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What We Learned from Eastern Michigan’s 20-13 win against UMass

Never rule the Eagles out of any game, even the ones they struggle in.

NCAA Football: Eastern Michigan at Wisconsin
When he gets going
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Eastern Michigan beat the Massachusetts Minutemen by a score of 20-13. This was after going down 13 to 0. Twenty unanswered points later, Eastern Michigan found themselves in the victory formation for Homecoming.

What did we learn about the Eagles in this one?

The run game is key

Eastern Michigan didn’t have much of a run game in the first half. They also had a fumble and an interception. They were also down by 13 points partially into the second half. After a few nice rushes by Samson Evans and Austin Smith, the Eagles were able to establish their pass game and then get their first touchdown. They would strike again in the fourth quarter after a couple of nice runs by Samson Evans to gain the lead. They added the assurance touchdown to go up 20-13.

Once they were able to establish their running attack, the rest of the game opened up, allowing EMU to come back after falling down multiple possessions.

Times to go for two

When Eastern Michigan went up 20-13, they went for two points. The radio guys were questioning the move but upon thinking about it, I can understand why. Despite complaints that Creighton plays too conservatively, he has shown the propensity to understand there are appropriate times to go for it, and this was one of them. If he had kicked the extra point, Eastern would have had an eight-point lead. That would have forced Massachusetts to go for two had they scored. By trying for 2, Eastern would have been up by nine points, and that would force Massachusetts to get two scores. At that point in the game, it would have been difficult for the Minutemen to come back and have a chance at the win.

Even though the Eagles didn’t get the conversion, it’s still admirable to see Creighton have the wherewithal to go for the win, as opposed to playing not to lose, which has plagued EMU in the past.

Eastern needs their aggressive defense

Granted, I was listening to the game but it sounded like Eastern was getting more aggressive on defense. As I’ve said, Neathery is more successful when he used an aggressive defense and I think it showed against a UMass team which got less and less confident as the game went on, thanks in part to a ferocious EMU defense which made second-half adjustments after getting gashed by the Minutemen’s running game early on in the contest.

Savor the win

I think Creighton has gotten the Eagles to the point where they are winning the games they are supposed to win. The Eagles were heavily favored coming into this game. In another time in Eagles football, the team would have collapsed after going down 13 to nothing, especially the way things were going. Under Creighton, however, the Eagles don’t really panic. They’ve played in enough one-possession games over his tenure to figure out how to play through adversity, and sometimes it shows up in spades. Saturday was one of those times, and it was a victory EMU should celebrate just as much as the win against ASU.

I think Eastern might make some noise for the MAC Championship this year if they ccan keep up that attitude and momentum, especially as the West has seemingly opened up.