With the win, EMU snatched its first win over a Big Ten Conference opponent in 39 tries, and moved to 2-0 on the season for the first time since 2011.
The defense carried the . . .
EMU won the turnover battle, 2-1, including two crucial interceptions from junior Jeremiah Harris and sophomore Brody Hoying. In addition to the pick, Harris kept the RU attack uneasy all game. He finished with two tackles for loss, a breakup, a hurry, and the game-sealing sack. On the season, EMU's defense has allowed just two touchdowns over two games.
Eastern Michigan did most of its offensive damage through the air as senior QB Brogan Roback finished his day 19-of-36 with 260 yards and a touchdown pass. He found nine different receivers, his favorite being senior Sergio Bailey II, who had his third career 100-yard day, catching five passes for 107 yards.
Fellow senior Antoine Porter also saw plenty of targets, finishing with 62 yards on a career-best tying seven receptions, and the lone score.
On the ground, junior Shaq Vann led the Eagle rushing attack with 16 carries for 67 yards. Sophomore Paulie Fricano was steady, converting three field goal attempts to tie his career-high.
The Eagles struck first after holding RU to just one first down on its first drive. Beginning at their own 27, Roback slung back-to-back passes to A. Porter and Bailey II for 14 and 31 yards to get EMU into Rutgers territory.
Another short pass to Porter, and a Vann eight-yard rush put Eastern into the redzone, where it took just one play for Roback to find Porter for the third time on the drive in the corner of the end zone for the score. The fifth TD of Porter's career gave EMU the early 7-0 advantage.
Rutgers came right back after the scoring drive to put up points themselves, scorching down the field to get into the redzone after just four plays. With first and goal, Rutgers mustered just three more yards as EMU's defense stepped up, holding them to a field goal, making it 7-3 with just under five minutes in the first quarter.
Following the consecutive scoring drives, both offenses did not get much momentum, including EMU's defense forcing consecutive three-and-outs, to keep the four-point lead.
With Rutgers beginning to win the field position battle, it set up shop in EMU territory with 10:45 until the half looking to capitalize on the short field.
EMU's defense had other plans though, as on the second play, senior Oddie Granger III tipped the ball at the line, and it fell into the waiting arms of J. Harris for the second pick of his career, giving Eastern the ball right at midfield.
The Eagles were unable to do anything with the turnover as RU's defense continued to stifle the EMU attack.
Eastern's defense kept returning the favor on the defensive side, forcing three more three and outs on Rutgers drives to make it six straight drives without a first down for the Scarlet Knights, and keeping it a 7-3 tally with three minutes until the break.
Starting a drive at the 3:02 mark, EMU got some momentum with 10-yard sophomore Breck Turner rush, followed by a pass interference penalty which put the ball at the RU 39.
From there, with the clock running down, Roback fired completions to A. Porter and senior Jaron Johnson to get to the 16 with four seconds left.
Fricano drilled the 33-yard kick as time expired, putting EMU's lead at 10-3 at the half. Down the stretch, in addition to EMU not allowing a Rutgers first down in its final six drive, they held them to just 19 yard over those six drives, including three drives with zero net yards, and a total of 99 for the entirety of the half.
The defensive dominance did not carry over for EMU during the first drive of the second half, as Rutgers notched four straight first downs to race down to the Eastern 20. Eastern stood tall after that, not allowing RU to get any further, and holding them to a 39-yard field goal to make it 10-6 early in the second half.
Coming back the other way, Roback completed a long pass to Bailey II to get Eastern to midfield, and put him over 1,000 yards receiving in his EMU career.
On the next play, EMU coughed up the ball on a rush, giving RU another short field. This time around, Rutgers used it to their advantage, scoring three plays later to give them their first lead of the game, 13-10, with 6:07 left in the third.
With that catch, Sergio Bailey II surpassed 1000 yards receiving for his EMU career.
The lead was short lived, as EMU found its stride on the ensuing drive, with Roback slinging it around the field. Completing passes to three different receivers for 54 yards, Roback led EMU all the way down to the Rutgers three, before being stonewalled on the goal line. Fricano's second field goal, this one from 21 yards, knotted the game at 13 heading into the fourth quarter.
A three-and out from Rutgers got the quarter started, giving Eastern an opportunity to retake the lead. Airing it out on the first play, Roback completed a 37-yard bomb to sophomore Mathew Sexton the Rutgers 46.
From there, a pass interference penalty moved the ball to the 27. After a couple of short rushes, EMU faced third down on the 24. Roback remained calm, completing a 15-yard pass to Bailey II to put him over 100 yards on the day, and setting up first and goal.
Once again, Rutgers tightened up in the redzone, holding Eastern to another field goal, which Fricano split through the uprights from 24 yards out, to make it 16-13 with 10:13 to go.
EMU forced yet another three-and-out on Rutgers' next drive, giving them an opportunity to build on the lead. The next Eastern drive started off promising, as they got to midfield after a long run from Vann, but the one first down was all they could get, giving the ball back to RU on their own seven with just under seven minutes to play.
The Scarlet Knights then began to drive, steadily moving their way down the field with relative ease. Getting down to the EMU 27, Rutgers looked poised to at least tie the game, but Hoying had other ideas.
For the second week in a row, the safety jumped a route, intercepting the ball with plenty of room to run. He hustled 71-yards the other way to set EMU up at the Rutgers five with 2:29 to go.
Despite the excellent opportunity, Eastern did not go forward any further, relying on the leg of Fricano. The Rutgers defense blocked the kick, leaving the score at 16-13 with 1:34 to play, and RU taking over at the EMU 14.
With the hurry-up offense fully in effect, Rutgers completed back-to-back long passes to quickly get into Eagle territory at the 44 with just under a minute to go. A roughing the passer penalty one play later moved the ball up to the 27 and into field goal range.
Rutgers returned the favor one play later, as a hands to the face penalty moved the ball back to the 40. On what would be the final play of the game, Harris came through with the game-sealing sack, the 6.5 of his career, to clinch the thrilling 16-13 victory.
EMU now heads into its bye week before returning to Rynearson Stadium Saturday, Sept. 23, for its Mid-American Conference opener against Ohio University. Kickoff from "The Factory" is still to be determined.