It Was All Good Until It Wasn't
The second half looked nothing like the first. EMU falls to Louisiana 49-21.
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Final: Louisiana 49, Eastern Michigan 21
Eastern Michigan didn’t finish the way it started on Saturday night in a road game against Louisiana, the defending Sun Belt champions.
What was once a 14-0 lead at halftime for EMU turned into a 21-21 ball game, then the Cajuns played much more confidently as it lapped the Eagles 49-21.
EMU (SP+ Rank: 101) falls to a 1-1 record with Arizona State coming up next week.
With three minutes remaining before halftime and EMU driving, local lightning storms caused the teams to go in their locker rooms and hide for an hour before play could resume. The weather storms also caused some stat-compiling equipment to miscalculate the game’s stats (among other things), which were unavailable after the game.
Because of the storms, EMU was unable to host its postgame press conference with coach Chris Creighton and issued an audio statement instead.
“It really stinks because we turned the ball over six times and I don’t think we ended up taking it away,” Creighton said. “What I told the guys, and I mean this, is that I thought we played really, really hard, but it is nearly impossible to win a football game, especially against a championship-caliber opponent, when you turn the ball over six times. It’s just nearly impossible. It’s hard because you can’t take those away or take those back, but if it’s 0-0 turnover-takeaway situation, that’s probably a fun locker room right now. But we’ll never know.
“Our guys feel terrible, but I do, I’m absolutely proud of their effort. We came into this saying we had to be physical, we had to play harder than them, we had to take care of the ball and take the ball away. The first two I feel really good about, the second two is the worst it’s ever been.”
While EMU got up to an impressive start to the ball game, ULL went from punting on its first five drives to scoring touchdowns on its next seven to beat the Eagles.
Just brutal stuff.
Something that was a strong point of emphasis for Eastern Michigan heading into Week 2 was the way it executed on both sides of the ball in the first quarter. Against Eastern Kentucky, EMU’s offense sputtered for two yards on just six plays. Defensively, EMU let up a near-scoring drive to start the game. EMU needed Blake Bogan to come through with an interception in the end zone.
To open up Saturday’s contest at Louisiana, EMU pieced together a 13-play drive for 75 yards, ending with a jump-pass out of the Wildcat formation to get on the board first.
On fourth and goal from Louisiana’s 3-yard line, RB Samson Evans received the snap and faked an inside run for tight end Aaron Jackson to be wide open in the end zone. Evans, a former high school quarterback, jumped up to complete the pass to Jackson, also a former high school quarterback, to break score.
The touchdown was Jackson’s first of his career, and Samson’s fourth passing TD of his career.
After the exciting drive, EJ Williams delivered an excited hit on special teams, then the defense carried that same excitement though its first series. The Cajun offense moved backwards two yards, and punted after just three plays — a complete 180-degree turnaround from the start EMU had last weekend.
ULL’s third-quarter turnaround
After a four-minute halftime break, the Cajuns turned a 14-0 deficit into tie ball game at 21 points apiece by the end of the third quarter.
After Eastern’s second punt of the third quarter, Louisiana return man Chris Smith returned a punt at midfield for 21 yards before EMU punter Mitchell Tomasek made the tackle for the Cajuns to start on the EMU 27-yard line. It only took two plays from that point for ULL to get on the board with a passing touchdown.
On EMU’s following drive, Powell threw an interception for ULL to take back over on the EMU 32-yard line. Already a short drive for the Cajuns to make at home, EMU’s defense was penalized for a horsecollar penalty to give up 12 free years, then another penalty called on 2nd and goal gave the Cajuns a fresh set of downs for the team to capitalize on. ULL’s 1-yard TD toss up to TE Johnny Lumpkin tie the game up at 14-all.
Even after EMU responded with a touchdown to re-take the lead, Louisiana answered back with a 75-yard touchdown drive that only took 7 plays to do, and finished with a 36-yard touchdown throw.
5 turnovers by EMU
Despite the coach’s quote above, the Eagles forfeited the ball to ULL five times on Saturday night.
Three came from the arm of EMU’s quarterback and two were via fumble. All of these were second-half mistakes.
Powell’s first pair of interceptions in the third quarter were intended for WR Darius Lassiter, and the third interception was in the fourth quarter when Powell forced a throw to TE Gunnar Oakes. Powell’s long throw was cleanly intercepted by a Louisiana defender on the ball’s flight path, and the second and third interceptions were thrown into tight and busy coverage.
After EMU had already found itself into a 35-21 hole, WR Hassan Beydoun tried to juke out a pile of ULL defenders on a long catch and run, but one Cajun player was able to punch his arm through Beydoun’s carry and knock the ball loose. ULL recovered the ball on its own 29-yard line and marched for a 71-yard, 5-play touchdown drive.
In garbage time, EMU fumbled the ball on its final drive of the game when it was trying to more or less dribble the clock out and go home.
Tanner Knue with another TD grab
With 12 seconds left in the first half and no timeouts, EMU found itself in a 3rd & 20 situation from Louisiana’s 25-yard line. EMU knew that if it was going to dial anything up, it’d have to be through the air and down the sidelines.
Worst case scenario, the pass gets overthrown for an incompletion, and EMU would maybe try to kick its first field goal of the year.
Best-case scenario, Knue beats his defender for an easy score to go up by two possessions.
The TD grab was Knue’s 8th career touchdown grab, and Powell’s 4th as an Eagle.
Darius Boone scores 9th TD
Fourth-year running back Darius Boone scored EMU’s third touchdown on the day from one yard out. It was the 9th career rushing score in Boone’s career.
After Louisiana tied the game up at 14-14, Powell had to throw out of 1st & 18 after a holding call on WR Knue and made some key throws to drive EMU downfield in a hurry. Powell connected with Knue for a 13-yard gain, then Knue again for 17 yard, then found Lassiter downfield for 44-yards to be stopped at the 1-yard line. Out of EMU’s beloved Wildcat bunch, Boone received RB Evans’ handoff for the score to give EMU its short-lived lead again.
QB Taylor Powell, I’ll wait for the official box score to offer more thoughts, but we know he was sacked at least three times against Louisiana, and each hard hit on him felt like a real drive-killer. I couldn’t ask for quotes after the game from Zoom, but I’m sure this team would say that they believe this is the worst we’ll see him play this season.
First-year running back Jaylon Jackson got more involved this week in the offense. He’d be the fifth wide receiver on the field for EMU to play offense with an empty backfield, get the pass, then the team would run tempo on offense to give Jackson the handoff. In light of the loss, it was good to see him get involved with the offense.
ULL met him in the backfield a few times, but I don’t think RB Samson Evans had a bad game running ball.
WR Darius Lassiter had an up-and-down game. When the ball’s in his hands and he’s moving, Lassiter showed that he’s always got the chance to make the first defender miss on him. However, drops have been a small-sample, early-season issue for him in his first action since making the move from junior college.
Ed Orgeron was hanging out on the sidelines wearing a Cajuns polo.
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.