House of Vengeance
Cue the dramatic music. Prepare the enduring revenge clichés. For one day, Rynearson Stadium will be renamed the House of Vengeance. Homecoming Saturday will be a defining moment for the Eastern Michigan football team, and their opponent will be the Ball State Cardinals, the team that in 2011 took away Eastern’s first bowl opportunity since 1987. Revenge may be best served cold (preferably straight from the Corner Brewery’s tap at the pre-game tailgate in the alumni tent!), or it may be sweet, but on Saturday Eastern will take it however they can get it.
The urgent nature of this football game isn’t just about sweet, sweet revenge. Ron English’s tenure at EMU is on a precipice. A victory against Ball State could potentially propel Eastern into games at Buffalo and Army with real momentum. Eastern winning on the road is a rare enough occurrence, without the momentum from a victory Eastern could find themselves 1-5 upon return from the Empire State.
Ball State is coming off a difficult road loss at North Texas, and will in all likelihood be at or near the top of their game. They have an experienced quarterback and a running game that trampled all over the Eastern defense in last year’s meeting. After watching Rutgers RB Paul James dominate, the Eagles’ run defense has something to prove. My key to the game is controlling the Ball State ground game, if Eastern can keep the running game in check, they could pull off a victory.
Offensively, Eastern needs to be more adaptable. If the running game isn’t working early, cut Tyler Benz loose. Get the ball to Tyreese Russell and Jay Jones. Work some screens to Hill, Brumfield, and Greene. And when Eastern does get the ball in the red zone, come away with some points. The kicking game has to step up. Now.
So far I am 3-0 on my predictions, and was pretty close on the score the last two games. Those were the easy ones. This game is much more difficult to pick.
Emotions will be high. Homecoming will bring a decent crowd, and the team will be motivated to exact revenge against the Cardinals. While I believe this is a winnable game for Eastern, professionalism and rationality will not allow me to predict victory.
My prediction: Ball State 31, Eastern Michigan 27.
Of course, I hope I’m wrong. I’ve been getting into a revengey state of mind this week. I read a few chapters from The Count of Monte Cristo. I watched Payback again, (you know, before Mel Gibson went batshit crazy), and I watched Kill Bill, Volumes 1 & 2. I am mentally amped for an Eastern victory at the House of Vengeance on Saturday. EMU’s long-suffering fan base desperately needs a win to keep hope alive.
Enjoy the tailgate, and after it is over, perhaps we will all dine on the sweet, cold dish of revenge.