On Homecoming, the Eastern Michigan Eagles picked up their first in-conference win over the Buffalo Bulls, extending their home record to 2-0. All of the predictions had EMU falling to Buffalo, but the Eagles looked like a much different team for those 60 minutes.
Eastern Michigan Played Defense
Not much of a strong suit for this team, and it hasn't been a secret, either. Stopping quarterback Joe Licata and running back Anthone Tayor, or at least limiting their successes, was going to be a challenge for this team. If the Eagles could keep them out of the end zone, then their chances of winning are much better.
"It starts with their offensive line," coach Chris Creighton said after the game. "I don't think we got pushed around a lot by their offensive line... Our guys didn't give in, didn't give up and kept the pressure. Our guys wanted it bad."
Pat O'Conner, one of EMU's top defenders, made a huge impact on the defensive front. With six quarterback hurries, O'Conner sacked Licata twice for nine yards and even forced a fumble. He and Anthony Zappone, who moved from outside to inside linebacker, were the two major difference makers. Zappone led the team with tackles against Buffalo with 13 in total (5 solo). Three of Zappone's tackles were for a loss.
After the game, Zappone said that this defense feeds off of each other through bragging rights. "You see your buddy do something great, you're like 'alright, well I have to do something better' which is kind of how we feed off of each other," Zappone said. "Whenever O'Conner or Ibe or Hunter makes a play, I'm not going back back to the house without my play. We always talk about it when we go back home."
Licata had 383 passing yards for three touchdowns while Taylor rushed for 128 yards, but Licata's two interceptions were very costly to his team and Taylor only had 19 rushing yards in the second half. Buffalo picked up 537 total offensive yards on 81 plays, but games are decided by scoring, not running between the rectangles.
Reggie Bell Opened Up a Can of Whoop Ass
The record for rushing yards in a game by a quarterback was held by Alex Gillett, picking up 189 yards against Ball State in 2010. Today, Reggie Bell rushed for 202 yards. He only had nine rushing yards in the first half, not playing until the Eagles' last offensive drive that half.
"The game really slowed down for me, and that has a lot to do with the coaches," Bell said after the game, saying that thorough explanations from the coaches in certain situations on certain plays helped him learn.
Bolden came out of the game after being brought down hard nearing the end of the first half, hit as he attempted a deep pass to Tyler Allen. Up to that point, Bolden completed two passes for three yards. With only three points on the board at halftime, it made sense to leave Bell in the game.
Rob Bolden, Reggie Bell, same thing. Right, ESPN announcers?
Bell spread the ball around very well. He was 8-for-13 through the air for 144 yards. His lone touchdown pass was caught by David Gibson, who led the team with two catches for 47 yards.
Also, Bell had 71, 10 and 72-yard rushing scores. He is the only player in EMU history to have two rushing touchdowns of at least 70 yards.
Listed as the starter, Bronson Hill only had one carry the whole game, and it was for six yards. Creighton and his staff just like the odds with Ryan Brumfield running the ball.
"Bronson's not hurt at all," Creighton said. "Bronson gets a lot of the attention, but what we really have is three quality backs."
Brumfield, as Creighton would say, is very light on his feet, elusive and quick enough to get the job done. When you have three running backs that can get the job done, it does show that there's real depth at the running back position. Once things started clicking for Bell, the Eagles didn't necessarily have to depend on any of the running backs to have a big day. Brumfield scored in the third quarter, picking up 62 yards off of 16 carries to end his day.
The Eagles will hit the road next week and play at UMass, who just beat Kent State for their first win of the year. Buffalo will have a home contest against Central Michigan.