ROMULUS, Mich. —- Your old Uncle Mel is so full of his portion of turkey sandwiches, he can finally sit back behind his desk in his Lazy-Boy recliner , relax, and exhale now that the 2012 Eastern Michigan University football season has finally come to an merciful end last Friday afternoon inside the friendliest venue in the Mid-American Conference-Rynearson Stadium.
With nothing better to do on the day after Thanksgiving Day, less than 300 brave souls face the blustery wind, the snow showers that swept across the Huron River Valley and sit through the plummeting temperatures just to watch Northern Illinois University sweep away Eastern Michigan University, 49-7 and witnessed the conclusion of the 2012 football schedule.
Eastern Michigan University football coach Ron English and his team finished the season with a mighty impressive overall record of 2-10 and in the conference, the Eagles ended the season, 1-7 and that is good enough, for another last place finish in the West Division of the league.
At the start of the season, your old uncle fell victim to the excitement and the leering danger of high expectations because if you all remember, the Eagles finished the 2011 season with a 6-6 overall record. Many folks including Uncle Mel felt that this football program had turned a corner and started heading up the street of prosperity and would be on the path of respectability.
The road of respectability and being an upcoming football program vanished in a haze of vapor.
English has now completed his fourth year as the football coach at Eastern Michigan University and his record is a robust and hardy 10-38 and you know, the football season that English and the loyal Eagle football fans expected did not materialize because the Eagles fell back to the comfort of finding new ways of losing games.
English said that the problem during the season was the fact that the offense could not score enough points.
“I’m shocked by it,” English said. “We had four or five linemen back, our quarterback back a lot of the receivers back, we had all the tight ends back, our backs back. I think everything changes when you don’t score. Really to me, we don’t score enough points around here and it’s a mess. That to me is the biggest disappointment of the year.”
“This what I know about coaching defense. When the defense believes the offense can score points they play better,” English said. “We scored with nine minutes left in the first quarter and don’t score another point and that’s unjustifiable in my opinion. Everybody in this conference can score some points and for us not to score points is something I will address.”
Uncle Mel says hold on there coach!
Before you slip on and adjust your chauffer hat that the local bus line company gives to their bus drivers. Before you press down on the clutch and shift the bus in to drive and continue to run over what you threw under the bus-let take another look at the issue with the football program that you direct.
Uncle Mel says this, you know coach, maybe the offense did score enough points to win more than two games and maybe just maybe if the defense could have master the basic skill of football like tackling an opponent then perhaps the offense would have had more confidence in the defense.
Now Uncle Mel does not claim to be a defensive genius that worked in the Pacific 12 Conference or in the mighty Big Ten Conference and came to work at Eastern Michigan University with a reputation of being a defensive guru.
Here are some of the descriptive terms used by English to describe his defense’s ability and their performance on the field.
“Unable to get a stop!” a reoccurring theme of many press conferences after games.
“We will get this fixed!” that was a promise made by English after the Eagles were defeated by Illinois State University.
Indicating that something needs to be fixed must mean that something is broken and not working.
Here is another reoccurring theme made by English through out the season, “the Eagles are young in the defensive backfield.”
Again Uncle Mel does not claim to be an expert but many fans believe this philosophy – the more games a player get to play, the more experience a player gets and experience is priceless.
So, after how many games during a season does a defensive backfield remain young?
Again, how did the offense effect the defense?
Before we all take a look at the numbers that tell the story, let all of us take another trip down memory lane, back to October 13, 2012. A Saturday afternoon, the University of Toledo in town and the game took an exciting twist for the Eagles.
The two teams combined for eight touchdowns in the third quarter and the Eastern Michigan University offense rolled up an incredible 624 yards of offense including 238 yards of rushing from Bronson Hill.
The best offensive production by the Eagles that day only to be upstaged by the 655 yards and the 52 points scored by the Rockets and oh by the way Eastern Michigan University scored 47 points-just not quite enough points.
Let all of us take a breath and refocus.
The numbers do not tell a lie when they describe the Eastern Michigan University defense.
The Eagles are last in the nation at stopping the run, 120th in the NCAA. The Eagles gave up 3,204 yards including 34 touchdown runs. They are 112th in the nation in total defense averaging 479 yards a game. Being 111th in the nation at giving away points is something not to be proud of if you are a follower of the Eastern Michigan University football program.
Opponents scored 57 touchdowns and 18 field goals and average of 37.5 points per game.
The defense ranked 39th overall at defending the pass but since teams could run against the Eagles there was no reason an opponent needed to throw the ball.
Last season the Eagles rushing offense ranked 14th in the nation running with the football. This year the offense did struggle ranked 50th in the nation averaging 163 yards rushing and 97th in the NCAA with an average of 21.3 points.
English said at the beginning of the season that the Eagles were going to run the ball because that is what they do best and leading the Eagles running attack, senior quarterback Alex Gillett but after the Purdue University game, English benched Gillett and said that sophomore Tyler Benz gave his team the best chance to win and that the Eagles were changing offensive philosophy.
Benz did have some moments throwing the ball and in the future will be a good quarterback but the question needed to be answered. How do you change the offensive philosophy after the third game of the season?
“We are not good enough to have a quarterback controversy,” English said after he made the change at quarterback.
English called upon Gillett against Central Michigan University to pull off a magic trick and get a come from behind victory against the Chippewas but the effort fell short.
Not because of the effort by the offense but the by the lack of effort of the defense that could not make a play which is the description that English used in describing the play of his defense.
Gillett did get the Eagles the win at Western Michigan University by being allowed to be a part of the offense. He ran nine times for 6o yards, made five receptions for 45 yards including a touchdown reception and for good measure he threw a 37-yard pass.
Uncle Mel and Gillett’s family would like to know, how come this offensive scheme was not a part of the offensive philosophy?
English can’t place the burden of the season’s 2-10 record or his overall record of 10-38 on the shoulder of his players that play offense.
Instead the responsibility should be on the shoulder of the coach who arrived with a big reputation of being a defensive genius but who’s defense did not make any plays of noteworthiness.
A defense that fails too many times at the simple task of being able to tackle, cover a receiver or play smartly and with some sense of knowledge of the rules of football.
It is said in the coaching world by coaches that know how to win that it is the defense that wins games and championships.
Football fans at Eastern Michigan University would not know that because we have yet to see a defense that could make a football fan proud.
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.