Football: Defense has setback as Eastern Michigan offense surprises in 27-20 win

 

Ohio’s Quentin Poling grabs Eastern Michigan wide receiver Antoine Porter during a game at Peden Stadium on Oct. 15. (FILE)

 

Chad Moore and the Ohio defense knew Eastern Michigan would try some trick plays.

A reverse pass out of wildcat formation, though? That was a play Moore, a redshirt junior linebacker, said the Bobcats hadn’t seen from the Eagles.

The Eagles ran the play in the first quarter, but they didn’t convert on it. And it was a play that defined how the Eagles approached the Bobcats for the entire game.

In a 27-20 win over Ohio (4-3, 2-1 Mid-American Conference) on Saturday, Eastern’s offense was  willing to try anything to beat Ohio, something it hadn’t done since 1994. Saturday was the first time Eastern had beaten Ohio during Solich’s tenure.

“They (Eastern) were pulling out all the stops,” coach Frank Solich said.

Eastern (5-2, 2-1 MAC) did more than pull out all the stops, though. After going up 13-10 in the third quarter, the Eagles attempted an onside kick to seemingly keep Ohio from killing its momentum.

The Eagles had to kick the ball again because a player was offside, but it was a play that showed their sense of urgency.

Ohio would allow Eastern to score four times in the second half, as Eastern scored on each drive except for its last drive before the end of the game.

“I would say we’ve done a great job getting turnovers, in the second half we didn’t get turnovers,” Moore said.

Heading into the game, the Bobcats led the MAC in turnovers with 16, seven of them being fumbles and nine of them being interceptions. Moore forced a fumble on the defense’s first drive of the second quarter, and safety Kylan Nelson recovered it.

With Eastern showing no fear against Ohio’s defense, it primarily challenged the Bobcats’ secondary. The Eagles totaled 347 passing yards and three touchdowns, along with 88 rushing yards.

“When you allow that, you’re going to have some problems,” Solich said in reference to plays made by Eastern’s quarterback.

Along with the secondary being challenged, the Bobcats couldn’t handle Eagles quarterback Brogan Roback’s pocket skills. Roback evaded oncoming Ohio pass rushers with ease.

Ohio leads the MAC with 25 sacks, but it only mustered one sack from defensive end Kevin Robbins.

“I give props to the quarterback because he extended the drives and it’s hard to match up in the secondary once they’re extending everything,” Moore said.

With Roback moving in and out of the pocket, the Bobcats’ defense collapsed. The pass rush wasn’t as prevalent. The cornerbacks got beat on routes against the Eastern Michigan receivers.

This game is undoubtedly a setback. Ohio’s defense is typically its best feature, along with a special teams unit that has been consistent.

But for now, Ohio’s defense will need to regroup for next Saturday’s game against Kent State (2-5, 1-2 MAC).

“We lost to a good team,” Moore said. “And that’s the thing I don’t think people realize is they’re a good team, they’re a good program. We knew it was going to be a hard game.”

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