FINAL: Late heroics stamp third-straight win for EMU over WMU
Eastern Michigan has its first three-game win streak over Western Michigan since 2011-13, and is now looking to win the Michigan MAC trophy next week in Mt. Pleasant.
Welcome to The Ypsilanti Eleven! Eastern Michigan’s football team beat Western Michigan last night 22-21 thanks to some late, defensive turnovers and (another) career night out of kicker Chad Ryland. With Central Michigan up next to close out the regular season, Eastern’s got a chance to win the Michigan MAC trophy for the first time since 2012.
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Eastern Michigan 22, Western Michigan 21
Late, defensive heroics
Down 21-19, Eastern Michigan senior captain and defensive end Turan Rush stripped the ball out of the hands of WMU QB Kaleb Eleby, and Russ Vaden was able to fall on it with solid field position. Taking over on WMU’s 41-yard line, RB Jawon Hamilton peeled off for one of his many chunk plays of the game to move the ball inside the red zone, Eastern’s sixth trip of the night.
Failed punch-ins by Hamilton, QB Ben Bryant, and RB Samson Evans all led up to Chad Ryland to kick his fifth field goal of the night, and give EMU the 22-21 lead with 3:55 left in the game.
On the very next drive, EMU’s defensive pressure came through with another late turnover in rival territory. On 2nd & 9, true freshman DT Peyton Price moved the WMU O-lineman backwards, and got a hand up to tip Eleby’s pass up in the air, only to be caught by senior DT Michael Smith Jr.
EMU’s offense narrowly picked up a first down on the ensuing possession to down the clock out and seal the win.
This was Eastern’s third win in a row over Western, and the first three-game win streak by EMU in the series since 2011-13. Overall, EMU picked up its seventh win of the year, the third time a Creighton-led team has reached as many wins in a season.
Chad Ryland with another career day
That’s back-to-back career weeks for EMU kicker Chad Ryland. Last week, Ryland tied the school record with a 55-yard make against Ohio. Against WMU, Rylands number was called for five field goal tries, and made all of them — that’s the most field goal makes in a single game by any kicker in EMU’s history. Ryland’s previous record (which tied school record, achieved 8 times) for most field goal makes in a single game came just last year when he went 4/4 against, you guessed it, Western.
For his career, Ryland is 53 for 71 (74.7%) and is now three total points away from being the EMU’s school leader in total points scored. Ryland is a 297, Andrew Wellock (2003-2006) holds the school record at 299.
EMU lacked productivity in [red zone] offense
A quick look at the box score will tell you that this much is true: EMU was 6/6 in trips to the red zone.
But of those six scores, only one touchdown was scored by EMU. Down 21-9, EMU used its Wildcat package on 4th and 2 from WMU’s 19-yard line. WR Hassan Beydoun caught RB Samson Evans’ shovel pitch on the sweep play, and raced in for EMU’s first and only touchdown of the night.
Other than that, it was all Ryland to get the scoring done. EMU drove to and had to settle for field goals from WMU’s 12, 13, 4, 13, and 2-yard lines.
Early in the second quarter, EMU found itself in a 4th & 1 situation from WMU’s 7-yard line. QB Ben Bryant gave a hard count to try and force a defender offsides, but it was EMU’s offensive line that moved too suddenly and gave the Eagles a 5-yard penalty to back up and put the special teams unit on the field instead. On Eastern’s next drive, RB Jawon Hamilton flipped the field with a 60-yard run, but the Eagles failed to get any more than eight yards on the following set of downs and put the ball in Ryland’s hands (on his foot?). Throw in some goal-line stops, and WMU’s defense had itself a day.
WMU’s defense also made a bunch of plays behind the line of scrimmage. The unit recorded 12 tackles for loss with Ali Fayad leading his team with three, and Ralph Holley, Corvin Moment, Braden Fiske, and Andre Carter all with two apiece.
EMU didn’t get a lot going on offense (6.3 yards/play). There were some big runs out of RB Jawon Hamilton but this offense was still missing its deep, vertical passing game to set itself apart. Bryant, who has thrown at least 30 passes in the last six of seven games, was just 13/23 with 156 yards. WR Dylan Drummond, one of his most-preffered targets, caught only two passes (two targets) for 13 yards.
Blocked field goal
Every little bit helps in a game as close as this. When Western set up to kick from EMU’s 12-yard line late in the first half, Carter Stagner came through with field goal block to keep WMU from getting the easy score. At the time, it would’ve given WMU a 10-3 lead. And in a game as close as this was, Stagner’s big blocked field goal from the first half is about as big as those fourth-quarter turnovers.
Chef of the night: Jawon Hamilton
Hamilton’s been looking to finally have a big game in his one and only year with the Eagles (James Madison transfer), and he finally had a career day to speak of on senior night.
Earlier in the year, Hamilton had 122 yards rushed at UMass with a TD score. He didn’t get in the end zone against Western, but I’d be lying if I said he didn’t have a big impact on the game. Hamilton carried the ball 19 times for 179 yards (9.4 avg.) with runs that went for 31, 25, 60, 16, 11, and 22 yards.
Defense struggled in middle of game
Western’s offense seemed to move at-will against Eastern’s defense. A deep touch pass from WMU’s Eleby over CB Kempton Shine’s head and into the breadbasket of WR Skyy Moore was well placed and Moore’s speed was too much for the young corner to keep up with. Moore was hardly guardable: 12 catches for 181 yards.
After a 21-yard rush by Sean Tyler and a 1-yard punch-in by Eleby in the third quarter, the Broncos caught a 21-9 lead with just over 18 minutes left in the game.
But all of WMU’s scoring came in the second and third quarters.
The Broncos started the game with punts on three of its first four, then the fifth is when Stagner blocked the 29-yard field goal try. In the second half, EMU gave up a couple of touchdowns on 7 and 10-play drives (each 75-yard marches) but finished things by forcing another punt and the two, clutch turnovers.
Back up Broncos
I will note that things could have gotten out hand early instead. On WMU’s first drive of the game, a false start by WMU’s offensive line backed the Broncos up five yards to make it 1st and 15 to run its first play from. Eleby gamed his team to midfield really quickly, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was picked up by WMU WR Corey Crooms for the Broncos to move back 15 yards. Next thing you know, WMU fails to convert on 2nd & 23 and ended up punting on 4th & 33.
For the night, WMU committed seven penalties to back the Broncos up 63 yards. EMU was penalized just three times for 25 yards on the night.
Up next for EMU
EMU’s out of contention for the West title, but the Michigan MAC trophy is still on the line. With EMU and CMU both beating WMU, the trophy’s winner will go to the winner of next Friday’s matchup in Mt. Pleasant.
EMU will play at CMU next week on Black Friday for a noon matchup. CMU, depending on how things go tonight (CMU needs to win out, Northern Illinois needs to lose out), might still be in the MAC title hunt so the Chippewas’ stakes would be raised that much higher. Which means EMU would have one more reason to come in and spoil its rival’s plans.
If EMU wins the Michigan MAC, it’d be the first time EMU could capture it in the Chris Creighton era. CMU won it in 2013 and 2017, and won by WMU 2014-2016 and 2018-2020. EMU last won the trophy in 2011 and 2012.