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EMU Bowl Eligible After Win at Akron, 34-28
Defense allows late life for Akron, but Eagles close with a win.
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Final: Eastern Michigan 34, Akron 28
Maybe things could’ve looked prettier, but Eastern Michigan still came away with the win. EMU won the turnover battle, three interceptions to one, and beat the worst team in the MAC by six points: 34-28.
No, it’s not EMU’s best-looking win. But it’s the one that made EMU eligible for a bowl game this season.
EMU (6-4 overall, 3-3 MAC) reached its sixth win of the year, and it now has the chance to make its fifth bowl game over the last seven years, all under Chris Creighton’s leadership (0-4 in bowl games).
EMU’s Austin Smith helped the offense get off to a strong start in the first half, and Samson Evans ran the ball effectively enough to limit Akron’s (1-9 overall, 0-6 MAC) damage.
Smith connected with WR Dylan Drummond on a 40-yard pass in the first quarter to give EMU a 10-7 lead, then strung up another strong drive late in the second quarter that ended on a 10-yard TD strike to Tanner Knue to go up 24-14.
EMU also got a pair of scores from Evans on the ground and Jesus Gomez with his foot (24, 43 yards out) to put up 34 points in the road win.
EMU is now 3-0 on the road in MAC games while 0-3 at home.
INTs lead to Samson Evans rushing past Shaq Vann
RB Samson Evans had two scores in Tuesday night’s game at Akron. Both came after EMU cornerbacks recorded their first career interceptions for the green and white.
Evans’ first TD was a gift-wrapped present by the home team, and it let EMU re-take the lead in the first quarter. After the Zip defense forced EMU to punt, Akron fielded the ball and stepped out at midfield, but an errant personal foul away from the return man backed Akron’s drive up to its 20-yard line. QB DJ Irons targeted Shocky Jacques-Louis, who entered the game as the MAC’s second-leading receiver, but CB Kempton Shine got in front of the receiver to record his first-career interception. Jacques-Louis, fighting back on the play, held Shine’s facemask to bring on another penalty against the Zips.
After all that, EMU would begin the second quarter just nine yards away from the end zone, and Evans ran his way into the end zone.
Late in the third quarter, EMU took over on offense following another interception. This time, by Joshua Scott. Scott, the junior college transfer who came to EMU to compete as a cornerback has actually found playing time on this team as a safety, tracked down Akron’s backup QB’s pass to the sideline perfectly and came away with the turnover.
Three plays later, out of a 3rd & 12 situation, Evans took a handoff and ran his way for a 23-yard touchdown score which put EMU ahead 31-14.
All-time rushing TDs scored
Gary Patton (31)
Antony Sherrell (28)
Eric Deslauriers (27)
Larry Ratcliff (26)
Kerry Keating & Samson Evans (25)
Shaq Vann (24)
Despite INTs, defense gave Akron second life
Eastern Michigan’s had issues stopping the run before, and Akron kept dialing the right run plays against EMU in the second half.
RB Cam Wiley, who already had a touchdown scored in the second quarter, went (largely) untouched for his 11 and 55-yard runs in the fourth quarter to put the Zips behind by just one score (31-28).
While Akron’s stud running back, a Minnesota transfer, had a big second half to make the game more respectable, he unfortunately had one of the more regrettable plays in the second half as well. On third down in EMU territory, Wiley was wide-open on a wheel route. Akron QB Jeff Undercuffler, who replaced the injured starter, threw it to Wiley but the running back dropped the ball.
If Wiley would’ve caught the pass, the Zips would’ve moved the chains to begin a new set of downs inside the red zone with just two minutes to play.
Instead, Akron’s QB threw his third interception of the game on fourth down, this time to LB Joe Sparacio, for EMU to take over and run the clock out.
EMU reaches bowl eligibility
For the fifth time in Chris Creighton’s nine years as EMU’s head coach, he’s got the team going to a bowl game.
I won’t get into the whole “wow, remember how much worse things were before he got here?” conversation, but it’s still worthwhile to have. Still, I don’t think bowl eligibility should be treated as an excellent benchmark for EMU to play at. While playing for a postseason game is great (and finishing with fewer than 7 losses in a year is always preferred), it’s not nearly as important as reaching the MAC title game.
EMU did its part today by beating Akron, but now most of the work has to be done by sitting around and waiting for scores to come in. EMU still has a shot at reaching the MAC title game if Ball State beats Toledo tonight (early 4th quarter as of this writing, game tied up 21-21). If Toledo wins their home game, then a bowl game is all EMU will have left to play for this year.