun Belt at least equal to the MAC, I expected them to be roughly equal. But then again, coming into the game, they didn’t have the record to back that. Anyway, Eastern Michigan rolled over them as well.
Eastern Michigan took the lead early and mostly didn’t look back. There was a point where Texas State came within a touchdown, but Eastern Michigan managed to score to establish a two-score lead after pretty much every response, eventually riding their way to a 59-21 victory. Those 59 points would be the most they’ve scored against a non-conference FBS opponent since they put 51 points on UNLV in 1995. One thing is clear, Eastern Michigan is on the right trajectory.
This brings us back to my original question, what did we learn in this game?
Well I think the first thing that we learned is that Eastern Michigan has a viable offense. They were able to gain 242 yards on the ground and it seems like it’s been a while since they’ve done that. It was mostly done on the back of Darius Boone, who picked up 86 of those yards and averaged 6.6 yards per carry. His longest carry was 17 yards and I’m not sure if that was because he was getting holes or he was finding holes, either way he looked pretty impressive.
Ben Bryant completed 20 out of 33 passes for a total of 288 passing yards. He threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also managed to gain 52 yards on the ground with a touchdown. A couple of those plays looked like they were broken plays but it’s still generally encouraging. The receivers proved to be a hydra again this week. Zach Westmoreland, Latrell Fordham and Dylan Drummond all had over 50 yards receiving apiece. Texas State only managed two sacks and two other tackles for loss, so I would say the line looked pretty good.
Anyway, the run game looked pretty good and the passing game looked pretty good. When your offense shows balance, it is very helpful in the long run. But I will temper my enthusiasm until I see how they play against Northern Illinois. If they play well in DeKalb, then I think Eastern Michigan may end up being a sleeper pick in the MAC.
Once again, Jake Julien looked pretty good punting. He averaged 38 yards per punt and was able to pin one inside the 20. If it comes down down to a position battle, Eastern Michigan should come ahead in that equation. They also seem to have a pretty decent kicker in Chad Ryland, so if it comes down to field goals, Eastern Michigan should find themselves in a good spot.
However, there may be dark clouds appearing in the defense. Texas State managed to gain 170 yards on the ground and 187 yards in the air. They were only able to get one turnover. If there is one thing I’ve learned about recent Eastern Michigan defenses, they really need to be more on the positive side of the turnover equation. They were able to get four sacks but that is about what Texas State has given up this year. Again, I think Eastern Michigan needs that disruption to be successful on the defensive side of the ball.
Overall, I am liking the look of this team, but I still think it is too early to tell if they will make noise in the MAC. If they have a good outing in Illinois, the door will be wide open for them to try and make a dark horse run.