clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What We Learned from Eastern Michigan’s 20-16 win over Ball State

Jesus Gomez’s leg was a saving grace in this pivotal divisional victory.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 Eastern Michigan at Arizona State
EMU’s kicking played a huge role.
Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I don’t like to make predictions when I do my write ups. If I predict Eastern Michigan to win, they end up losing. When I predict them to lose, they end up winning. Now, as a fan, I could just always predict them to lose every game and then they would win, but I think the football gods are smarter than that.

In my write up, I said that Eastern Michigan’s defense could be the difference and that turned out to be true. I also said that the kicking game would make a difference, little did I know that would also prove true.

It’s funny how life works like that sometimes. Let’s get into the observations:

Eastern Michigan has a pretty decent kicker

Jesus Gomez has been 8-of-10 for field goals and perfect on extra points this season, continuing his run of good form this weekend. He made a 55-yarder to close out the first half. In listening to the announcers, he could have made it longer. It’s nice when you have a decent kicker, because you can play differently when you’re in plus territory thanks to the security a good kicker can give you.

The Eagles defense was at its best on Saturday

One of the things that I keep stressing is that the Neathery defense is based on disruption and turnovers. I think this is the first game this season that Eastern Michigan was on the plus side of the turnover battle. They got three turnovers and didn’t give up any; in a game where inches matter and offenses look to finish effectively, stopping the opponent even once changes the game flow significantly. EMU’s havoc performance was helpful in a game which was ultimately decided by one score.

Austin Smith is coming into his own at the QB position

He was 20-of-33 but more importantly, he didn’t throw any picks. He was also the leading rusher with 52 net yards. As I said in the past, it seems like Eastern moves the ball better with a running quarterback. That is mainly because it gives defenses one more thing to worry about.

You feel a little bad about Taylor Powell considering what he went through this season, but if Smith gives them the best chance to win on a weekly basis, Chris Creighton has no choice but to turn to him.

Eastern Michigan is officially in the hunt

With this win, Eastern Michigan finds themselves in the hunt for the MAC championship. They stand at 2-2 in the MAC, but they now hold a tiebreaker over Ball State and Central Michigan. Ball State and Western Michigan stand at 2-2. With a win over Toledo on Saturday, Eastern Michigan finds itself in control of its destiny.

Turnovers killed Ball State

John Paddock added another two interceptions to his record, bringing his total on the season to nine, one of the highest numbers for starters in the Mid-American Conference. Turnovers are never good, but when two teams are roughly equal, turnovers are the X-Factor in deciding games. It certainly proved to be the difference in this game.

It’s a pity too, as the Cardinals picked up 140 yards on the ground with no turnovers, which would have been a massive boon if they could have just kept the ball in their possession.

Kicking is starting to become a concern for BSU

After a hot start to the season, Ben VanGunten has cooled off, going 5-of-9 in the last few games. That came into play once again this weekend, as he missed his first extra point of the season, allowing it to get blocked.

That one mistake completely changed the tenor of the game in the late situations. When the game was on the line, they had to score a touchdown to win, eliminating the possibility of a field goal to tie. That changed their play calling.

Ball State’s defense was good enough

Eastern Michigan only had one decent scoring drive of 75 yards, with EMU’s only other scoring opportunity coming off a turnover from 28 yards out, which ultimately can’t be pinned all the way on the defense on the defense. Nor can I really pin the two field goals on the defense, who by all accounts did what they had to in order to force the Eagles to kick and surrender maximum points. Those go a little differently, this was a different game.

This is a BSU defense which has sneaked up on some teams; they can comepte with anyone at any time.