Eastern Michigan was able to escape from Akron with 34 to 28 victory. For a brief moment it looked like Eastern Michigan might still have a shot at a trip to the MAC Championship until Toledo pulled away with a victory. Here are some of the things we learned:
Samson Evans is the real deal
Samson Evans had another game where he rushed for over 100 yards. This was his third of the year where he ran for over 100 yards, and the fourth game where he scored multiple touchdowns. He’s come close a couple of other times by rushing close to 90 yards. Evans now sits at 11 rushing touchdowns and 855 yards on the season. If he can pull in at least one more 100-yard day. he could finish the season at 1,000+ rushing yards.
It’s too bad he is a senior because he might be the key for Eastern Michigan to compete next year.
Akron’s record bears out, but there’s still a lot of promise
Akron is 1-9 and it shows. They threw three interceptions and also had 97 yards in penalties (although Eastern Michigan wasn’t far behind).
Despite all that, they kept on fighting and almost pulled it out with some late rallies. Akron is a team who has lost four games by one score or less this season, so they’re certainly a lot better than in years past. If nothing else, that shows just how much parity is in the MAC.
There’s still a lot to be optimistic about if you’re a Zips fan as well; quarterback DJ Irons is a junior. Running back Cam Wiley is a sophomore. Many of the offensive line contributors are underclassmen as well. There’s a lot of returning talent which will make an impact next season and they could be the core of a pretty good team.
Austin Smith is looking good
Austin Smith is only a sophomore. He was 16-of-28 for 190 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, adding 35 yards in rushing on the day. There were a couple of times he kept a play alive with his feet, something the team was missing when he wasn’t on the field. If he can improve his passing game, which is something he’s slowly done over the course of 2022, he could be a dangerous weapon for the Eagles next year.
Jesus Gomez should get more recognition
Jesus Gomez is 11-of-13 on field goals and has a long of 55 yards. That tops a school record. He is also 34-of-34 on extra points. Gomez has proven capable of replacing Chad Ryland as a reliable placekicker, which was a tall order considering just how much Ryland meant to the program. He should be recognized more outside of the team, and be considered in the running for special teams player of the year in the conference at the very least.
The best part for EMU is he’s only a sophomore, meaning he could be another solid part of the Eagles for the future.
Looking inward helped the Eagles improve
Shortly into the season, Neal Neathery made some adjustments on defense. At the beginning of the season, he was using a zone defense and the team was notably gashed. This, combined with a switch to a man-to-man philosophy has created dividends for the Eagles as a team. The switch has allowed the defense to play more aggressively, and get the most our of the players they have on the roster.
It’s unfortunate a lot of these players will graduate this offseason, but there are some younger contributors who look ready to take over duties. With this defensive adjustment, perhaps the coaching staff can build upon it and make it that much more effective.
BONUS: Weeknight games are frustrating
I’m sorry, I can’t really sugarcoat it. I personally hate weeknight games. This particular one was four hours long. It was nice that it was nationally broadcast, but that meant a bunch more commercials. The pundits may say that name and imaging licenses and the portal are killing the game, but I think commercials and pace of play are killing it.
Akron will take on Buffalo on Saturday, Nov. 19, for a 3:30 p.m. Eastern kickoff, while EMU is set to play Kent State this upcoming Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. Eastern.