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EM-eaUx Heads Down to Lafayette For G5 Matchup
Eastern Michigan looks to go 2-0 for first time since 2018.
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Week 2 Football Preview: Eastern Michigan at Louisiana
Saturday, Sept. 10 (7 p.m., NFL Network)
Just how good is Eastern Michigan?
Last week, the Eagles opened the season with a 42-34 win against Eastern Kentucky, whose skill level was definitely strong and fast enough to keep up with the competition of the Mid-American Conference. For as much respect EKU came into the game with, EMU’s locker room didn’t blissfully enjoy the win and call it a night.
Instead, they needed a little bit of coaching to find some satisfaction in the win.
“The feeling in the locker room afterwards was pretty subdued, which I appreciate because for us it's not just about winning… we want to play well,” EMU head coach Chris Creighton said Monday during the team’s presser. “We want to be at our best and that's where our ultimate goal is: to be our best. Definitely some things to work on, didn't expect perfection, knew that they were going to be a really good team — and they were — so we knew it was going to be a battle. We just thought we could've done a little bit better in some areas.”
No, it wasn’t a perfect game for the Eagles.
Offensively, the team started the game off with two-straight three-and-outs. Defensively, the team allowed 12 third-down conversions on 18 tries and recorded just one sack, the team’s only tackle for loss in the game.
While Friday’s win was eventful enough to keep EMU busy, make some mistakes to learn from, and prepare the team for the rest of the season. The rest of the season begins this Saturday with road contest to Louisiana.
“We will have to play at a really high level. A level that we're capable of playing at but nonetheless we'll have to play really well. That program has quickly turned into a juggernaut. They've dominated the Sun Belt which is a really good conference,” Crieghton said.
“We're going to have to tackle better defensively. I didn't like our third-down conversion ratio, defensively. And offensively I felt as though we got the run game going, we didn't have any explosive-explosive runs and our pass game was efficient. But we're going to get some different looks out of Louisiana so I think that the game could have a different feel both offensively and defensively.”
This week, Creighton later said, is the best chance for the most improvement for his team. Even with months of workouts and practice behind you, beginning the progression through the season is another element every college player has to adjust to.
“Football is about blocking and tackling, right? So because of the way we practice and try to keep people healthy and fresh and whatnot, our defense gets very, very limited opportunities to actually tackle. Because we're just taking calculated risks whenever we do that. It's not that we're not blocking offensively, but when it's not fully live, when a quarterback is wearing an orange jersey, it's just different. So part of it I think for every team is just playing football in Week 1 to Week 2,” Creighton explained.
Big Moment Bogan
Senior safety Blake Bogan was the first EMU defender to don the #0 jersey — a new weekly tradition where the coaching staff selects a deserving player to wear the jersey for a particular week.
On the first drive of the game, EKU drove the ball downfield to threaten for an early score. Deep in the red zone, EKU quarterback Parker McKinney threw a pass to the end zone to one of his hot receivers, but Bogan was perfectly positioned for a huge interception to get the Colonel offense off the field.
At the very end of the game, Bogan was on the receiving end of an onside kick attempt by EKU. The Grand Blanc, Mich. native also had 4 tackles (1 solo), and a pass breakup for the game.
Friday’s game was Bogan’s 40th career game for EMU and 20th start — both totals that lead the team’s defense.
Said Creighton of his senior safety: “Blake means a ton to this program. He's a sixth-year senior from Grand Blanc, and we were really excited when we got him, and knew he was going to develop into a great safety… He's is just rock-solid in his character and who he is, has just tremendous respect from everybody in our program… That interception, arguably, won the game. We were anemic offensively, we had six plays in the first quarter, went nowhere or backwards on five of the six. And that takeaway in the end zone basically stalled them from being able to score and for us to get our junk together offensively. Huge play in the game. Obviously, he's our guy on the hands team, he made a great play.”
Transfers with first EMU starts
Friday’s game was the first start for a handful of Eagles who joined the team via transfer. Offensively, EMU started quarterback Taylor Powell (Troy, Missouri) and center Dimitri Douglas (Michigan State, 2020), and defensively EMU started end Grant Trueman (Citrus College, 2019), linebackers Chase Kline (Michigan State) and Joe Sparacio (Boston College), and cornerback Joshua Scott (City College of San Francisco).
Powell and Kline were named team captains leading up to last week’s opener. Those two, plus Sparacio, more or less emerged as starters at their positions from the moment they stepped on campus. Trueman has been with the team since 2019, and his experience has finally put him in the team’s starting rotation.
Douglas transferred to EMU from Michigan State during the 2020 offseason and finally got his first start at center Friday. Expected starter Richard Bates Jr., who moved over from guard, did not dress last week vs. EKU.
“(Douglas) had a very good camp. Dimitri is from Saline High School, we offered him out of high school, he took a scholarship to Michigan State and ended up being back at our program and has been competing, getting better, and had a really good camp,” Creighton said. “He's playing the best football he's played since his time here at Eastern Michigan, and he didn't just get here. Could very well see both Dimitri and Richard (Bates) this weekend. Dimitri really came through for us. With the graduation of Mike Van Hoeven, we knew that there was going to be somebody new at center, and Dimitiri has really thrown his hat in the ring.”
Scott was in his first game action for EMU and hardly ever got off the field on defense. In his first game with his new team, the cornerback made two tackles and did his part to limit EKU’s passing attack to just 6.9 yards per attempt.
Creighton said he liked what he saw out of Scott when he was a JUCO recruit, and was excited to try to finally bring him into Ypsilanti.
“(Scott) got his first taste and he's going to continue to get better and better,” the coach said.
Last 5 vs. Sun Belt
2015: Old Dominion 38, EMU 34 (home)
2016: Old Dominion 24, EMU 20 (Bahamas Bowl)
2018: Georgia Southern 23, EMU 21 (Camellia Bowl)
2019 EMU 30, Coastal Carolina 23 (away)
2021: EMU 59, Texas State 21 (home)
Facing off against the Sun Belt is a newer change to EMU’s schedule over the years. EMU’s played Sun Belt schools six times in the Chris Creighton era (Old Dominion 3x, Georgia Southern, Coastal Carolina, Texas State) after not seeing any since, well, Louisiana in the mid-2000s. Since 2014, EMU has gone 2-2 against Sun Belt schools in the regular season and 0-2 in bowl games.
EMU has four future non-conference games scheduled through 2029: 2025 at Texas State, 2025 vs. Louisiana, 2027 at Georgia Southern, and 2029 vs. Georgia Southern.
EMU vs. Louisiana
2005: EMU 31, Louisiana 10 (home)
2006: Louisiana 33, EMU 14 (away)
EMU hasn’t played Louisiana since its home-and-home series during the Jeff Genyk era. EMU won the 2005 matchup at home in Week 2 after a season-opening loss at Cincinnati (28-26). In 2006, EMU opened the year with four straight losses: three road games, then an overtime home loss to Central Michigan (24-17) before losing at Louisiana; EMU’s losing streak lasted six games.
On the Cajuns
Over the last four years, Louisiana had its first-ever three-peat of 10-win seasons and two-straight Sun Belt championships. The head coach that helped make it all happen, Billy Napier, is now at Florida, and Louisiana turned around and hired whilelong assistant and former Cajun quarterback Michael Desormeaux as its new head coach.
Head coach Michael Desormeaux, 1st year (2-0 record)
Desormeaux, 36, is already 2-0 as the team’s head coach. Last season as the interim head coach following Napier’s departure. Louisiana won the New Orleans Bowl over Marshall (36-21) to end last season, and beat Southeastern Louisiana 24-7.
Said Creighton: “Yes there's been some changes, but as there's been some changes, sorta, more stuff stays the same. They've got really good players, they're very well-coached, they believe in who they are and how they do it, confident, they're used to winning.”
Week 1: Louisiana 24, SE Louisiana 7 (at Louisiana)
As much as EMU had its hands full on Friday night against a quality FCS squad, Louisiana didn’t have a walk in the park on Saturday against its in-state opponent.
The Cajuns went up 17-0 by halftime, but the offense struggled to find points in the second half. The Cajuns ended their second-half drives by way off: punt, punt, missed field goal, punt, turnover on downs (second of the game), punt, and touchdown.
Louisiana’s defense intercepted SELA twice in the second half for the Louisiana offense to start on the SELA 42 and 39-yard lines. The Cajuns went four-and-out on the first drive, and scored on a seven-play drive the second time around.
#18 QB Chandler Fields 2022: 13/20 passing (65%), 173 yards (8.7 Y/A), 2 TD, 0 INT
#10 QB Ben Wooldridge 2022: 7/11 passing (63.6%), 68 yards (6.2 Y/A)
#88 TE Johnny Lumpkin 2022: 5 rec., 72 yards, 2 TD
#29 Peter LeBlanc 2021: 37 rec., 417 yards, 1 TD
#17 Deontae Fleming 2021: 27 rec., 322 yards, 2 TD
#6 WR Errol Rogers Jr. 2021: 26 rec., 215 yards
Oh great, another offense with a big tight end.
Johnny Lumpkin was Louisiana’s best receiver last week while all other receivers in the game had either one or two catches. Lumpkin (6’6, 268 lbs.) had five, which is pretty good considering he only had eight receptions last year.
The top three receivers from last year all return, but were generally quiet in last week’s game.
Louisiana’s quarterback play is a little suspect right now. The team has to replace Levi Lewis, who was a four-year starter for the team, and it doesn’t look like Chandler Fields solidified himself as the QB1 last week. Louisiana made a change at the position in the fourth quarter after he failed to deliver a score in the third when the Cajuns finished drives by: punt, punt, and missed field goal. If Louisiana still has quarterback troubles against EMU, then the returning receivers will continue to be statistically uninvolved in the game.
#2 S Brandon Bishop: 32 tackles (17 solo, 1 TFL), 1 INT, 1 pass breakup
#4 DE Zi’Yon Hill-Green: 59 tackles (23 solo, 9.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks), 4 QB hurries, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 blocked kick
#6 LB Kris Moncrief: 31 tackles (10 solo, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks) 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 QB hurry, 1 FF, 1 FR
#10 LB Andre Jones : 60 tackles (35 solo, 9.5 TFL, 6 sacks) 4 QB hurries, 2 FR, 2 FF
#19 LB AJ Riley: 23 tackles (10 solo, 3 sacks), 1 INT, 1 QB hurry
#38 LB Jourdan Quibodeaux: 38 tackles (3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks)
Louisiana allowed just 4.2 yards per play last week after the defense had a strong second-half showing. SELA had one good drive that resulted in a touchdown (13 plays, 78 yards) but Louisiana’s defense forced three punts and three turnovers on all other drives for 137 total yards gained.
Last week vs. SELA, Kris Moncrief had a team-best 2 tackles for loss (5 total tackles) and shared a sack with LB Andre Jones. The two interceptions made in that game were by Eric Garror and Amir McDaniel (18-yard return). The team’s leading tackler against SELA was S Kam Pedescleaux with 7 (6 solo). Courtline Flowers, Jourdan Quibodeaux, and Bralen Trahan were all defenders that recorded tackles for loss last week, too.
Week 2 MACtion Schedule
Saturday, Sept. 10
Ohio at Penn State (Noon, ABC)
It’s the 10-year anniversary of one of the best MAC-over-Big Ten upsets in recent memory. Let’s run it back.
South Alabama at Central Michigan (1 p.m. ESPN+)
Here’s a good game for people who love their MAC West games. Carter Bradley, former Toledo QB who transferred to South Alabama, will be featured in this game to play Central Michigan for his third time.
In 2019 when CMU dominated 49-7, Bradley was 15 of 23 passing for 121 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions. In the 2020 season finale, Bradley and the Rockets beat CMU in the Glass Bowl 24-23 as Bradley went 18/33, 265 yards, 3 TD and 3 INT. Last year, DeQuan Finn took over as the team’s new starting quarterback early in the season.
Last week, Bradley threw for 260 yards and had three touchdowns, no picks. If the Oklahoma State game exposed any truths about CMU’s pass defense, then Bradley might be able to have some success in his final go-round against the Chippewas.
CMU player to watch: WR Carlos Carriere. The 6’5 receiver wearing #2 who transferred to Central from Maryland this offseason is already proving himself on the field. He had 5 catches for 75 yards and a TD at Oklahoma State.
Western Michigan at Ball State (2 p.m., ESPN+)
The only MAC league game going on this weekend, and it should be fun. WMU-Ball State is no NIU-Toledo, but these two teams still have had some really solid battles as they’ve been led by Tim Lester and Mike Neu, so this weekend should live up to the billing.
Last 5 matchups
2017: WMU 55, Ball State 3 (at WMU)
2018: Ball State 42, WMU 41 (at Ball State)
2019: WMU 35, Ball State 31 (at WMU)
2020: Ball State 30, WMU 27 (at Ball State)
2021: Ball State 45, WMU 20 (at WMU)
Akron at Michigan State (4 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Last week, Michigan State beat WMU pretty handily and Akron needed OT to beat St. Francis from the FCS ranks. By my logic, I see no reason to watch this as an outsider. Unless this becomes a heart-racer in the fourth quarter, I don’t have a good forecast for this game.
Eastern Kentucky at Bowling Green (4 p.m., ESPN3)
Eastern Michigan fans know first-hand that Bowling Green’s definitely on upset watch for this game. EKU’s got players, and I don’t know if Bowling Green has the pieces to keep up.
Did BGSU just have a good first-half against UCLA? Sure, the scoreboard would say. But remember how BGSU got its first 10 points: a blocked punt for a score, and a field goal. On the drive to set up the field goal, BGSU’s offense had just punted from the UCLA 41-yard line and the Bruin receiver muffed the punt return for the Falcons to jump back on the ball at the 11-yard line. With excellent field position, the Falcons moved the ball just five yards, and settled for three points to be up 10-7. BG got up to a 17-7 lead to start the second quarter, and that’s all I have for the BG highlights from that game.
Holy Cross at Buffalo (6 p.m., ESPN+)
After a 31-10 loss, this is a contest that Buffalo could really use to get into the win column and gain some confidence.
Robert Morris at Miami OH (6 p.m., ESPN3)
No timetable is set for his return, but Miami QB Brett Gabbert will miss this game with an injury.
With three minutes left in the 37-13 loss at Kentucky, Brett Gabbert was tackled from behind as he threw a pass on the run, and brought down hard enough to sustain an upper-body injury and left the game. Miami coach Chuck Martin ruled Gabbert out during Miami’s team press conference Monday.
Miami should still do just fine against Robert Morris, but this also means more reps for the team’s QB2, Aveon Smith.
Kent State at Oklahoma (7 p.m., ESPN+)
Kent State, please stop doing this to yourself.
Last 10 vs. ranked P5 teams (Note: Rankings from AP Poll at time of game)
2013: #8 LSU 45, Kent State 13 (at LSU)
2014: #22 Ohio State 66, Kent State 0 (at Ohio State)
2016: #1 Alabama 48, Kent State 0 (at Alabama)
2017: #5 Clemson 56, Kent State 3 (at Clemson)
2017: #19 Louisville 42, Kent State 3 (at Louisville)
2018: #11 Penn State 63, Kent State 10 (at Penn State)
2019: #8 Auburn 55, Kent State 16 (at Auburn)
2019: #8 Wisconsin 48, Kent State 0 (at Wisconsin)
2021: #6 Texas A&M 41, Kent State 10 (at Texas A&M)
2021: #5 Iowa 30, Kent State 7 (at Iowa)
UMass at Toledo (7 p.m., ESPN+)
Toledo ought to pick up an easy victory here. I have no clue what Vegas expects, but anything less than a 5-touchdown victory by Toledo would make me worry about the Rockets.
Last 5 matchups
1983: Toledo 45, UMass 13 (at Toledo
1999: Toledo 24, UMass 3 (at Toledo)
2014: Toledo 42, UMass 35 (at Toledo)
2015: Toledo 51, UMass 35 (at UMass)
2021: Toledo 45, UMass 7 (at UMass)
Northern Illinois at Tulsa (7 p.m., ESPN+)
Tulsa isn’t everybody’s favorite Group of 5 program to square off against, but this could end up being a tight game.
Tulsa saw a 10-win season in 2016, but the team’s had to build itself back up to get to that point again. The team won two times in 2017, thrice in 2018, four wins in 2019, went 6-3 during the 2020 pandemic year, and had another winning record of 7-6 last year. It’s been a gradual build-back up for the Golden Hurricane under 8th-year coach Philip Montgomery, whereas Northern Illinois, the better G5 football brand, went from no wins to conference championship over the last two seasons with Thomas Hammock.
Both sides have a lot to prove themselves in this game after Tulsa lost in overtime to Wyoming last week (40-37) and NIU’s not-so-great-looking win over Eastern Illinois (34-27).