'Toughness indicators' are there for Eastern Michigan football team, Ron English says
There are four statistics in a football boxscore that Eastern Michigan coach Ron English refers to as “toughness indicators.”
While he admitted there was a fair share of “sloppy play” in the Eagles’ season-opening win against Howard last weekend, English gladly pointed out his team excelled in those areas. They are:
1. Run the ball. The Eagles’ rushed for 326 yards in the 41-9 win, including 120 yards and a touchdown from both senior starting tailback Dominique Sherrer and sophomore backup Javonti Greene. Quarterback Alex Gillett added 76 yards and another score.2. Stop the run. Howard gained 96 yards on the ground, a bulk of it on a 41-yard first-quarter run by Terrence LeFall. Take away that one early big play and the Bison’s yards-per-carry drops from 3.2 to 1.8.
3. The kickoff units. Howard averaged 13.4 yards on eight kickoff returns and the Eagles forced a fumble on one of them. Senior linebacker Herb Waits made six kickoff tackles. Eastern Michigan averaged 28.3 yards on three kick returns.
Alabama State, the Eagles’ opponent at 1 p.m. Saturday at Rynearson Stadium, is ready to exploit what didn’t go well in Eastern Michigan’s weather-delayed win.
A second straight home win would give EMU a 2-0 record for the first time since 1989 heading into back-to-back Big Ten road games at Michigan and Penn State.
“Naturally everything starts with the running game for Eastern Michigan. In order for us to have an opportunity to win and have success against them, we're going to have to stop the running game because the passing game is not on track right now,” Alabama State Reggie Barlow said.
“If we can stop the running game, and force them to do something they don't want to do, and right now that's passing, we may have an opportunity to have some success against them.”
English concurred that the Eagles’ passing game wasn’t sharp last weekend. But he thinks it will come around behind Gillett, a three-year starter at the quarterback position.
"I don’t think we threw the ball very well at all, and that had not been what we showed at camp," English said after Sunday’s game. "I think we’ll settle down and throw the ball better."
Gillett’s first pass of the season was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. From that point, he completed 12 of 20 attempts for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
Like Howard, Alabama State is a Football Championships Subdivision team. But the Hornets, who won the East Division of the Southwestern Athletic Conference last season, should provide a stiffer test than a Howard team that was coming off a 1-10 season.
Alabama State wide receiver Nick Andrews was named the SWAC offensive player of week and quarterback Greg Jenkins the conference’s newcomer of the week after a 41-9 win over Mississippi Valley State.
Andrews had career highs in receptions (10) and touchdowns (3) while gaining 104 yards. Jenkins completed 19 of 27 passes for 188 and three TDs while also rushing for 56 yards and another score.
Rich Rezler is a sports producer for AnnArbor.com. Contact him at 734-623-2553 or firstname.lastname@example.org.