Eastern Michigan was coming off a big win against one of their in-state rivals last week after taking down Western Michigan, moving to 1-1 in the MAC. Northern Illinois was coming off a loss against Toledo, one of the worst results they had taken in recent years, falling to 0-2 in MAC play and needing a win badly.
On paper, it looked like Eastern Michigan was going to have a good game, but as we all know, the games are played on grass and not paper.
Lack of a running game killed Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan only had a net of 29 yards on the ground. Granted, the big reason for that was the -49 yards the Taylor Powell had because of his five sacks. Still, you are not going to win many games with that kind of performance from the ground.
It’s a disappointing effort from a team who relied on an effective power run look to move the ball downfield in their previous victories.
A strong running game helped propel Northern Illinois
Harrison Waylee had a huge game, with 158 yards including a run where he broke for 76 yards. Antario Brown had a decent game as well, with 86 yards. Even quarterback Justin Lynch had a decent game with 24 yards. All totaled, Northern Illinois was able to gain 287 yards and scored three touchdowns on the ground. Because of that, they didn’t really need a strong performance from either of their quarterbacks, who struggled fairly immensely in the passing attack.
Eastern Michigan needs some work on their offensive line
Taylor Powell was sacked five times, and failed to open up holes for an EMU running unit who can find yards after contact if given an opportunity. I’ve opined in the past the Creighton offense works better when he has a mobile quarterback. Look at how well the ball was moved under Austin Smith. I think Taylor Powell is a decent enough quarterback, but it would be nice to see him as a threat in the run game to keep defenses more honest.
Regardless of who is at the controls or out wide and in the backfield, the fact EMU’s offensive line seems to have regressed against a defense which hadn’t really impressed in recent weeks is discouraging.
Title prospects are not out of the window yet for either of these teams
Even at 1-2 in the MAC right now, Eastern Michigan still has five MAC games. Granted they are pretty tough but I think they can turn it around and make noise due to the amount of talent they have on the roster. There have been stretches where this team has either had dominant defensive performances or offensive performances. They just need to pull them both together at the same time to be more of a threat.If they can do that, they could surprise a team or two down the stretch.
Northern Illinois has a fairly young offensive line, ans are in general still an extremely young unit, not too much older than the 2020 season where they lost every game. Their receivers are all fairly young with several veterans out due to injury, lead back Harrison Waylee is a sophomore. Justin Lynch and Ethan Hampton are also underclassmen. Suffice to say, this is a high-variance team which is capable of performing on a weekly basis if they can get moving in the right direction. I expect them to make some noise in the future.
While it would have been nice to see Eastern Michigan build a streak and build momentum in the MAC, I don’t think this was a huge setback. We will see how they perform against Ball State.