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Toledo 52, EMU 47: as good as you can feel after a conference loss

October 14, 2012

Well, my prediction was about half-right; I said Toledo would score 48, and that was pretty close to the mark. Over the past several years, the Rockets have consistently had one of the top offenses in the nation, and EMU’s young defense didn’t really have a chance against them. Ron English said as much in his postgame press conference.

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But what I didn’t expect — what no one could have expected — was EMU’s offensive explosion, their biggest offensive day of the Ron English era. You have to go back to Jeff Genyk’s last game at EMU on November 28, 2009, a 56-52 win over Central Michigan, to find a game in which EMU scored more than they did yesterday.

Let’s start by refreshing our memories with a look at the animated drive chart.

When you actually start to look at the game on a drive-by-drive basis, Ron English’s statement that this was not a momentum game is confirmed. There was no momentum in this game, there was just a trading of blows.

Quarterback Tyler Benz preparing to pass, in an EMU football game against Toledo.

Tyler Benz had a solid game as a passer. Photo by Kenneth Bailey

Tyler Benz solidified his position as the starting quarterback by completing 18 of 27 passes (67%) for 301 yards and two touchdowns while throwing one interception. That’s the first 300+ yard passing performance of the RE era. Benz did a fair job of spreading the ball around, with five receivers gaining more than 40 yards each, but they were unsurprisingly led by Garrett Hoskins (7 catches for 103 yards), who has now gone over 100 yards in each of his last two games (102 yards at Michigan State, 103 yards against Toledo; he didn’t play against Kent State) and whose 311 yards for the season already nearly match his 2011 total of 328. The highest season-total receiving yards of the RE era was 473, by Kinsman Thomas in 2010, so keep an eye on that total. Since Benz came in off the bench at Purdue and then started at Michigan State, I’ve been saying that we should expect some quick improvement in his passing over his first several weeks as starter, as he benefits from more practice time with the first-team receivers, and I think we started to see that yesterday. Of the nine incomplete passes, one was the game-opening interception, a couple were drops by receivers, two were on the final drive when they were looking for a Hail Mary, and several were thrown away under pressure. This was a strong passing performance by Benz, and a fairly good game by most of the receivers.

Running back Bronson Hill scoring one of his four touchdowns in an EMU football game against Toledo.

Bronson Hill lit up Toledo for 283 yards and four touchdowns on just 28 carries. Photo by Kenneth Bailey

The running game, on the other hand, was simply stellar. Despite being listed as the fourth-string running back, Bronson Hill got the start, and WOW! did he make the most of it. 28 carries for 283 yards and four touchdowns is more than just a career best for the sophomore, it’s EMU’s best single-game performance by a running back in nearly a decade (since either 2003 or 2004, depending on what aspect you consider). In just 35 carries this season, Hill has piled up 363 yards — more than 10 yards per carry! — and five touchdowns. Among running backs who’ve seen non-trivial playing time this year (played in 75% of the team’s games with a minimum of 4.0 rushing attempts per game played), Hill ranks third nationally in yards per carry, and his average of a touchdown per seven carries also puts him in the top tier nationally. If he can keep up the level of performance he’s shown the last two weeks (a big “if”, to be sure), he’ll not only be All-MAC, he may be an All-American.

Lest you think it’s all flowers and sunshine, I’m still not sold on Ken Karcher’s play-calling (when Benz took a knee at the end of the first half I was absolutely going nuts — why not throw up a Hail Mary there to try to close the gap, which could have made the difference in the game outcome!), but after a 624 yard performance, I’ll give him a one-week pass.

Bernard Reedy gained 407 all-purpose yards for Toledo, playing at EMU football.

Bernard Reedy piled up 407 all-purpose yards for the Rockets, including two receiving touchdowns and an 89 yard kickoff return for another touchdown. Photo by Kenneth Bailey

As for EMU’s defense…well, as I mentioned at the top, Toledo’s scoring total was pretty close to what I’d expected. I’m not giving the defense a pass, but I’m not terribly worried about their failure to stop one of the nation’s top offenses. They actually stopped Toledo’s offense five times, with interceptions in the first (Marcell Rose) and second (Darius Scott) quarters, and forcing punts in the first, third and fourth quarters; they also held the Rockets to a field goal on the last possession, which I’ll call a half-stop. I think the defense did about all you could reasonably hope for in this sort of game, especially considering that they’re playing without several would-be starters (left corner Marlon Pollard, middle linebacker Colin Weingrad, defensive tackle Devin Henderson). In particular, I think Pollard’s absence hurt them against Toledo’s RichRod-inspired run-pass-balanced spread-option offense.

In the end, a loss is a loss, and for as much as this one left me feeling hopeful, the Eagles are 0-6, and now assured of a 17th consecutive non-winning season. Over the previous few weeks I had come to think that another winless season was likely, and while that’s still a possibility, the next two home games, against Army and Central Michigan, now seem well within reach.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2012 4:16 pm

    Yes. The offense was definitely new. They did everything I thought they should be doing and that’s what we have to do. Short passes here and there, run, and hit them with some play action (on 1-downs and short distances).

    BUT still, the receivers need to put some “Stick-Em” on their gloves. Way too many dropped passes. the first EMU offensive play resulted in an INT due to a ricochet off the receiver’s hands. It has to be fixed in order to truly succeed on offense.

    What I saw from the offense was the potential to utilize a spread system The boys up front seems to not be man-handling anyone so lets utilize a blocking scheme that requires them to cover the defender instead of blowing them off the line. The big running plays were off the edge. With a guy like Hill, it should work.

    We have a throwing QB and we have a RB that can scoot. We should see more diverse play-calling this point on. Anything less would be unacceptable…in my opinion.

  2. Ken permalink
    October 14, 2012 6:26 pm

    In the second half, I was bouncing back and forth so that I could get shots of both offenses but as I was standing near the EMU offense while they were on the sidelines. Right after one of the Toledo touchdowns one of the offense guys said, “That’s okay…we’ll get it back”. Sure enough they did. It’s a shame that the Defense couldn’t get one stop.

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