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Posted on Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 6 a.m.

Near-miss against Northwestern means little to Eastern Michigan football coach Ron English

By Jeff Arnold

First-year Eastern Michigan football coach Ron English doesn't want to hear about near-misses creating confidence.

So when it comes to carrying positives out of Eastern Michigan's 27-24 loss at Northwestern heading into Saturday's trip to No. 25 Michigan, English focuses on the task at hand.

In reality, Eastern Michigan is 0-2 and is winless in 26 meetings with Big Ten opponents - including eight consecutive losses to the Wolverines.

The Eagles' latest brush with the Big Ten proved to interesting. After trailing 21-3 at halftime, the Eagles tied the game at 24-24 on Terrence Blevins' 2-yard touchdown run with 2:40 remaining. Northwestern pulled the win out when Stefan Demos kicked a 49-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining.

English said it's worthless to speculate on what could have happened if the Eagles could have pushed the game into overtime.

"We had all the momentum and everything going for us," English said on Monday. "And we're not good enough right now not to take advantage of opportunities."

English focused Monday on the errors that have carried over from practice to game day. The Eagles committed eight penalties and quarterback Andy Schmitt threw two interceptions. And while allowing only one big play against Northwestern, Eastern Michigan's defense isn't free from mistake-making.

"It's all relative to me - how good is the team that you're playing?" English said. "I'm not saying Northwestern isn't a good team, but to me it's how teams play on that particular day. And on that particular day, if you saw the game ...

"To me, you either won or you lost. People use the 'slip away' cliches and all that. To me, it's you either won or you didn't win. That's the deal."

Now, English faces Michigan (noon, Big Ten Network), where he served as the defensive coordinator under former coach Lloyd Carr. And despite the Wolverines' 3-9 finish last season and the uncertainly that faced Michigan only a few weeks ago, English knows what kind of challenge his team faces.

His defense must deal with an offense engineered by freshman quarterback Tate Forcier, who led the Wolverines on a game-winning drive against Notre Dame and whose composure impresses English.

The Eagles defensive line will face a Michigan offensive front with a noticeable size difference and must try and contain a healthy Brandon Minor, who rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown in his first action of the season.

And the Eagles must do so in a Michigan Stadium environment that English is familiar with and one that tends to be a distraction for players not used to competing in front of 110,000 fans on a regular basis.

Combine all that with the fact that the Eagles have started slow in back-to-back games, falling behind Army 27-7 in the opener and giving Northwestern a three-touchdown cushion early Saturday and the Eagles must remain focused on daily improvement.

The obstacle only gets bigger against the Wolverines, who grabbed the final spot in the Top 25 after Saturday's 38-34 upset of No. 18 Notre Dame.

"We're going to play a very talented Michigan team," English said. "And the issue is going to be can we hang in there because they're going to be throwing punches, and we better be throwing punches."

Although English doesn't put much into taking Northwestern to the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez won't allow his team to take Eastern Michigan lightly.

The Wolverines registered a 33-22 win over the Eagles in the last meeting between the two schools in 2007. Michigan is 25-1 all-time against the Mid-American Conference, with the lone loss coming last season when Toledo stunned the Wolverines at Michigan Stadium.

Rodriguez doesn't expect Eastern Michigan to be a pushover.

"Sometimes, even when you lose a game like they did in a tough one at Northwestern on the road, you're going to get a little more confidence," Rodriguez said Monday. "I think they'll have a little more confidence.

"(Schmitt) is a veteran guy, and anytime you have a veteran quarterback that has played in big games and has had some success, it gives you a shot ... and we're going to get their best effort from the first snap to the last."

Jeff Arnold covers sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2554 or



Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 10:32 a.m.

The Wolverines are going up against a Ron English defense?? FABULOUS!!!!....need we mention more :O)


Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 8:49 a.m.

All the motivation Ron needs is that he's not the coach at UofM, and Rich Rod is. And if you watched Toledo take apart Colorado, or CMU grind it out against Li'l Brother, or any of the other close MAC games against "majors" last week (just ask Missouri, who levelled Illinois the week before), you know we can never again take MAC teams lightly.


Wed, Sep 16, 2009 : 6:35 a.m.

I hope RR takes them seriously, Ole' Ronnie may have a trick or two up his sleeve!;>/


Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 12:53 p.m.

Couldn't the writer have said "short ride" or something similar, rather than the clever play on words "short bus ride", which sounds like a ride on the short bus? Poor taste.


Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 12:27 p.m.

wow - and actual story on EMU footbal by maybe they get it now? Nope, its actually about U-M... I see!


Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 12:11 p.m.

if what i've read is correct, EMU defense reacts slowly and tackles poorly, which should be abused badly by M. apparently didn't show much ability to pass deep which M needs a break from. I think the kids will stay motivated, but remember these kids are young and they will probably severely screw things up once or twice on game days this year, maybe badly enough to lose a game they should win. they can't read their press clippings or rankings.


Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 11:32 a.m.

Actually, the NW game means a lot to English. It means that UM will take them seriously now. And that spells trouble for poor EMU. Between Toledo last year and CMU beating little brother last week, there is absolutely no way EMU won't get UM's best for at least the first half. I'm guessing UM should be able to run up about 35 in the first half before the second string gets some more experience in the second half.


Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 9:10 a.m.

The mental test is one Michigan teams of the past have not passsed consistently. There is still too much for this team to prove to take any teams lightly.


Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 7 a.m.

Speaking of hungry, I'll take an Eagle sandwich to go and hold the (David) Mayo.


Tue, Sep 15, 2009 : 6:57 a.m.

U-M needs to be ready mentally to take on Eastern or it could get interesting (in a bad way). Michigan has a decided talent advantage but I bet Ron English wants this one very, very, much. If U-M comes to play, it should be a decisive victory for the Wolverines. If there is a letdown while the team basks in the glory of the ND win, a whole lot of bad things could happen, including an upset loss. You can't take anyone for granted these days. Like RR said, they've got to stay humble and hungry.