Here's a more in-depth look at Eastern Michigan, the Falcons' opponent Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Doyt, starting at 3:30 p.m.
OVERVIEW: The Eagles are 1-6 overall and 0-3 in the Mid-American Conference. EMU is coming off a 48-38 home victory over Army, its first win of the season. The rest of the non-conference schedule included losses to FCS member Illinois State (at home), at Purdue and at Michigan State. The league losses came in Eastern Michigan’s season opener at Ball State and in home contests against Kent State and Toledo.
OFFENSE: The Eagles rank ninth in the MAC in scoring offense with their average of 24.6 points per game, but that number is skewed by the 47 points EMU scored against Toledo two weeks ago and the 48 it ran up on Army last Saturday. Eastern Michigan is 12th in the 13-team league in total offense with 361.6 yards per contest, in large part because the Eagles rank 10th in passing offense (197.1 yards per game. A few weeks back EMU made a change at quarterback, with sophomore Tyler Benz replacing senior Alex Gillett. Benz has completed 64-of-115 passes (55.7 percent) for 983 yards and nine touchdowns with four interceptions; Gillett is 35-for-76 (46.1 percent) this season for 397 yards and four TDs with six picks. The Eagles’ leading receiver is senior Garrett Hoskins, who is listed as a “Y” receiver but really serves as more of a tight end and has caught 30 passes for 469 yards and three touchdowns. The only two other receivers who have more than 10 catches this season are sophomore “H” receiver Demarius Reed, who has 14 catches for 153 yards, and freshman Dustin Creel, who has caught 10 passes for 182 yards. A total of 14 different players have caught passes for EMU this season. The rushing attack is led by sophomore Bronson Hill, who has run for 548 yards and six touchdowns on just 61 carries in six games. In the past two weeks Hill has had 283 yards (and four touchdowns) against Toledo and 185 yards (and another score) against Army. The offensive line has just two seniors, center Andrew Sorgatz and LG Corey Watman, with the rest of the starters sophomores. But the Eastern Michigan line has allowed just eight sacks in seven games, third-best in the MAC.
DEFENSE: The Eagles’ defensive numbers are near the bottom of the MAC. Eastern Michigan is tied for 12th in the MAC in scoring defense (39.4 points per game) and is last in total defense (510.1 yards per game). Leading the defense is senior linebacker Bryan Pali and junior safety Donald Coleman, each of who have 60 tackles, two more than sophomore safety Pudge Cotton. It’s interesting to note that the EMU two-deep lists Coleman as the back-up to senior Alex Bellfy (who has 24 tackles) at free safety, while Cotton, who has two of the Eagles’ five interceptions, is the back-up to junior Mycal Swaim (who has eight tackles and has played just three games) at strong safety. The starters at the cornerback positions are senior Marcell Rose, who has 32 tackles and an interception, and sophomore Darius Scott, who has registered 16 tackles and one pick. Pali starts at WLB and is joined at the linebacker position by senior MLB Justin Cudworth, who has 53 tackles, including six for loss, and senior SLB Blake Poole, who also has 53 stops. The leaders on the defensive line are senior “rush” end Andy Mulumba, whose 41 tackles include a pair for loss, and junior defensive end Kalonji Kashema, who has 22 tackles, including a team-best three sacks. The starting nose tackle is sophomore Cy Maughmer (17 tackles) while the other starter at defensive tackle is sophomore Travis Linser (12 tackles).
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Eagles are in the middle of the pack in the MAC in most of the special teams areas. The thing they do best is cover punts; senior Jay Karutz does the punting and leads the MAC with his average of 44.2 yards per kick with 18 of 42 inside the 20 (and only two touchbacks) as well as eight kicks of 50 yards or more. EMU ranks second in the league with its average of 40.6 net yards per punt. … Freshman Dylan Mulder does most of the placekicking and is 15-of-17 on extra points but five-for-five on field goals, with a long of 41 yards. … Junior Kody Fulkerson has handled the kickoffs and averages 56.6 yards per kick with one touchback and five out of bounds; Eastern Michigan ranks 12th in the MAC on kickoff coverage with a net average of 36.5 yards per kick. … The Eagles rank eighth in the league in punt returns. Sophomore Demarius Reed has returned 10 punts this year and average 7.0 yards per return. … EMU also ranks eighth in the MAC in kickoff returns with an average of 20.9 yards per return. Sophomore Tyler Allen has handled 25 kickoffs and averages 23.3 yards per return to rank sixth in the MAC in that category.
BG KEYS TO VICTORY: 1. Pound it. The Falcons had been running the ball very efficiently before struggling in that area against UMass. Getting the running game rolling again will help open up the passing game, control the clock, and wear down the Eagles. 2. Don’t let them get the run rolling. EMU’s recent success has come by running the ball, and for the past month or so the Falcons have totally taken away the run – against offenses that prefer to pass. Taking the run away this week will be tougher, but it will be essential if the Falcons want to slow down the Eagles offense. 3. Win the punt game. The Falcons dominated in this phase last year, but this season Eastern Michigan has used a good punt game to control field position. Having some success against the Eagles’ punt team, and continuing the recent improvement of BG’s punt cover squad, will be important on a wet field and a cold day.