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Central leaves no doubt, beats Eastern for Michigan MAC title outright
Eastern Michigan falls 31-10 to rival Central Michigan in Mt. Pleasant on Black Friday.
Welcome to The Ypsilanti Eleven! Eastern Michigan falls to Central Michigan on the road to end the regular season with a 7-5 overall record (4-4 vs. MAC). EMU’s pass game was fine, but not good enough to overcome a run game that sputtered for 0.2 yards per carry. Physically, Central had Eastern’s number, and that’s all that there was to the game. CMU wins the Michigan MAC trophy outright for the first time since 2017.
As a cute high note to enter on: Kicker Chad Ryland broke another school record this week.
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FINAL: Central Michigan 31, Eastern Michigan 10
Game ball goes to CMU’s Lew Nichols III
This has been a very difficult year to make any declarations about whether anyone or anything is good or bad, but I never hesitated to repeat this: Central Michigan’s running back is damn good. Lew Nichols has been the heartbeat of CMU’s offense all year long and there was no reason to believe that he couldn’t have been against Eastern Michigan either.
Nichols carried the ball 44 times for 194 yards and was never stopped behind the line of scrimmage.
No, Nichols didn’t rip off for many long runs, but he was reliable and steady. He had chunk plays for pickups of 13, 11, and 33 yards (long was TD), but the other 41 handoffs only went for a handful of yards. Nichols finished with 4.4 yards per rush.
CMU’s (8-4 overall, 6-2 MAC) offense finished things off a couple times with TD passes to WR JaCorey Sullivan. One early score made on a screen pass nine yards out, the other scored from 26 yards out where Sullivan was left wide open.
My hope for Nichols, at this point, is that he wins the Mid-American Conference’s MVP Award: The Vern Smith Leadership Award. For the season, Nichols has rushed for 1,708 yards for 15 TD, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He has reached 100 yards in nine games this year, and at least 185 yards reached in five of those.
No protection for QB Bryant
Eastern’s (7-5, 4-4 MAC) offense is pretty one-dimensional this year. That’s fine when it works, but getting sacked seven times throughout the game is about as non-ideal as it gets for a team that averaged 34.2 pass attempts per game entering this week. All of the pain was brought to EMU QB Ben Bryant form the very first snap of the game.
Here’s the list: Tyrece Woods, Daedae Hill, LaQuan Johnson, Troy Hairson, John Wesley Whiteside, Jacques Bristol, Amir Siddiq, and Jason Wiliams all recorded sacks on Bryant for Central.
On plays where Bryant was able to still get a throw off, he was 24-for-35 (68.6%) for 221 yards (6.3 Y/A) and didn’t throw any interceptions. Bryant’s longest throw of the day went for 20 yards to Dylan Drummond, but nothing any bigger than that. For an offense that played behind all game long and faced a lot of third or fourth-and-long downs, the pass game didn’t even enough production to keep the chains moving.
EMU offensive stats of note vs. CMU
Punted 4 times
2/12 on third downs
0/5 on fourth downs
2 fumbles, 1 lost (RB Bryson Moss)
Rush offense: 27 att., 5 yards, 0.2 yards/carry
The 100-yard return didn’t help
CMU distanced itself on the scoreboard on the opening kick of the second half. Freshman Marion Lukes took the kick 100 yards, largely untouched, for a quick score to get CMU’s lead up from 10-3 to 17-3 to open up the third quarter.
Chad Ryland: New all-time points leader
One highlight of the game goes to Chad Ryland’s first-half field goal. It’s not the first time he drained an easy 50-yarder for the green and white, which is exactly the point.
With his lone field goal on the night, Ryland surpassed Andrew Wellock for most career points in EMU history. Wellock had 299 points scored, and Ryland became the school leader with 300 after the field goal.
Ryland’s currently at 301 total points with the PAT kicked later on in the game.
The conversations: Phony injuries(?)
Lots of talk about fake injuries during this game, both on the field and through the ESPNU broadcast.
EMU DT Michael Smith Jr. seemingly looked fine walking one moment, then instantly fell on his backside between plays when no contact was made with him. CMU’s sideline instantly questioned that, and the home crowd that showed up for the Black Friday matchup had their team’s back. For the rest of the game, every injury (or whatever) suffered by the EMU defense was met by the entire CMU side calling B.S. It’s worth immediately noting that CMU head coach Jim McElwain seemed composed (rather than finger-pointy) when talking over the injuries with the referee crew, and the ESPN broadcast (Dustin Fox and Mike Couzens) did a decent job of showing the all-22 view of some of these episodes in a timely fashion.
This conversation is sort of a hot-button issue these days. Players faking injuries is nothing new (stops teams from running tempo offenses, something CMU does), but the Tennessee vs. Ole Miss game earlier this year — which included lasted over five and a half hours with thousands of fans throwing garbage onto the field — sparked the topic back up again. Tennessee fans were calling B.S. on Ole Miss’ defenders stopping the game with legitimate or illegitimate injuries. There were over 180 plays run in that game, so injuries were bound to happen. On Black Friday, EMU was the Ole Miss that pissed off an away crowd by maybe/maybe not having 100% legitimate injuries suffered by its defenders. We could debate the morality of this until we’re blue in the face and stuck with some obvious agreements, but the fact of the matter is that there’s no rule in place to prohibit this from happening. The rulebook chalks this behavior up to a general understanding that, out of sportsmanship, we can trust one another to not fake injuries during a game just to gain a small, tactical advantage.
Whether or not EMU’s defenders suffered phony injuries, the scoreboard tells enough of what we needed to know about these two teams. CMU was the better physical team on both sides of the ball for all 60 minutes, and left the game with a convincing 31-10 score. The Chippewas left no room for doubt, and won the Michigan MAC outright with a combined score of 73-40 over Western and Eastern.
Could’ve been worse. CMU went to TE Joel Wilson on a 4th down pass play in the first quarter and he was wide open for a score. Problem was he slipped and fell on the wet turf when he reached up for the ball, and stopped him from getting the touchdown.
Preston Hutchinson 0/2 on his limited snaps. The first play that involved Hutchinson came in the first quarter when the 4th-down, designed QB run play resulted in a loss of yards and a turnover on downs. The second came on 2nd and goal in the third quarter when Hutchinson was given a read option play to run. Hutchinson handed the ball off to Evans for no gain instead of running the ball himself. If he would’ve kept the ball instead, maybe he gets the score.
WR Tanner Knue led EMU with 70 rec. yards on 7 receptions.
WR Hassan Beydoun led EMU with 8 receptions, and had 69 rec. yards.
RB Samson Evans had EMU’s only TD to bring his season total up to 12, but was limited otherwise. Finished with more carries (8) than net yards (4).
LB Tariq Speights led EMU’s defense with 11 tackles and got Nichols to fumble the ball once. Unfortunately, the dang thing bounced out of bounds before a fellow Eagle could fall on the loose ball.
DB Robert Daniel picked off CMU QB Daniel Richardson early on in the game; his first career interception.
CMU WR Kalil Pimpleton limited to 38 receiving yards on 4 catches, and only went 23 total yards on the ground with some nicely-designed plays. Still, Pimpleton’s definitely a huge difference-maker for the team, and he was limited in a game that still ended in his team’s favor.
That Bernhard Raimann guy is amazing. Run block, pass protect, whatever. CMU’s offense did it all behind #76 at left tackle, and there’s no question that this guy’s going to the league when it’s all said and done.
What’s next for EMU?
For now, the Eagles just have to wait and see what the immediate future holds for them. This team finished 7-5 with very few “bad” losses (Ohio lost to BG on Friday to finish 3-9 overall), so I’m not really wondering if EMU will go bowling, just where?
Without thinking to hard on the issue, it just feels like this is Eastern Michigan’s turn to go to one of two destinations. The first, and my personal hope, is the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and take on a Mountain West team. Second, I’d go with the Frisco Bowl, which is unfortunately no longer sponsored by Tropical Smoothie but instead Toyota. Those are the two bowl games I hope EMU ends up in, but we’ll find out between now and next Sunday which bowl game Eastern lands a commitment with.