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2021 Week 5 Preview: Eastern Michigan at Northern Illinois

A Battle of the MAC West

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 12 NIU at Eastern Michigan Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Eastern Michigan Eagles finally enter the conference part of their schedule. And, like I said in a previous article, I’m not sure how their record will stack up against the MAC but we’ll start to get a more clear picture this weekend.

The Eagles will start their trip by hopping on I-94, heading west for Chicago, where they’ll then get on I-88 and continue to DeKalb, Illinois, the home of the Northern Illinois Huskies.

We’ll start with Northern Illinois who is currently 2-2. They started their season with a win, squeaking by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets by a score of 22-21 after a touchdown AND a two point conversion with 38 seconds left in the game. They were then beat by Wyoming, 50-43, despite a furious comeback that saw NIU score 27 unanswered points. The Huskies then lost to the team on the other side of Washtenaw County, the 25th ranked Michigan Wolverines, by a score of 63-10. In last week’s game against the Maine Black Bears, an FCS team, NIU had no trouble, winning 41-14. I would have to say the caliber of their opponents is on a par with who Eastern Michigan played.

The Huskies have scored an average of 29 points while giving up an average of 37 points. They have gained 216 yards on the ground while giving up 240 yards. In the air, they have an average of 174 yards while giving up 190 yards. The Huskies have no interceptions but have thrown five of their own. They have recovered three fumbles while giving up two of their own. The Huskies defense has reached the opposing quarterback five times while the Huskies offense has allowed it’s own quarterback to be just twice.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Rocky Lombardi sets up to pass.
Junfu Han via Imagn Content Services, LLC

On offense, the Huskies are lead by Michigan State transfer quarterback Rocky Lombardi (as far as I can tell, he’s no relation to the guy the Super Bowl trophy is named after). However, his father, Tony Lombardi, served as an interim head coach for Eastern Michigan in 1999. He coached one game...a loss to Northern Illinois. Anyway, on the season Rocky Lombardi is 56 for 94 (59.6%) and has 697 yards, five touchdowns, and has thrown five interceptions.

On the ground, the Huskies are led by Harrison Waylee with 122 yards per game. Waylee’s 487 rushing yards is good enough for seventh best in the NCAA, just 67 yards shy to the top spot.

The top two receivers are Cole Tucker and Tyrice Richie. Tucker has 206 yards and a TD on 12 catches while Richie has a team-high 17 grabs for 181 yards. Trayvon Rudolph is the only other player with 100+ yards, as he has 125 receiving yards and a score on his eight receptions.

On defense, the Huskies leading tackler is Lance Deveaux Jr. Their sacks and fumble recoveries are spread amongst the defense.

Darius Boone on a run.
Kenneth Bailey

I’m going to say that Eastern Michigan will likely be led by Ben Bryant again. He is 46 for 71 with no interceptions and averages 169 yards per game. I’m sure that Creighton will sprinkle some snaps to Preston Hutchinson in there.

The leading Eagle rusher is Jawon Hamilton who has averaged 80 yards per game. He is followed by Darius Boone with an average of 55 yards per game. I see no reason why the Eagles wont split duties between those two backs.

Receiving will probably also be split between the three-headed hydra of Dylan Drummond, Hassan Beydoun and Zack Westmoreland. All three players have scored this year and all three have roughly the same average yardage.

Latrell Fordham after a catch. He might become the fourth head.
Kenneth Bailey

The Eagle defense is led in tackles by Terry Myrick while Rush Turan leads in sacks, with 2.5 sacks so far. David Carter has two interceptions. As I said in my last article, I would like to see Eastern Michigan get more aggressive on defense and I have a feeling we will see in this game.

So what do I think we will see? On paper, the Eagles and Huskies are roughly evenly matched on offensive stats. So it will come down to which defense is better. At this time, I would give the nod to the Eagle defense. Mainly because they have more turnovers. So if the Eastern Michigan defense can create some breaks for the offense, the Eagles will emerge from Illinois with a victory.

With a few breaks, the Eagles could be flying high
Kenneth Bailey