Ron English sees value in his Eastern Michigan football team playing at Michigan, Penn State
It wasn’t long ago that Eastern Michigan football coach Ron English wondered how his team benefitted from being overmatched at a massive Big Ten stadium.
Other than taking home a fat paycheck, of course.
On Monday, English said he sees the benefit for this year’s Eagles team. Trips to Michigan Stadium last week and Penn State’s Beaver Stadium on Saturday (noon, ESPN2) now enhance the foundation he’s building in Ypsilanti.
Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com
After opening the season with back-to-back home wins over Football Championship Subdivision opponents Howard and Alabama State, the Eagles’ first 2-0 start since 1989, they are a on a two-game tour of college football’s biggest venues.
An announced crowd of 110,343 watched Michigan beat Eastern Michigan 31-3 last week at Michigan Stadium, the largest stadium in the nation. Beaver Stadium is the next largest at 107,282.
While Michigan eventually pulled away for a lopsided win, the Eagles were the dominant team in the first quarter last week. They outgained the Wolverines 140-32 over the first 15 minutes of play and Kody Fulkerson’s 21-yard field goal early in the second quarter gave Eastern Michigan its first lead in 10 games against Michigan.
In fact, the Eagles were two plays away from a potential 17-0 lead. Eastern turned the ball over on downs inside the Michigan 1-yard line in the first quarter and Michigan safety Thomas Gordon made a diving, one-handed interception in the end zone on the Eagles’ next possession.
English calls running the ball and stopping the run his “toughness indicators.” Despite falling behind in the second half once Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (198 yards rushing) found open space, English didn’t chance his philosophy. Eagles quarterback Alex Gillett didn’t attempt a pass in the second half and finished 2-for-5 passing.
“We’re at the point in our program where we try to play a physical brand of football,” English said. “I thought we did a nice job of striking last week and the physical aspect of the game wasn’t an issue.
“In space, with tackling and leveraging Denard Robinson and the backs, that really was our issue and getting off the field on third down in the second half.”
Rich Rezler is a sports producer at AnnArbor.com. Contact him at 734-623-2553 or firstname.lastname@example.org.