Great game, Eagles. Now do it again. Don't let that make you think I'm bitter after seeing the Eastern Michigan Eagles take a huge 48-29 win on the road against Wyoming. As far as small victories go, was the first win on the road over a non-conference opponent since 1988 when the Hurons beat Youngstown State, but it was also the first non-conference road win over a team in the Division-1A level since 1975 with a 3-point win over Louisiana-Monroe.
EMU's "historic" win wasn't against a ranked team from the SEC nor did it come against a Big Ten team. The Wyoming Cowboys is probably the weakest team on on EMU's schedule if it's not Army who lost to Fordham and is off to an 0-2 start.
That sounds really mean and I feel bad, because the Eagles still looked good in that win.
Reggie Bell went down in the season opener against Old Dominion with a jaw injury and will be out for a while. Fortunately enough, junior Brogan Roback steps in and plays great in his first start of the season. Without any touchdown passes on 41 attempts all of last year, he's already surpassed the numbers that he put up last year playing in five and a half quarters this season.
Roback completed nearly 71 percent of his passes for 330 yards with three touchdowns against the Wyoming defense that let up 153 passing yards to North Dakota's quarterback and finished last season being sixth in the Mountain West against the pass (227.8 yards per game). Great play calling certainly helped Roback get going early. There was one play where Cole Gardner, former tight end that moved to left tackle, split out wide to shift the defense to give him attention, but not nearly enough to 6-foot-5 Sam Browning in the end zone for a simple 3-yard pass.
Maybe none of this is possible without strong performances from running backs Darius Jackson and Shaq Vann. After Jackson set a career-high 117 rushing yards in the season opener and then 103 total yards last week, Jackson's mix of strength and speed (and more strength) has been a viable option for the Green and White to use in both rushing and passing attacks. Vann broke off for a huge 74-yard run on one of his 16 carries against Wyoming to highlight his 129-yard day. Unlike Jackson with eight receptions (had 20 catches in '14), Vann has yet to catch a ball out of the backfield, but is already averaging 6.7 yards per carry on 27 handles: which is a pretty good start to be on after coming off of a redshirt year.
Against the Cowboys, EMU scored on six straight offensive drives with the help of an unexpected onside kick in the first half to help quickly bump the score up to 21-7 and get the hype on their side.
EMU took a knee in the final seconds of the first half, but if we take that out of the equation then we're saying that they scored on seven consecutive drives. SEVEN! And only one of those scores was a field goal. These things just don't happen all the time with this team, but it's comforting to see that it's happened and are capable of, maybe not six or seven times in a row, having an offensive rally to keep things interesting.
The offense certainly has its playmakers and I'm sure we'll see more out of Cody Tuttle and Kevin Davis and true freshman Eddie Daugherty. Roback's recognized as a quarterback that has the ability to run but certainly loves to take his opportunities with the deep ball and his teammates need to come through by not letting opportunities to move the chains, or even take the confidence out of opposing defenses with a long score, slip away from them.
Cards vs. Eagles
Ball State Cardinals vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles football preview: Talkin' sMACk
We've got our first intra-conference game of the season, and it's at Rynearson Stadium.
Cards vs. Eagles
But what about the defense? It's too early to truly judge just how good or bad a lot of teams are around the nation and EMU certainly falls in the *shrugs shoulders* category. If we rewind again to the Old Dominion game, we can go back in the archives of the teleconference and postgame quotes from head coach Chris Creighton saying that the players were feeling pretty good about themselves after getting to a 14-point lead in the third quarter where the Monarchs responded differently and going on to a comeback win. As true as that may be, there's no ignoring that key players making big plays and/or have big games against the Eagles is not what the kids would call "something new."
Lawry was head to 60 yards in the first half; eventually exploded for four touchdowns and over 200 yards. They kept things close against Northern Illinois last year, but Drew Hare took off for 166 rushing yards with a 78-yard touchdown run. Five of Logan Woodside's 18 pass attempts were touchdown passes in the season finale at Rynearson last year.
That's not to say that Ball State isn't capable of letting their defense be a disappointment either. We all remember the Cardinals being the third team from the MAC West to beat Bowling Green right before they were heading to Detroit, but there's also the fact that dual-threat quarterback Bell threw for 409 yards against their defense, returning a lot of starters from that side of the ball too. We've also pointed out that, with all things considered, Ball State's passing defense has been less than impressive in the early goings of this season.
Ball State also has some star players on that offense too. Whoever they decide to roll out at quarterback, have it be Jack Milas (226 total yards last year vs. EMU) or true freshman Riley Neal, they'll also have some talented skilled players around them to work with too with Darian Green, James Gilbert, KeVonn Mabon and Jordan Williams.
Let's just simplify everything so we can all get some tailgate necessities for tomorrow's first intra-conference game of the MAC season: both teams are pretty hard to truly evaluate given the preceding competitions and results, both teams have extremely exciting offenses and defenses that aren't exactly where Toledo's is. It's no wonder everybody's predicting a shootout for this game: which would be the perfect start to MAC play.