Recap: Ohio 34, Eastern Michigan 26
Eagles drop second home game of the year and fall to 6-4. K Chad Ryland ties school record with 55-yard field goal.
Ohio QB Kurtis Rourke steps into a throw with EMU lineman Michael Smith Jr. (57) reaching to make a play in Tuesday night’s home loss. Image via Eastern Michigan Athletics.
Welcome to The Ypsilanti Eleven! Eastern Michigan lost 34-26 at home to Ohio on Tuesday night, and the team’s record fell to 6-4 overall. Pretty wild upset, especially since Ohio only had two wins on the year coming into the game.
I’ve got a recap for you after the jump, but don’t forget to sign up for free email updates on all things EMU football (and MACtion!).
Eagles falls to two-win Ohio
On paper it seemed like this should’ve been an easy win for Eastern Michigan. The Eagles entered the game with a. 6-3 record, Ohio was just 2-7. But on Tuesday night, EMU fell short at home for the second time this year.
Final score: Eagles 34, Bobcats 26.
Digging early holes: Not ideal
Eastern’s second drive of the game was much slower than the first, and ended up failing to score points when the team got the ball well within field goal range.
Down 14-7 late in the first quarter — and after a QB Ben Bryant completed a couple of third-and-long passes for 20+ yard gains — EMU kept calling his number on fourth down tries.
When it was 4th & 1 on Ohio’s 29-yard line, Bryant got enough push on the QB sneak to successfully pick up the first down. Then, a pass to Dylan Drummond on 3rd & 5 only moved the ball two yards, but Creighton still wanted his QB to make play on 4th & 3 from the 20-yard line. Bryant had the right look on the pass to WR Hassan Beydoun, but Ohio defensive lineman Kai Caesar was able to get one of his hands on the ball for a much-needed deflection, and a turnover on downs was the end result.
Ryland’s 55-yard FG ties EMU record
While passed up regrettably on EMU’s second drive of the game, K Chad Ryland’s number was called on the next two drives: the first to make an easy 25-yarder, then the next to tie a school record.
With EMU’s offense getting the ball just across midfield with four seconds remaining in the first half, Ryland went out to try the 55-yard field goal. The kick was good, and probably had enough leg on it to be good for another five yards. The 55-yarder tied a school record set in 2015 by Dylan Mulder, who set the record against Miami OH.
Previously, Ryland’s career best came from 52 yards out, which is actually something he was able to do three times. EMU’s never had a field goal kick to be good from 54 or 53 yards out, but a 55-yard kick has been made twice and 52-yard kicks have been made nine times in the school’s history.
Ryland didn’t get to try another field goal in the second half.
Too many big, scoring plays allowed by defense
Ohio’s first drive lasted four minutes, and it was a 10-play scoring drive, capped off by a 33-yard pass on 4th & 6. Then it only took two plays (35-yard QB run, 40-yard swing pass to Tuggle) for the Bobcats to score again. After a couple of field goals, WR Isaiah Cox scored on a 20-yard run, largely untouched. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Rourke tossed up deep pass down the sideline for Cameron Odom to take to the house from 66 yards out.
The Eagle d-line applied pressure, but the group lacked plays made in the backfield. EMU’s three tackles for loss on the night were made by Alex Merritt (solo), Jordan Crawford (solo), and a combo by Terry Myrick and Jose Ramirez.
Too many third down plays (not enough success on early downs)
EMU’s offense has been loving the deep ball lately. With Ben Bryant completing nearly 70% of his throws on the year on maybe the strongest arm in the conference, Ohio knew that it had to take away the second and third-level throws. Getting EMU to be inefficient is one thing, but Ohio’s goal on defense was to limit EMU’s potential on offense.
Bryant entered the game as the MAC’s leader in yards per attempt with 8.5. Against Ohio and its secondary plans, Bryant completed 41 of his 57 passes for 354 yards, had only one touchdown and was picked off once late in the game.
In total, EMU finished the game 7/14 on third downs, and 3/4 on fourth downs. While EMU was fortunate enough to get some big pickups here and there, the Bobcats defense were able to limit the scores knocked against it simply by getting just enough coverage on EMU’s receivers. Four Bobcats recorded pass breakups, and S Tariq Drake intercepted a deep, off-target pass attempt to Hassan Beydoun.
Lesson learned: Finding yourself in 14 third-down situations across nine offense drives is just asking for trouble.
Midway through the fourth quarter after converting on a 4th & 3 pass, Bryant found himself with another 3rd-down play to convert while down two touchdowns. Bryant drifted in the backfield while looking for a receiver, but a group of Bobcats teamed up for a sack to move EMU back 12 yards, and get EMU to punt after it had already gotten all the way to the Ohio 26-yard line. The Bobcats didn’t have a dominant game (2 sacks, still 2 more than what EMU finished with), but it still applied enough pressure to get Bryant off his game on some throws.
Improvement by Ohio QB
Give credit where it’s due. After having a really miserable first-half to the year, Ohio QB Kurtis Rourke has had himself a strong stretch of three games.
Against EMU, Rourke was able to escape pressure on a number of occasions to instead scramble away and find an open receiver. He also took the easy route every once in a while by standing strong in the pocket and delivering big TD throws (to Cox for 33 yards, to Odom for 66 yards).
Rourke’s stat lines over the last three games:
vs. Kent State: 31/38, 308 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT (49 rush yards, 2 rush TD)
vs. Miami OH: 23/32, 288 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT (44 rush yards)
at EMU: 9/17, 230 yards, 3 TD (55 rush yards)
Quick note on injuries
This is the crappy part about the grind of the football season: injuries really start to pile up and test teams. EMU got some guys out on defense worth keeping note of.
CB Kempton Shine was out for the game, so Mark Lee Jr. filled in for the time being. That time is now TBD because Lee left to the locker room in crutches after he suffered an ankle/lower leg injury in the second half of Tuesday’s game. S Blake Bogan was sidelined, S Korey Hernandez was out, and TE Bryson Cannon wasn’t dressed either.
Up next for EMU
EMU’s now totally out of contention for the MAC West, but could still impress bowl committees with its two in-state rivals coming up to close out the year.
The Eagles play Western Michigan (6-4, 3-3) at home next week on Tuesday night (Senior Night), 7:30 p.m. start. Last night, WMU beat Akron 45-40.
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