After blowing a 17-point in last week's loss to the Ball State Cardinals, the Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-2, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) will have to regroup and try to capture their first home win of the season against the Army Black Knights (0-3).
"When you sit there at night, you can quickly figure out ways that you could be 3-0 right now, but that's not the case," Eagles head coach Chris Creighton said Monday during the weekly MAC teleconference. "I think you're going to have two clubs that lost some close games that are really trying to prove themselves and are trying to get better, and we're expecting a great battle (against Army)."
The Black Knights have yet to win a football game this season, but all three of their losses have been one-possession games. They started things off with a loss against FCS Fordham where a failed two-point conversion to try and tie things back up in the closing moments of the game ended up being the difference on the scoreboard. The following week, Army was up 10-3 but the Connecticut Huskies responded and bounced back to win 22-17. Turnovers kept things interesting for Army last week against Wake Forest, but the Deacons slipped out of it with a long, game-winning field goal with four seconds left on the clock.
"Our rush defense is something we're trying to sure up," Creighton added. "We have spent some time on Army during camp and in previous weeks so to try to keep it fresh and so we're not literally starting from scratch during this game week.
The Eagles are dead last in the MAC, by a lot, giving up 312.3 rushing yards per game while the Black Knights and their triple-option offense are averaging roughly 207 yards on the ground per game. If the Eagles are going to have any real shot at winning, they're going to have to force Army to throw the ball on first and second downs, and they've yet to attempt 30 passes in their first three games all together.
EMU is 1-5 all-time vs. Army
EMU is 1-5 all-time vs. Army
It all starts and ends with shutting down Ahmad Bradshaw. The sophomore quarterback didn't see any action at all last year, but is off to a hot start, leading the team with 333 rushing yards with four touchdowns. If not him, then it's likely that the short, stocky running back Aaron Kemper that will be carrying the rock. At 5-foot-6, 210 pounds, Kemper had 24 carries for 142 yards last year, but is off to a slower start this year with 21 handles for 76 yards. In any case, this is a team that will run the ball more than 40 times per game.
Eastern Michigan really needs to establish a run game this week. It paid off well for them against Wyoming and only handing the ball off to Darius Jackson two times in the second half against Ball State certainly didn't help them out there. On average, Army gives up 146.3 yards on the ground per game with a total of eight touchdowns allowed. Jackson and Shaq Vann are competitive and strong runners that can move the ball with efficiency. There's no reason for them to not attack this defense to open up the passing game for Brogan Roback.
The two teams will meet up at Rynearson Stadium on Saturday with kickoff set for 6 p.m. and can be viewed on ESPN3.