FINAL SCORE: South Alabama 59, Eastern Michigan 10
The game was absolutely terrible. The postgame drama is way worse.
If you missed the 68 Ventures Bowl, good.
It’s been an absolute mess for Eastern Michigan since last night’s game kicked off.
To be 100% honest, the game isn’t worth a dedicated recap. The game played out exactly like the scoreboard says it did, and Eastern Michigan (6-7 overall, 4-4 MAC) was forced to get humbled by South Alabama on their own turf for the young program’s first-ever bowl victory.
Good for the Jaguars (7-6, 4-4 Sun Belt), they certainly deserved a moment to eat some cake. Not only did they spank the bejesus out of EMU with a 50-burger scored by the middle of the third quarter, South Alabama’s 59-10 win featured the most points in a game as a Division-I program.
EMU was without a lot of its key players from the season. South Alabama, same deal. For marketing purposes, I can be sold on a game that will give second and third-string guys their chances to finally shine in a bowl game, of all games, for once.
Opportunities came, but execution was an issue. A bowl game didn’t fix any flaw or baggage that EMU had during the season. Bowl games, for marketing purposes, are great opportunities for these football teams to put a bow on the season.
But if we choose to think of college football games as reality television, then bowl games, which marketing would never go for, are stages for emotions to boil over.
EMU wanted to rage quit at some point in the first half. South Alabama piled on, piled on, finally turned the ball over, then went back to rolling over EMU. Both of South Alabama’s QBs — neither of which were Carter Bradley — looked stellar. Wide receiver Jamaal Prichett looked like Percy Harvin out there.
For two Group of 5 or mid-major schools to get together after they each had 6-6 seasons, results this lop-sided are really uncalled for.
…scored on six of its first eight drives,
…out-gained EMU 627 yards to 150,
…ran for 335 yards while EMU had 94 rush yards,
…had 29 first downs while EMU had 10,
…punted just one time while EMU had six punts,
…had a 53% success rate (94th percentile) while EMU was at 26% (3rd percentile) according to an EPA-based model.
After the game, the Jaguars celebrated its first-ever bowl win with its fans by singing the school’s alma mater. That’s where things got messy.
Korey Hernandez, an outgoing defensive back, ran to South Alabama’s side to throw a cheap-shot punch at the back of a South Alabama’s head while he was wearing his helmet and singing the school’s alma mater with his team. A brawl, of course, ensued. Thanks to some endzone footage from Jaguars fans, it’s clear that Hernandez approached the Jags’ side by himself, which introduced him to another lopsided blowout — as if 59-10 wasn’t enough.
The early footage shows that separating the teams again took team efforts, but it’s not immediately not clear how this episode finally finished, or how long it lasted.
When Chris Creighton was asked about his view and comments on what happened, he responded: “I didn’t see things when they happened, but definitely saw the intensity of what had just happened. We had a really good, long talk in the locker room afterwards. We want to be first-class all the time no matter the circumstance — no matter what the scoreboard is, no matter what other factors, people, whatever are involved — and anything short of being first-class is not living up to the standard we have in Eastern Michigan football. I think that our guys care a lot about performing well and we… Sure we were embarrassed by how we played, it probably didn’t take too much to get our guys, you know, into a place that we hope that they never get.”
At this point, reading off notes from the bowl game and box score are incredibly uninteresting and unnecessary. Even if we were only going to talk about the football today, the conversation would still have to be short because it was, by far, the worst loss EMU has faced since it lost 56-20 two years ago to Liberty in the LendingTree Bowl on the exact same field.
It’s a loss that made it feel like we were living through 2014 again.
The punch, for some, made it feel like it was 2019 again. Both Mike Glass then and Hernandez now were outgoing graduates when they let their emotions boil over in these bowl settings. Glass, with 10 seconds remaining in the 2019 Quick Lane Bowl against Pitt, swung on a Pitt player (also with his helmet on) and swiped a referee that was trying to break up the two players. At the time, Hernandez was a first-year transfer from Arkansas and Iowa Western Community College, and was at Ford Field for Glass’ incident. Fast-forward four yers, Hernandez, from Decatur, Ga., effectively ends his college career on a low note.
EMU, likewise, finishes its season much more gloomy than expected. The 2023 season wasn’t very good — from top to bottom — and a bowl trip wasn’t going to make anybody forget how much of a struggle this season ended up being.
Creighton, during the season, has publicly said that his program faced an identity crisis. “Who are we?” was basically the theme that this team had to figure out after the Jacksonville State blowout. If bowl games are used as a way for teams to cement an answer to that very question, then I think the actions answer it pretty clearly. Among other things that EMU football might mean to you, this is the type of program where these things happen.