2018 RECORD: 7-6 (5-2 in MAC play)
HEAD COACH: Chris Creighton (fifth season at EMU)
2019 PRESEASON POLL: Fourth in the Western Division
By EVAN MEYER
Eastern Michigan got off to a promising start in 2018, posting wins over FCS opponent Monmouth and Big 10 foe Purdue. Then came four straight losses -- three against Mid-American Conference heavyweights Buffalo, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.
Midway through . . .
When they held onto defeat eventual MAC champ Toledo at home 28-26, it started a stretch run that saw the Eagles win five of six outings. The only loss was to Army.
A victory over Kent State on November 23rd it made the Eagles bowl eligible for the second time in the last three seasons. However, fell in the final seconds to Georgia Southern (23-21) at the Camelia Bowl
As he begins his sixth season coaching the Green and White, Creighton hopes to build his team’s strong finish last year.
Here’s more on the Eagles . . .
2018 Stats (all games/MAC rank)
Scoring offense: 27.0 ppg (6th MAC)
Scoring defense: 22.1 ppg (1st MAC)
Total offense: 372.1 ypg (7th MAC)
Total defense: 353.8 ypg (1st MAC)
Turnover margin: plus 10 (2nd MAC)
➤➤ EMU runs a multiple sets offense and will be led by senior QB Mike Glenn III. He gained valuable experience during 2018 when he came in when Tyler Weigers was hurt or was ineffective.
Glenn gave the offense a spark and over eight games last season completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 1,024 yards with nine touchdowns and only one interception (that against SDSU). He also ran for 412 yards and six scores.
➤➤ The running game is in the hands of senior RB Shaq Vann (590 yards, five touchdowns) and junior Willie Parker (252 yards and a score). Due to injuries, Vann has actually been playing for the Eagles as long as Creighton has been coaching there (six seasons). "He's going to be a big part of our offense," Creighton said.
➤➤ Leading receiver Blake Banham (60 catches, 758 yards, 5 TDs) is gone. Still, quite a bit of production returns. Arthur Jackson III totaled 46 catches for 592 yards and five touchdowns. Michael Sexton, meanwhile, contributed 27 catches for 419 yards and three scores. Sophomore Dylan Drummond managed 25 catches for 245 yards and a touchdown.
➤➤ The offensive line is big and boasts four returning starters at or over 300 pounds, led by sophomore LT Sidy Sow. Add senior LT Steven Nielsen, freshman RT Bryan Dooley and sophomore RG Jake Donmellon to the mix.
➤➤ The EMU defense, which led the league in scoring defense (22.1 ppg), is led by coordinator Neal Neathery. Certainly, there will be a couple big holes to fill -- one being Maxx Crosby (First Team All-MAC) and the other LB Kyle Rachwal (Second Team All-MAC). Both were were a major part of the Eagles 2018 defense.
➤➤ This year’s strength lies in the defensive secondary. Senior DB Vince Calhoun, who had 84 tackles and three interceptions in 2018, is back, along with senior Brady Hoying. He had 69 total stops, with 11 of them for losses
➤➤ Sophomore PK Chad Ryland was only 12 of 20 on field goals (2 of 8 between 30 and 39 yards) but was a perfect 41 of 41 on extra points for 77 points and kicked the winning field goal as time expired in the rain at Purdue.
➤➤ Junior P Jake Julien was second-team all MAC a season ago when he averaged 43.1 yards per kick, with 22 of them over 50 yards. He also dropped 52 kicks inside the opposition’s 20-yard line.
➤➤ The 2019 season begins with three straight road games (Coastal Carolina, Kentucky, and Illinois) before Eastern opens its home schedule against Central Connecticut.
The MAC opener is at Central Michigan on October 5. EMU gets a pair of big games at home against Western Michigan and Buffalo, while two other key matchups (Toledo and Northern Illinois) are on the road.
➤➤ Coach Creighton on this year's challenging schedule: "We believe that at our best, we have a chance to compete with anybody in the league."
➤➤ As disappointing as last December's 23-21 Camellia Bowl loss to Georgia Southern was, Creighton said it has served as motivation for this year's team.
➤➤ In the past three seasons, Creighton has taken the Eagles to heights they had not seen in many seasons. If the defense can shine again, Eastern has improved enough on offense to challenge just about any opponent on a given day. Avoiding a bad stretch -- ala early 2018 - could put the Eagles in a much better position