MAC notebook: Eastern Michigan courting QB conundrum
Western Michigan earned its first win, dominating FCS Delaware State, 68-0, on Saturday while Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan dropped Mid-American Conference openers.
Also, Akron became the second MAC team in as many weeks to knock off a Big Ten opponent when Alvin Davis returned a pair of interceptions (97, 50) for touchdowns in a 39-34 win at Northwestern.
Eastern Michigan (2-1) defeated Purdue, 20-19, the previous week, but the Eagles had problems in Buffalo (3-0, 1-0) last Saturday, falling behind 14-0 in the opening quarter before suffering a 35-28 loss.
The Eagles found out just how tough it is to slow down Buffalo’s 6-foot-7, 245-pound junior quarterback Tyree Jackson, who led Muskegon Mona Shores to the Division 2 state-title game at Ford Field back in 2014.
Jackson has completed 65.3 percent of his passes, throwing for 789 yards and 12 TDs with just one interception. In the win over the Eagles, Jackson was 21-of-26 for 325 yards and three TDs, including TD strikes of 8, 70 and 75 yards to K.J. Osborn.
Now, Eastern goes back to nonconference play when it plays at San Diego State (2-1) this Saturday night, facing a team that defeated Arizona State last weekend.
Who will be Eastern’s quarterback? It was Tyler Wiegers who led Eastern to the comeback win at Purdue, but he was pulled in favor of junior Mike Glass on its third series of the last game.
Down 7-0, Wiegers guided Eastern inside Buffalo’s 40 on its opening drive before an incomplete pass, then a fumble while getting sacked for a turnover.
Buffalo scored again to open up a 14-0 cushion. Glass then replaced Wiegers and gave the Eagles an instant spark throwing TD passes of 76 yards to Arthur Jackson and 75 yards to Blake Banham to pull Eastern within 21-14 in the second quarter.
“He just brings a dimension with his feet to keep people honest a little bit in the run game and then he’s very accurate, he throws a good ball,” Eastern coach Chris Creighton said of Glass, who completed 17 of 27 for 284 yards and two TDs without an interception. “We feel as though we’ve got two really good quarterbacks and we’ve used them both already this season and we’re going to continue to, and we’re glad that we’ve got them both and they’re both playing good football.”
Eastern trailed 28-21 in the third and actually had a chance to pull even with Wiegers back in charge. He connected on seven straight passes to bring the Eagles from their own 25 to the Buffalo 30, but Wiegers was sacked by Chuck Harris (Southfield), and on the next play Harris jarred the ball loose from Glass after a 17-yard run to the 15. Buffalo recovered to end the threat.
Creighton knows Eastern will have to stop the run against a San Diego State team that piled up 311 yards on the ground in a 28-21 win over Arizona State.
“What I see out of San Diego State is a very talented, really, really fast and physical team,” Creighton said.
Chips still searching
Central Michigan also has a nonconference game Saturday, playing host to Maine — 2-0 and ranked No. 13 in FCS.
Northern Illinois ended its four-game slide in its series with Central, jumping out to a 21-3 lead in a 24-16 victory.
Central coach John Bonamego pulled starting quarterback Tony Poljan in favor of junior Tommy Lazzaro, who completed 13 of 22 for 128 yards and a TD, but also had an interception.
“I was very disappointed in the outcome,” Bonamego said. “We had some opportunities in that first half that we weren’t able to capitalize on. We were in the red zone three times, missed a field goal, made a field goal and then turned the ball over. I thought in the second half, coming out and making a game of it, having an opportunity to tie it up at the very end I think we showed a lot of fight and determination.”
On his decision to put Lazzaro in at quarterback?
“Tommy Lazzaro has been in our program for three years and we just felt like we needed to make a change just to see if we could get a spark and Tommy provided that for us,” Bonamego said. “Tommy has the ability to move in the pocket. Tony himself is a strong runner, but Tommy is probably a little quicker, is able to maneuver in the pocket with his eyes down field and can make plays with his legs which he did on a number of third downs on all three drives that he led so you go with the hot hand.
“Tommy had an opportunity and he delivered on it. Both players will continue to work and improve and I feel fortunate that we’ve got two very good quarterbacks on our team.”
Maine opened the season with a 35-7 rout of No. 7 New Hampshire, then came back from a 21-0 first-quarter deficit to defeat Western Kentucky, 31-28, scoring 31 unanswered points.
Broncos get ‘special’ play
Western had one of the top punt and kick returners in college football the past few years in Darius Phillips.
Phillips has graduated and moved on to the NFL with the Bengals, but the Broncos showed they still have some talent in the special-teams game with Jayden Reed (93 yards) and Tyron Arnett (76 yards) each scoring on punt returns in the Broncos’ 68-0 win over Delaware State.
The Broncos showed they also have a quality tight end in Giovanni Reed, who grabbed TD passes of 3 and 23 yards from Jon Wassink.
With coaches now being able to use players multiple games before deciding if they want to red-shirt them, Western coach Tim Lester tossed true freshman Patrick Lupro (Belleville) out and he responded by picking up a fumble and returning it 17 yards for a touchdown.
The Broncos have a chance to gain more momentum and confidence when they play at Turner Field in Atlanta this Saturday against Georgia State (1-2), before their MAC opener at Miami (Ohio) Sept. 29.
“I just want to see consistency,” Lester said of what he hopes to get from his Broncos, who play a Georgia State team that gave up 679 yards to Memphis in a 59-22 loss Saturday.
“We knew coming in that we have a ton of new starters on defense, but luckily for us we’re running the same defense we ran last year so there is some carry over.
Central Michigan senior linebacker Malik Fountain was MAC West defensive player of the week after recording 18 tackles in a 24-16 loss to Northern Illinois. Meanwhile, Eastern Michigan sophomore punt Jake Julien was West special teams player of the week, after averaging 49.0 yards on five punts in a 35-28 loss to Buffalo, including a long of 68 yards.
Buffalo junior receiver K.J. Osborn (Ypsilanti) was East Division offensive player of the week after racking up 188 receiving yards and three TDs.