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Posted on Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 4:29 p.m.

No bowling: Eastern Michigan football team slows down Northern Illinois, but can't finish MAC upset bid

By Staff

The Eastern Michigan football team’s defense played at a championship level against Northern Illinois on Friday.

Its offense, however, wasn’t able to push the Eagles to bowl-eligible status at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.

Northern Illinois’ 18-12 win earned it a spot in the Mid-American Conference championship game in Detroit next week, but the Huskies certainly didn’t win in their typical high-flying fashion.

The Huskies (9-3, 7-1) entered the game ranked seventh in the nation in yards per game (506.5) and ninth in points per game (41.6). Eastern Michigan (6-6, 4-4) allowed Northern Illinois just 286 yards of offense, with two big scoring plays accounting for more than 100 yards.

The second came when Huskies quarterback Chandler Harnish scored on a 68-yard run in the final seconds of the third quarter to put Northern Illinois ahead 18-6.

“I thought it was a good, hard-nosed football game that was played (Friday)," Eastern Michigan coach Ron English said. "It doesn’t come down to one play. It is really a culmination of plays. We had a chance on Chandler, we missed a tackle and he scored. That’s what happened.”

Eastern Michigan pulled within 18-12 on a 24-yard pass from Alex Gillett to Nick Olds with 6:19 left in the game and reached the Northern Illinois 31-yard-line on its final possession of the game before back-to-back sacks left the Eagles needing to convert a 4th-and-35 play.

Tight end Garrett Hoskins, who dropped a sure touchdown pass on the possession before the Olds touchdown, couldn’t come up with the 4th-down pass from Gillett, either.

In the third quarter, Gillett overthrew a wide open Hoskins in the flat for what would have been a touchdown. EMU settled for a Kody Fulkerson field goal.

“I’ve been in this for 20 years and I told our kids this: ‘We have to be good in November to win and you cannot allow yourself to not take advantage of opportunities,’" English said. "You saw there were some open guys in there. We dropped passes that were wide open, hit the guy in the hands. Our month of November has been like that. We just did not make the plays we had to make to win at the end of the year.”

The Huskies clinched a share of the MAC West title, and because they beat Toledo 63-60 on Nov. 1, they own the tiebreaker and have earned a second straight trip to the title game. They’ll play Ohio on Dec. 2 at Ford Field in Detroit.

Eastern Michigan lost a chance to be bowl eligible for the first time since 1995. The Eagles have the third-longest bowl drought in the FBS, spanning back to the 1987 California Bowl.

New Mexico State (1960) and Kent State (1972) are the only teams with more consecutive bowl-less seasons.

Northern Illinois scored first on Saturday, getting a 54-yard scoring run from Willie Clark.

After Fulkerson pulled EMU within 7-3 with a 20-yard field goal, the Huskies’ defense put points on the board when it tackled Dominique Sherrer in the end zone for a safety. A 54-yard punt by Ryan Neir left the Eagles pinned at their own 1-yard-line.

Northern Illinois’ Mathew Sims (39 yards) and Fulkerson (23 yards) exchanged field goals to make it 12-6 with 1:43 left in the third quarter.

Eastern Michigan’s three-headed tailback of Sherrer (16 carries, 43 yards), Dominique White (13-17) and Javonti Greene (2-6) were limited to 2.1 yards per carry. (Boxscore)

Gillett, who completed 11-of-25 passes for 147 yards, rushed 17 times for 67 yards for the Eagles. Harnish finished with 148 yards rushing on 17 attempts and completed 9-of-19 passes for 98 yards for NIU.

The improved defense was nothing new for the Eagles. After ranking 118th out of 120 FBS defenses last season by allowing 43.9 points, they allowed a respectable 24.3 this season.

"I continue to look at this thing as progress. It’s frustrating, yes, but we have some great seniors in there who didn’t quit on us," English said. "Our senior class is 16 strong-willed, terrific young men and I am proud of them. I’m just looking forward to continuing to move forward.”



Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 12:14 a.m.

Wow someone else get's it. who ever was resposible for the play calling down the stretch against B. St. K. St. and N.U. couldn't mix a box of rice up let alone a play book. All the people who think we made great strides can't see past the end of they're nose. The truth of the matter is the coaching staff had the biggest let down not the players. Quit sitting on the ball on first and second down and then expect a miracle on third and long. The play callin trying to score from inside the two yard line and trying to come out of the end zone against NU still makes my stomach turn when i think about it.We are never going to be somebody until we start going for the throat instead of playing dead. I for one am not happy at all with the 6 wins. It could have been a really special year.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 2:34 p.m.

Coach English raised our expectations and made EMU football relevant again. For that I am appreciative. The seniors had a fine season and finally learned what its like to be on a team that is respected around campus - for that I am also appreciative. 5-1 at home was great -- and so on ... Having said that - the play calling was beyond attrocius this season. EMU escaped CMU after trying to give the game away. EMU GAVE away the Ball State game and underplayed against Kent. Being relevant and winning a few games does not get you off the hook for blowing other games EMU should have won. So while I am pleased I am just as concerned about the abysmal play and poor coaching during key stretches this season. One could say there was a late season meltdown - if you watched the games as I did. Coach E has gotten us to average --- .500 ---- but we had two powder puff games and a favorable conference schedule --- 4-4 was underperforming. The coaches need to match the effort of the players next year if we want to compete.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

bottom line is at the end of the game you must score one more point than your opponent in order to win.

joe golder

Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.

Thank you Eagles and everyone attached to it! The end of the season has left me feeling very optimistic about this program. There is no doubt this team has turned the corner. I wouldn't be surprised if coach English and his staff are already out there knocking on doors right now. Go EMU sports!!!


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

Amazing how a top quality coach can really change things for the better.


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

the problem is playing with heart isnt a statistic.


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 1:30 p.m.

Talk about job security. from the sounds of it people are actually happy with the way the season played out. how can any one say it was fun to watch? for me the last three games were any thing but fun to watch. my hat's off to the defense. they came up huge. but the offensive mind set still leaves me in bewilderment. you can call the next play coming with your eyes closed. shouda wouda couda i guess. wait till next year.


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 2 p.m.

The glass is half empty eh? It's called improvement. Been with them for decades and I'm impressed with improvement. I don't expect bowl contention 2 years after a non-winning season and a whole new coaching crew. Good grief. In my estimation, the glass is half full. We have a great defense! Now we can build on it and build a better offense! Go Eagles!

Lac Court Orilles

Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 11:53 a.m.

It was a lot of fun watching Eastern Michigan improve this year, and I am looking forward to watching again next year. Go Hurons !


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 11:38 a.m.

While we missed many opportunities, we look SO much more like a real contender this year! My personal thanks to Ron English and his crew and the whole team for this wonderful year of Eagle football. You not only entertained us, but you gave us something that we haven't had for many years.....hope for the future of EMU football. Thank you so much!!! Eastern, Eastern, hats off to you!


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 1:30 a.m.

Much better this season. Glad to see it.


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 10:43 p.m.

we had our chances overthrown balls and dropped balls but the play calling again bordered on ridiculus. we are near the goal line again and won't spread anything out. we line up shoulder pad to shoulder pad and NU has everyone in the boox and we run right into the teeth of it. will they ever learn i remember a similar situation not long ago why doesn't the staff. then you try to run out of the end zone with that delayed hand off junk 3 yards deep and wonder why it doesn't work. NU's d cordinator should send a thank you card to coach English. it's plain as day the offense is built around someone else's ego and not the QB's strenght. I feel bad for the players they could be put in a better position to win. they had a real chance to play another game.. 6 wins this seson is nice but it's tainted now. Can anyone in the program be happy with what happened in 3 of the last 4 games?