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EMU Takes Control in 42-34 Victory Over EKU
Eastern Michigan 1-0 after beating Eastern Kentucky for the first time in school history.
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Eastern Michigan got the season off on the right foot with its season-opening win over Eastern Kentucky 42-34 on Friday night at Rynearson Stadium.
While it wasn’t a pretty win, EMU wasn’t exactly expected to win big either. The Eagles opened as 10.5-point favorites, and the Colonels came into the game as credible FCS opponents that had a lot of talent on both sides of the ball entering the game.
Eventually, EMU scored that first TD
Eastern Michigan’s drive that finally got the Eagles on the scoreboard was a doozy to say the least. After EKU got on the board with a 33-yard field goal at the top of the second quarter, incoming transfer Jaylon Jackson returned his first career kick for 35 yards, then the Eagles were able to add 15 more yards to the run with a penalty against EKU (horse collar). Even though EMU was able to start the drive in EKU territory, it wasn’t a quick, clean drive for the Eagles to get on the board.
The Eagles were penalized twice (false start, holding) to back up 15 total yards, and EKU was also flagged twice for yellow flags to dictate EMU’s eventual field position. After EKU’s TK McClendon followed up a big sack with a costly roughing the passer penalty, QB Taylor Powell hit Tanner Knue with 15-yard touchdown pass for the Eagles to take a 7-3 lead.
On its next drive, EKU gifted EMU with a fumble at midfield as DT Melvin Swindle and LB Chase Kline made a play on the EKU ball carrier. EMU senior safety Russ Vaden came away with the fumble recovery. Starting from the EKU 49-yard line, EMU strung up a 10-play drive that was finished with an 8-yard touchdown run by junior running back Samson Evans, the 15th of his career.
And with that, EMU took the 7-3 lead and didn’t trail the rest of the way.
Taylor Powell’s first start
Powell’s first run with the Eagles wasn’t perfect, but it was still about as good as you could ask for.
While EMU’s offense was on and off the field in a hurry with two straight three-and-outs to open the game, the graduate transfer captain from Fayetteville, Ark. settled in and made some big plays with his arm and his feet to put EMU ahead.
He and Tanner Knue hooked up for a couple of touchdowns throughout the game, and tried to have another one before halftime, but that throw would end up being a (non-costly) turnover for EKU.
Powell had TD passes to Knue for 15 yards in the second quarter, then found him again in the third for a 12-yard strike.
In the fourth quarter, Powell gave Andreas Paaske his first career reception with a 34-yarder to get the Eagles into the red zone. Powell followed that play up by keeping the ball on a read-option run play, and took it in for a 7-yard rush for EMU to be up 35-17.
With the help of Evans to get some first-down pickups on the ground, Powell was set up for his third TD pass of the night from the 22-yard line. Powell floated the ball up to his right side for one of his receivers to come down with the catch. Hassan Beydoun fought through traffic that included his own teammate Dylan Drummond to make the play, but the catch was good, and Beydoun brought in his sixth career TD catch to give EMU the 42-27 lead.
Powell finished the night 21 of 30 passing for 271 yards with 3 TD, 1 INT. Powell was sacked three times in the first half, but zero times in the second half. He finished the day with 5 net rushing yards on 8 attempts.
Blake Bogan saves opening drive
The opening drive was a nervous way for the Eagles to open their season opener in front of 16,531 fans. On their first possession of the year, the Colonels converted on two third downs and a fourth down to get its offense all the way to the EMU 16-yard line. EKU chose to pass it, but Parker McKinney’s pass was intercepted by Bogan in the corner of the end zone to end the drive and put Eastern’s offense on the field.
Bogan would come through with the ball in his hands again in a clutch moment at the end of the game, too.
After EKU scored its final TD of the game to be down by just one possession, the Colonels attempted an onside kick to steal the ball back, but Bogan recovered the attempted kick for EMU to kneel out the clock.
EKU showed no quit
It was to no surprise that Eastern Kentucky was anything but a cupcake walking into Rynearson Stadium Friday night. Colonels’ QB McKinney, who can make a lot of different plays happen, made it tough on the Eagles with his 351 passing yards (35 of 51) and 49 rush yards (7 att.) in the game.
McKinney threw a costly interception on his team’s first possession but came away with four total touchdowns on the night: three through the air, once on the ground. His offense found itself in a lot of third downs, and the Colonels converted on 12 of 18 of those. It didn’t matter if EKU was caught in 3rd and 2 or 3rd and 10 situations, the Colonels seemed to have a lot of answers for EMU’s defense to extend drives.
EKU’s offense ended up running 79 plays for 492 yards (6.2 per play).
Defensively, the Colonels made stops and turnovers, but apparently just not enough. The EKU defense made three sacks against Powell, recorded four additional tackles for loss, caused a fumble, and intercepted one of Powell’s passes.
After a 40-yard field goal by EKU, the Colonel defense got EMU tight end Jere Getzinger to fumble the ball after his received pass and took over on offense again, starting on EMU’s 42-yard line. Linebacker Chase Kline, covering EKU tight end Dakota Allen over the middle, was penalized for a pass interference, and Allen would bring in his first touchdown reception of the night to make it a 35-27 score.
After EMU scored again, EKU matched with another TD reception by Allen.
With just over a minute remaining, EKU attempted an on-side kick, but the Colonels’ late try would be unsuccessful.
Many, many penalties called vs. EKU
Judging by how many times Eastern Kentucky was penalized, it would almost be more difficult for Eastern Michigan to finish the night with anything but a victory.
Getting penalties in all three phases of the game — offense, defense, and special teams — EKU was flagged 12 times and forfeited 108 yards from them.
EMU, meanwhile, was flagged 6 times for 59 yards.
More gameday coverage to follow: Stay tuned for more gameday coverage with a recap episode for Y11 Audio and a box score breakdown here on the newsletter.