Taylor Powell's Best Game Gives EMU Comeback Road Win
Eastern Michigan 4-0 vs. MAC teams on the road this season. Hard to be more perfect than that.
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Final: Eastern Michigan 31, Kent State 24
Eastern Michigan reached win #7 on the year after beating Kent State 31-24 in comeback fashion. The Eagles started out slow and trailed by 10 points at the half, but a near-perfect second half gave this team yet another road win.
Starting QB Austin Smith was knocked out of the game early and Taylor Powell came in to have the best game of his EMU career. Once EMU found its groove on offense, Kent State had to re-find itself on offense but never did.
EMU (7-4, 4-3 MAC) is 5-1 on the road this year, 4-0 when it travels for its conference games. Kent State (4-7, 3-4 MAC) falls short of going to a bowl game with this loss.
While EMU reached bowl eligibility against Akron last week, but getting to a bowl game at 6 wins is no given. Heck, even 7 wins can sometimes not be enough. Every added win at this point will improve EMU’s odds of getting into postseason play to try to capture its first bowl win since 1987. This win at Kent State just might have solidified its position.
QB Austin Smith injured early
On the second play of the game, Smith came out after he suffered an injury. Smith carried the ball and ran it for a short game, and Kent State defensive lineman CJ West tackled Smith down to the ground and West’s body fell behind Smith’s legs as they fell. Smith held his right knee after the play, and Powell came in to finish the drive.
Smith wouldn’t be the only offensive starter to come out of the game with an injury in the first quarter. RG Alex Howie, who had previously missed time to a leg injury, got hurt again late in the first. EMU safety Quentavius Scandrett would also get hurt during the second half.
This was Smith’s sixth career start and 10th career game played. He sat out the rest of the game while wearing a medical boot and watched things unfold from the sidelines.
Powell’s best game leads to second-half comeback
Powell hasn’t been the team’s QB1 since the Toledo game, but responded to Smith’s injury by having the best game with the Eagles.
Powell finished the game 30 of 39 passing (76.9%) for 315 yards and 3 TD. Zero interceptions thrown and was also sacked zero times: it’s the first time he was able to avoid both of those for his offense.
After Eastern punted five times and turned it over on downs twice in the first half, EMU scored on its first four drives of the second half to turn a 10-point deficit into a 14-point lead.
The three starting receivers all had huge games to lead the offense.
Tanner Knue, Dylan Drummond, and Hassan Beydoun all did their partsto keep drives moving and put points on the scoreboard with 19 combined catches for 244 yards. Knue caught a pair of TD passes from 28 and 11 yards out (though I don’t think the second one was truly intended for him, a score’s a score). Beydoun had the game’s first score of the game from 13 yards out.
Against the heavy wind, Jesus Gomez made a 33-yard field goal to tie the game up at 17-all in the third quarter.
Speedy Jaylon Jackson had just seven carries on the night, and many of his 35 yards came in the fourth-quarter drive that set up Samson Evans to have a 1-yard score with under four minutes left in the game. Evans’ physicality was definitely needed to push through Kent State’s defense. He didn’t break off for any explosive runs (long of 10), he had to bully his way for 91 rushing yards on 32 handoffs.
Evans’ fourth-down conversion in the first half helped set up Beydoun’s touchdown catch in the first quarter.
Kent State’s offense slowed down by just enough
While EMU eventually found success through a QB change, Kent State failed to get into any rhythm with its QB loss.
Colin Schlee, Kent State’s starter, came out of the game after he was tossed to the ground and his head hit the turf, so in went Devin Kargman. Schlee completed 50% of his passes for 150 yards, Kargman completed 37% for 91 yards. Schlee finished with 45 rushing yards, Kargman had -19.
The Flashes have an incredible running back in Marquez Cooper, so there’s no question that EMU’s defense had plans to try and slow #1 down. Kent State was already without stud WR Dante Cephas, so focusing on the running back made things simpler in the second half.
The result: 20 carries for 80 yards, an average of 4.0 yards per touch. His longest rush of the day was only for 15 yards.
Touchdown #1 for Cooper put his team ahead by 10 points and TD #2 was Kent State’s only score of the second half.
While Kent State’s Devontez Walker and Jashaun Poke both had six catches for over 100 yards each, they only got into the end zone once, and not too many of those throws were made deep.