Kyle McMahon more comfortable as Eastern Michigan's starting quarterback
Kyle McMahon waited for nearly one year, working through spring practices and summer drills without setting foot onto the field.
A new offense installed by a new coaching staff was difficult enough to digest, but for a quarterback coming off shoulder surgery and unable to throw, the task was all that much more challenging.
While he waited, McMahon learned through mental repetition, watching plays from the sideline. When the time came, McMahon told himself, he'd be ready.
His time came sooner than expected when senior starter Andy Schmitt was lost in the third game of the season to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Suddenly, McMahon - who didn't know if he would play at all this season - was the emergency team leader.
His first four games yielded one touchdown pass as McMahon struggled in the pro-style offense. But in last week's 63-27 loss at Arkansas, McMahon threw for a career-high three touchdowns for Eastern (0-8, 0-4 Mid-American Conference).
"I'm starting to know where everyone's going to be on the field, knowing what pieces fit together with other routes," McMahon said. "So the experience I've gotten this year has definitely helped."
Eastern Michigan travels to Northern Illinois on Thursday (7:30 p.m., ESPU). The Huskies (5-3, 3-1 Mid-American Conference) have won two straight games and knocked off Purdue earlier this season.
McMahon was able to open up Eastern Michigan's offense in the second half after the Eagles fell behind by 49 points. In doing so, McMahon involved nine different receivers - including John Bonner and Kinsman Thomas, who scored their first career touchdowns against the Razorbacks.
"We have more people contributing, doing what they're supposed to do," he said. "It's like something that just gets built upon - once one person starts doing it, other people are going to start doing it."
English has seen McMahon mature in his five weeks. His throws are more on target, his reads are more reliable and the doubts that once existed in running the offense are fading.
"It took Andy (Schmitt) a while, and he kind of struggled in the spring and he got better as it went," English said. "Just when he was getting comfortable, he went down and so now, Kyle is getting better and better."
English said he will stick with his game plan, establishing the run first before opening the passing game. And although there's a temptation to make things happen to snap Eastern Michigan's season-long skid, McMahon remains patient.
English continues to stress the process over the results. And as much as his players would like to win, they realize that enduring the growing pains are a necessity to building a successful program.
"I know guys are confident and we're going to keep pushing like we have been," McMahon said. "We know if we keep working hard and doing things in practice we need to do and keep busting our butts all day, every day, we're eventually going to get a positive product out of it."
Jeff Arnold covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2554.