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Final: Northern Illinois 39, Eastern Michigan 10
Eastern Michigan, yet again, falls short of putting together a meaningful winning streak.
Way, way short.
Final score: Northern Illinois 39, Eastern Michigan 10 — another huge stinker at home. Home losses like these simply can’t happen for EMU to have serious success.
For all of the street credibility NIU came into the game with, this was still a team with a 1-5 record next to its name and was winless against MAC competition. NIU’s season-opening starting quarterback wasn’t even healthy enough to play the whole game, and the quarterback NIU did trot out and didn’t have a very memorable day.
But the Huskie still won.
Correction: the Huskies still whipped EMU’s behind.
EMU knew what was coming, and NIU brought everything it had. The Huskies lapped EMU 410 yards to 226, and the Huskie defense did everything that the home team wishes it would’ve been able to do.
EMU’s record falls to 4-3 overall, 1-2 in MAC play. Creighton is now 2-7 against NIU all-time.
While EMU’s MAC West hopes aren’t over, the race for its first-ever divisional title only got more difficult.
Rough day for Powell
EMU’s starting quarterback made just one highlight play against NIU.
On EMU’s second drive of the game, Powell connected with redshirt-freshman tight end Andreas Paaske for a 75-yard catch and run, which tied the game up at 7-7.
That’s it. Just the one.
The pass he had before the touchdown to Paaske was a highlight too, but for the other team. On a screen pass called out of EMU’s own end zone, Powell’s pass was deflected and caught at the line of scrimmage by NIU defensive tackle James Ester for the game’s first score.
Somehow, that play was much less demoralizing for EMU than everything else that the defensive line was able to accomplish.
Six Huskies created 8 total tackles for loss and sacked Powell 5 times for a loss of 49 yards whereas EMU had 5 players create 6 TFL, and Jose Ramirez had the team’s two sacks on the night.
The pressure NIU’s defensive line was one thing, but coverage from the secondary might’ve been better. The NIU DB’s didn’t have an interception and only two recorded pass breakups, but they covered EMU’s receivers long enough for NIU’s defensive line to sometimes complement with a pressure.
Powell was 11-for-23 passing for 197 yards, 1 TD and intercepted once.
NIU mixes up its QBs with RBs
NIU QB Rocky Lombardi was finally well enough to return to action for the Huskies, but not well enough to start the game. It was Lombardi’s first game back since Week 3 when NIU played Vanderbilt to a 38-28 home loss. When Northern Illinois found itself in long, passing downs, then Lombardi would see the field. Other than that, it was mostly a day for Justin Lynch and NIU’s running backs to receive snaps for the offense.
That said, it was still a pretty busy day for Lombardi. In fact, if you just read the box score, you probably wouldn’t even know that Lynch made his first career start fot the Huskies (third overall).
Lombardi was 11 of 15 passing for 115 yards while Lynch was 1 of 1 passing for 8 yards. No touchdowns were scored through the air for NIU (other than the defensive TD by Ester), but NIU’s running backs crossed the goal line three times. NIU’s running backs took a lot of direct snaps in this game with Lynch splitting out at wide receiver, and one of Antario Brown or Harrison Waylee would continually get through the line of scrimmage without being touched.
Brown scored on a 47-yard run to make it a 14-7 game in the first quarter. His second rushing score went for just 6 yards, and Waylee scored on a 76-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.
On NIU’s 12 offensive drives, the Huskie scored seven times.
The other four scores by NIU went to kicker John Richardson, who made all of his field goal tries.
EMU couldn’t have NIU’s run game
Not every play EMU ran went for negative yardage, but it sure did feel like it.
EMU didn’t run the ball well at all either. Jaylon Jackson, the starter, had 60 rushing yards (long of 17) on 16 carries. Samson Evans had four rushing yards on four carries, and Darius Boone only had 14 yards on two carries.
Discluding sacks, EMU had 78 rushing yards on 22 carries, an average of 3.5 yards per carry.
For NIU, we’re looking at 300 rushing yards on 47 rush attempts (no sacks included). That’s 6.4 yards per carry.
In short, these victories came in the trenches. The scoreboard reflects that well.
That was deflating, I didn't get to watch / listen because of work, but watching the play by play ticker on ESPN communicated the point succinctly. I wouldn't go as far as the message board warriors calling Creighton a loser, no one who can remember 1990-2015 can say that and be taken seriously. I will say though the fact that coach and the athletic department have ostensibly disconnected this program from it's history because of the woefulness of it, is a problem as well. The grey field, the fact that we wear more grey than white at home, "The Factory" moniker. All of this divorces this program from it's past. I know that new traditions are needed, I know that the mascot change still lingers, and I know that we exist in Michigan's shadow. But dammit we've been successful before, and that history might not be mythologized easily, but it says a whole lot more about who we are than a grey field. I'm worried this program has become too Creighton dependent, and he is still just a man, a man who will eventually leave. I believe that he is the greatest coach we've had since Jim Harkema, he could easily surpass all except Rynearson if he wins out this year. At the same time, this is a man who needs to have the bar raised on him, players see a coach who's job security is absolute and so regardless of how they feel about him they know their play has little impact on his job. Potential fans see a team that's only had two winning streaks of 3 or more games (in one season) since 2000 and don't become invested. The stadium needs to be more connected to the main campus, and the football team could certainly do more events on main campus to make them more integrated with the rest of the student body. The national media spends more time talking about the field and the various props than they do talking about the team's play, and when they do, their standards are "at least they don't shit the bed". The local media mostly ignores the team, or works for the university (making objectivity difficult), or are Alex and the Echo (and I'm not sure the Echo sends someone to press conferences). Eastern Michigan Football deserves being taken seriously, Chris Creighton deserves respectful scrutiny, and this program as an institution is capable of more. It is up to everyone who surrounds it to embrace this mentality.