The Eastern Michigan Eagles held a two touchdown lead in the fourth quarter but a fierce comeback from the Northern Illinois Huskies led to overtime, where the Huskies found a way to pull out a 30-27 victory.
So what’d we learn?
1. EMU and NIU have been opposites this year
Both Eastern and Northern could easily be 8-0. However, NIU is (tied) atop the MAC at 4-0 (6-2 overall) while EMU is 0-4 (2-6 overall). All six of the Eagles losses have been by five or less points...and their last three have been by a combined SEVEN points!
For NIU, both losses were by a single score and five of their eight games have been within seven points...they’ve just been on the winning side more times than not.
Eastern is a very good team that has just found themselves on the wrong end of nearly every game so far but this is a team that could easily win out and make a bowl game...if the ball bounces their way.
2. The Huskies defense once again showed a weekness
EMU out-gained the Huskies 403-392 but the vast majority of those yards came via the deep pass (307 passing yards). The Huskie corners and safeties failed to get their heads around and left players wide open down the field. The Eagles had three receivers with a catch of 40+ yards, including a long of 68-yards, and, in total, twelve different players caught a pass.
The Eagles, like Bowling Green and Buffalo before them, showed that you can score against NIU if you throw the ball.
3. EMU’s defense is just as elite as NIU’s
While the Huskies got the win and their defense will get a lot of credit (Sutton Smith is a beast!!), Eastern Michigan has been right behind NIU in just about every defensive category...and they showed just how dominating they can be too.
The Eagles forced four fumbles in the first 10 minutes of the second half alone and were able to recover one. They kept the Huskies solid run offense to just 3.2 yards per carry (114 yards on 36 attempts). They really pressured Marcus Childers, forcing a lot of throws on the run and even getting two sacks and six TFL in the process. And they even blocked a punt which the recovered for a touchdown.
4. NIU’s offense is very bipolar
One week the Huskies offense will have no problems moving the ball. The next they’ll be forced to punt 11 times (as was the case last night).
All three QBs have been good at moving the ball late in games and when absolutely necessary...but there have been huge chunks of times in the first 50 minutes of every game where the Huskies can’t seem to get anything going.
Whether it’s the play calling or just the offense not clicking...the Huskies have certainly frustrated their fans with their inability to move the ball consistently and, because of that, almost every game has been a nail-biter.
5. This set up yet another huge NIU-Toledo Showdown...
The Huskies hate Toledo. Toledo dislikes NIU.
Any NIU fan/player/coach will say without a doubt that Toledo is a rival. The Rockets don’t see it that way yet.
However, once again it looks like the winner of the NIU-Toledo game will be the MAC West champs...something that has happened a lot in the past decade or so.
Yesterday Toledo dismantled Ball State 58-17 to get to 7-1 (4-0) setting up a battle between the only two undefeated teams in the MAC next Thursday night in the Glass Bowl.
The game will once again go a long way in deciding who goes to Detroit from the MAC West...and, I for one, can’t wait!