EMU football use late turnovers to knock out WMU, nix Broncos’ MAC title hopes

In a game that West Michigan led for most of the four quarters, two late turnovers proved to be the difference, as the East Michigan football team claimed a 22 -21 Tuesday at the Rynearson stadium in Ypsilanti.

WMU quarterback Kaleb Eleby spat a fumble and threw an interception in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter, allowing EMU to recover from a 21-9 deficit in the second half and secure the Third consecutive victory for the Eagles over the Broncos.

The first turnover came on a quarterback with 6:46 left in the fourth, when EMU’s Turan Rush dropped the ball and teammate Russell Vaden recovered on the 41-yard line. WMU, which helped set up the winning goal from 20 yards. of Chad Ryland, whose record fifth kick of the night gave the Eagles their first lead at 22-21 with 3:55 remaining.

The EMU defense presented their second takeaway with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter, when Peyton Price tipped Eleby’s pass over the line of scrimmage, allowing defensive tackle Michael Smith Jr.

Four points later, EMU converted a first down and knelt down at the last minute to celebrate a Senior Night victory and secure their sixth bowl game in program history.

“It wasn’t just the last eight minutes for our defense,” EMU coach Chris Creighton said after the game. “I thought they were playing, against a very good offense, so well throughout the game. These two takeaways were just phenomenal.

The Eagles improve to 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the Mid-American Conference, and with next week’s trip to central Michigan they will have a shot at winning the returning Michigan MAC Trophy. to the Michigan MAC team with the best head-to-head record against its two conference opponents in the state.

WMU have held the trophy in six of the past seven years, with CMU winning it in 2017.

“This is the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve actually played for the Michigan MAC Trophy,” said Creighton, now in his eighth year at EMU. “We won four games in four different years, but never the first one, so we never really played for that. Central obviously beat Western, so we’ll both be playing for the Michigan MAC Trophy.

“We haven’t hoisted a trophy since I’ve been here, and it’s going to take an incredible effort and 10 days of preparation and all that to fight with a really good football team, but tonight has ended up being special. I’m so proud of the players, so proud of the team and our staff. We try to be different. Different from what we were last year, and different in general, but we’re not there yet We are getting closer and closer.

Last year EMU handed WMU an equally disappointing loss, as the Eagles entered the game 0-4 but came away with a 53-42 win over the previously undefeated Broncos.

This time around, the loss sends WMU 6-5 overall and 3-4 in the league, including a 0-4 mark against opponents MAC West. The Broncos’ loss also takes them out of the MAC West title race, narrowing the divisional championship race to northern Illinois and central Michigan.

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“Offensively, we were pretty effective until the last two practices. We have returned it twice, and it is inexcusable. It can’t happen, especially in times of crisis, and that’s why you lose a game – because you return it late, ”said WMU head coach Tim Lester. “It’s extremely frustrating, but I think Skyy (Moore) played really well; I thought Jaylen Hall was playing really well; offensively, I don’t think we played too hard in the first half, but we improved in the second. I thought we were out of the locker room in the third quarter and made a few tweaks that made a big difference, but we turned it around late, and you can’t do that and win a game, especially in this league when you go play the fourth quarter games.

Having started the season 4-1 with victories over current ACC Coast Division leader Pitt and defending Mountain West Conference champion San Jose State, WMU has lost four of its last six games, and the turnovers have been a common theme with every loss.

In their first five games, the Broncos have posted a plus-6 turnover margin, but over the past six weeks that number is minus-10.

Eleby’s interception marked the third time this season that a slap pass resulted in a pick, which coaching staff identified as a problem last year and attempted to remedy with new equipment to the l ‘coaching.

“Every time Caleb throws, he throws over a net. We have these nets that we bought about two years ago that really helped his throwing movement just to get a little higher, ”said Lester. “I don’t know if you remember that, but he had a lot of rocking passes last year, and not so many this year because we bought him, and then we keep the ball safe, and we have to do a better job. “

Outside of the two late turnovers, Eleby had one of her best outings of the year, completing 22 of 29 passes for 307 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown to Skyy Moore, which was the longest play in the game. season in the WMU and gave the Broncos a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. Eleby also ran for a one-yard touchdown that gave WMU a 21-9 lead with 2:47 left in the third quarter.

Moore finished with 12 catches for 181 yards, putting him to 1,050 for the season and making him the first WMU receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards since Corey Davis in 2016.

Hall added four catches for 53 yards, while La’Darius Jefferson paced the rushing game with 12 carries for 86 yards. Running back Sean Tyler added 10 tots for 52 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown run that gave WMU a 14-6 lead with 12:10 left in the second quarter.

WMU edged out EMU 485 to 422, marking the fourth time this season that the Broncos have won the yardage battle but lost the game.

Passing for 307 yards and rushing for 178 should be enough to win a football game, especially allowing 22 points, but turnovers were once again the problem.

“It’s not like we’re not moving the ball; it’s not like we’re not running the ball efficiently, ”said Lester. “We are launching it effectively. Kaleb was 22 of 29, but the turnovers kill you, and that’s really what happened in the last half, and what we need to be better at.

Defensively, junior linebacker Corvin Moment led the way with nine tackles (2 for loss) and a pass break, while senior defensive end Ali Fayad officially recorded four tackles, a pass break and a sack, well that another of his three loss tackles should have entered the scoreboard as a sack when he brought EMU quarterback Ben Bryant to the ground for a 1 yard loss early in the fourth quarter, which would put him at 10.5 sacks for the season.

Second-year defensive tackle Braden Fiske had seven tackles (2 loss) and Andre Carter added six saves (2 loss) and a sack.

Overall, the Broncos defense recorded 12 tackles for a loss, allowed 2 of 14 on third conversions, and forced EMU to kick on each of their first four discs, but the offense was unable to keep up. take advantage, allowing the Eagles to stay close.

Although EMU has scored in their last six practices (minus the last one that has passed), WMU’s defense limited the Eagles to five field goals, all coming from inside the 15-yard line. .

Ryland’s record-breaking game started with a 30-yard field goal to cut the EMU’s deficit to 7-3 midway through the second quarter, and he kicked another 31 yards to make it a 7-6 game. shortly before half-time.

The junior’s third field goal covered 22 yards and cut his team’s deficit to 14-9 with 8:23 left in the third quarter, and his fourth came from 31 yards and made it a 21-19 game with 7. : 21 to play.

EMU’s only touchdown came in a fourth and second game at the end of the third quarter, when running back Samson Evans received the shotgun blow and returned the ball to Hassan Beydoun in a reaction sweep. Beydoun, the MAC’s top wide receiver with 73 catches, took the lead, then used his speed to outrun the WMU defense on the sideline for 19 yards to make it a 21-16 game. with 0:35 to play in the third.

Beydoun finished with five catches for 48 yards, while Tanner Knue led EMU with 55 yards on four catches.

Senior quarterback Ben Bryant came into the game completing nearly 70 percent of his passes, but WMU held him in check throughout, allowing the Cincinnati transfer to complete 13 of 23 passes for 156 yards.

With his tough passing game, EMU turned to the ground, where senior Jawon Hamilton led the way with 179 yards on 19 carries, including a 60-yard gain when the WMU defense failed to get through. set up at the snap, which was the Eagles’ longest game of the season and led to their second field goal.

Defensively, senior linebacker Terry Myrick led the way with 11 tackles, and second lineman Jose Ramirez added 10 and a loss-stoppage, but it was mostly the turnovers that allowed the Eagles to control the powerful offense. WMU.

“Our defense tonight is absolutely history,” Creighton said. “The take out, the fact that we didn’t give it up, and then we ran the football. Our offensive line, our tight ends and our running backs just got the better of the game. Every person in this room, whether dressed or not – boy scout team, starter, hasn’t played as much as they would have liked – there’s just a bunch of happy guys in there and happy ones. for the others.

“You pray that the elderly can have a special evening for the elderly. You just imagined them in the locker room for the last time after the game, as they were. “

Both teams will wrap up their regular road seasons next week, with EMU visiting CMU and WMU visiting northern Illinois looking to secure a bowl offer.

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