Potential MAC upset looms heavily
Bring up the fact Eastern Michigan resides in the Mid-American Conference, and Leonte Carroo is quick to point out what the last MAC team the Rutgers football team played did to the Scarlet Knights.
“They have a pride thing,” said the sophomore wide receiver. “When they play big-time schools, they’re not going to lay down for anybody. We saw that versus Kent State last year. Kent State came out and smacked us right in the mouth.”
The Knights (1-1) will take the field tomorrow knowing the repercussions that could arise if they take the Eagles (1-1) lightly.
It was less than a year ago when Rutgers hosted the Golden Flashes with a 7-0 record and a top-20 ranking, only to lose 35-23 to a team that simply dominated the Knights.
Though both reside in the same conference, Eastern Michigan arrives with less credentials and talent than Kent State did the year before.
The Eagles finished with just two wins last season en route to a 2-10 record, which included a 31-14 loss to FCS foe Illinois State.
It is a statistic that could make Rutgers not take the Eagles seriously, though junior linebacker Kevin Snyder believes his team will not overlook them.
“Everybody says this should be an easy game,” Snyder said. “That’s not it. That’s not in our locker room, and that’s not the way we think. We know, even last year, they had a lot of teams that were really good, so we don’t really know how good this team really is.”
According to head coach Kyle Flood, Eastern Michigan is capable of staying in games.
Flood said the Eagles won the turnover battle in each of their first two games, including 2-0 turnover advantage in their 45-7 loss last Saturday to Penn State.
Eastern Michigan quarterback Tyler Benz has thrown just one interception this season. The offense has yet to fumble, and the Eagles are 5-5 on converting red zone trips into touchdowns.
All of that is a recipe to allow Eastern Michigan to hang around if the Knights fail to start off quickly on offense.
“This is a well-coached football team and we know they’ll be very anxious to play us and we’re going to be anxious to play them,” Flood said.
One thing the Eagles have failed to do this season under head coach Ron English, who doubles as Eastern Michigan’s defensive coordinator, is stop the run.
The Eagles have allowed 226.5 yards on the ground this season, including 202 rushing yards to FCS member Howard in their opener.
That bodes well for sophomore running back P.J. James, who is tied for fifth in the country in rushing yards with 301. Rutgers is 34th in the country in rushing yards per game with 234.
But it will be up to both the offensive and defensive units to execute so Eastern Michigan does not hang around or pull off another MAC upset against the Knights.
“I think that’s huge in any game — any game, including this one,” Snyder said. “As soon as we get a couple stops, I think our offense will do well to keep us off the field and get some drives and points going so everyone can settle in even more.”