This week's matchup against Buffalo is a literal and figurative homecoming game for the EMU Eagles. The Eagles have been on the road for almost a month and in comes Buffalo to the "Factory" for their homecoming game. Bull Run will have Matt covering the game live. Matt, his father, V-Man and Dar will making the trip to the game. EMU has jumped into the second helmet game (like the Bulls blackout) with green helmet with a large letter E in Diamond Plate. Because they play at the Factory, you see.
Buffalo shook off the 'never beaten EMU' monkey last year with a 42-14 victory in Amherst. EMU has won five of the previous six contest but no one expects EMU to keep the winning tradition alive this year. Last year Branden Oliver on 25 carries ripped off 150 yards (Watch my UB education - 6 yards per attempt.) Gone is Oliver who did to the Jets this week what he did do the Eagles last year, but Anthone Taylor has 200 yards in consecutive games for the Bulls.
The football program in Eastern Michigan is struggling. Last year the Eagles finished the season at 2-10 with wins against Western Michigan and Howard. The Eagles this year have a sole victory against Morgan State and it was by just three points, 31-28. Blowout losses versus Florida (65-0) and Michigan State (73-14) and losses to Old Dominion (17-3) and Akron (31-6) account for the rest of the Eagles' 1-4 record.
This game is the same story for the Bulls the past two seasons. The MAC is a pure dichotomy where there is a stark difference between the basement, pretty full with programs really struggling, and teams that are having some measure of success. To be blunt the Bulls are in boxing terms are fighting a tomato can. Buffalo knocks out the opponents it should and I expect the Bulls to dominate this game, especially on the scoreboard.
The Bulls who have a chance to win the MAC East, although the chances have taken a big step back with the lose to Bowling Green last week, look to pad their stats this week. This team is all about Anthone Taylor and carrying the legacy is nothing on his back! EMU struggles to stop the run and I expect Anthone to have another big game.
For the Eagles it is fair to say that both sides of the ball are really struggling. Defensively the team is slow to react, confused often, and not putting themselves in a position to succeed or make plays. EMU has some bright spots with junior captain Pat O'Connor on the defensive line who has been able to get to the QB this year. He poses a good test for this seasoned Bulls line. Pat currently is second in the MAC in tackles for loss with seven and is the leader of the MAC is sacks with 4.5. Considering that no other real pressure is coming from the line and opponents are probably using double teams and running backs chip often, that is a some very impressive stats.
Great Ibe (best name ever for a college football player) who is 5'11 230 is just like the UB linebacking core last season who were fortunate to have Mack last year. When O'Connor disrupts a play look to see Great make the tackle. Great is number four in the MAC in tackles with 62 (10.1) and one sack. These two players are who to watch when EMU are on defense. Does UB scheme for Pat or does their offensive line handle the rush? O'Connor is #52 and Great is #10. EMU also has two decent corners in Kevin Johnson and Dartez Johnson.
On the offensive side of the ball, EMU quarterback Rob Bolden is not what the Eagles faithful thought they would get when he transferred in. Bolden has been battling Reginald Bell and Brogan Roback for the starting spot. This is not unlike the Chazz Anderson experiment in Buffalo. Bolden who held scholarship offers from Oregon, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin, committed to Penn State. As a true freshman he started for the Nittany Lions but lasted two season in Happy Valley. Bolden transferred to LSU where he failed to catch on as a QB and was moved to wide receiver. He decided to transfer again for his senior year to be closer to home and under the helm for the Eagles.
On the other side of the QB matchup, Joe Licata sits at #2 in pass efficiency per game at 150.1 and #5 for passing average per game at 251 in the MAC. Bolden does not crack the top ten - in a 12 team league. It is not a lock though that Bolden will be the starter. It is not that Bolden does not have targets. UB will struggle to contain Tyresse Russell who was a second MAC teamer last season and got some love from the Mackey Award committee. Tyler Allen is a speedy receiver who can push the field deep and scored a 43 yard TD against MSU.
The Bulls for the second week compete against a first year head coach in Chris Creighton. Creighton has coached at some interesting schools: Ottawa (Kansas not Canada), Wabash, and Drake, and now hangs his whistle in Ypsilaniti. Creighton has some serious work to get this program competitive. Look for Buffalo to get back on the win streak.