ROMULUS — This Saturday afternoon in the city were the Red Cedar River flows, Eastern Michigan University will be taking the field inside Spartan Stadium in front of a full house and a Michigan State University football team that is more just a little steamed at themselves.
After dropping an embarrassing 20-3, defeat at the hands of Notre Dame, the Eagles will be facing a team bent on proving to the world of college football that they are a program that belongs in the upper echelon of the NCAA.
“I wish we were playing tomorrow; I wish we were playing today,” Michigan State University football coach Mark Dantonio said. “That’s how we feel. That’s how you feel after what happened. You want to just get on with it and get back on the game field. You want to right a wrong.”
Eastern Michigan University is slowly getting over the 54-16, beating that it took against Purdue University at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana, last Saturday afternoon.
Last season, the Eagles’ offense showed some signs of being formable and the defense made some large strides toward being respectable but that was last season and like Eastern Michigan University defensive coordinator Phil Snow said early this season during Media Day, things do change but for the Eagles the changes went the other direction.
There are 120 football programs that play in the Football Bowl Subdivision and out of the 120 teams the Eastern Michigan University’s total offense for the Eagles is 74th in the NCAA so there is room for improvement but for the defense that is another story.
Being a defensive coach, Eastern Michigan University football coach Ron English is not only disappointed, embarrassed and in a state of shock because he expected the defense to play better, continue to improve and build on the minimum of success from last season.
The total defense is ranked 116th in the nation and is 120 out of 120 in scoring defense which just means that they can’t keep anybody from scoring-they are the worst in the NCAA.
English said his defense can’t tackle and is not physical enough but that the problems on defense would be addressed and repaired.
If the Eagles can’t tackle and is not physical enough then what kind of day will Michigan State University tailback Le’Veon Bell will have Saturday?
“He is a big athlete that can run and he can be physical,” English said about Spartan running back. “I think you stop him with numbers and you really grab him when you tackle. He’s proven early this year and last that he can break tackles.”
In fact the entire Spartan offense will be ready to make Saturday afternoon a long day for the Eagles defense. After struggling against the Irish, Spartan first year quarterback Andrew Maxwell might just become an All-American against the Eagles and their porous defense.
“Well I think he is getting better,” English said about Spartans’ first year starting quarterback Maxwell. “I know if I’m Michigan State University I coming into the game working on things that I need to do to compete for the league championship. They will give Maxwell a lot of work they will game plan in a way where game planning not only for us but game planning for the future.”
Eagle strong safety Pudge Cotton managed to add a little sunshine against Purdue last Saturday when he intercepted a pass and ran back 28 yards for a touchdown. The last time an Eastern Michigan University defender took an interception back for a touchdown was back in the 2005 season.
Dantonio’s game plan will be elementary football; the Eagles are going to see plenty of Bell coming at them from all angles.
When it looks like that the Spartans want to balance the offense by introducing the passing game, Maxwell should find plenty of targets wide open because of the receivers should be able to get open.
If the Eagles want to escape any embarrassment at Spartan Stadium then the defense is going to have to play a defense that is football smart and not give away extra opportunities for the Spartans’ offense.
“The most disappointing defensively we really played hard and we were really physical,” English said about his defense. “We missed tackles, we didn’t have leverage the ball so that thing becomes distorted.”
There can’t be turnovers, there can’t be drive extending penalties and there can’t be Spartan scoring drives over 90 yards.
The Eagles’ special team tried to control the battle of field position against the Boilermakers but Purdue put a plan together and the Eagles defense gave up three drives of over 90 yards that ended up in the end zone for six points.
“It is important in every game,” English said about winning the field position battle. “Hopefully you want your opponent play on a long field and your offense plays on a short field.
It is true that the Spartans are bigger, physical and they will be quicker against the Eagles plus add the fact they will be looking to avenged the embarrassing loss to the Irish and coming this Saturday afternoon inside Spartan Stadium- it will be a long afternoon for the Eagles.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.