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2023 MAC Football Week 1 Game Recap: Eastern Michigan Eagles 33, Howard Bison 23

The Eagles get up to an early lead thanks to ferocious special teams play, but allow HU to get back into it late in narrow win.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - Eastern Michigan v San Jose State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Eastern Michigan (1-0) looked like they were going to run away with it at halftime, up 30-9 at the halftime whistle, but football has a funny way of making you feel humble, as the Howard Bison (0-1) didn’t go away quietly despite a number of self-afflicted miscues. The Bison fought back to bring the score up to 30-23 late in the third quarter, but the Eagles ultimately found their way to victory, taking home a 33-23 win on Friday night.

Eastern Michigan took their opening drive and capped it off with a two-yard run by Samson Evans to get on the board first at the 11:17 mark of the first quarter, then followed it up quickly with a safety after Howard’s long-snapper muffed the snap, which rolled out the back of the endzone.

Howard’s troubles compounded on the very next play, as Jaylon Jackson ran the ensuing safety back for a touchdown to make the score 16-0 Eastern Michigan at the end of the first quarter.

EMU’s domination continued unabated at the start of the second quarter, with a 75-yard drive capped by a 20-yard pass from Austin Jackson to Tanner Knue to make the game 23-0 after the extra point. Howard would display a little life with a 69-yard touchdown pass from Quinton Williams to Jamarr Ebron to make the score 23-6 after a missed extra point attempt, but EMU seized momentum right back with a Hamze El-Zayat kickoff return touchdown to make the score 30-6.

Aaron Bickerton would stop the bleeding for the Bison with a 38-yard field goal to put the score at the halftime tally of 30-9.

The tone of the game changed in the second half, as EMU came out slow and stuttered, a moment the Bison would take advantage of with an 80-yard opening drive capped by a two-yard Kasey Hawthorn rushing score to put the score at 30-16. Howard would strike again after a 23-yard pass from Quinton Williams to Kasey Hawthorn to top a 62-yard drive. The extra point would make it 30-23, still in the favor of the Eagles but with enough time for it to be anyone’s game.

Eastern Michigan’s defense stepped up big in the fourth quarter to shut down the Howard attack, and finally stopped the bleeding long enough on offense to have backup kicker Kenyon Bowyer kick a 25-yard field goal to push the margin to 33-23 with 4:04 remaining.

With his first-quarter score, Samson Evans would come within one of the all-time program record for total touchdowns, recording his 30th in today’s contest. Other sorts of history was also made for EMU in this game, as the Eagles returned two kicks for touchdowns for the first time since 1995.

Eastern Michigan would play most of the game without standout tight end Andreas Paaske., who left with an injury mid-game, and also missed starting kicker Jesus Gomez and defensive back Kempton Shine due to injuries suffered in the lead-up to the game.

Sometimes you need to get these games out of your system. It helps to get them out of the way against a team that you should beat. Eastern Michigan hopes to take some lessons from tonight’s game forward to Minneapolis next week, when they travel to Minnesota to play the Golden Gophers.

Howard will play their home opener next week against Morehouse College.