Ypsilanti — Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton has praised starting quarterback Todd Porter all season on his decision-making and poise.
Porter was a large part of Eastern’s best start since 2011, and that praise continued during the week leading up to Friday’s 27-24 comeback win over Wyoming, which gave the Eagles (3-1) their best start since 1995, their last winning season.
Then on Friday, Porter threw four interceptions, including two pick-sixes.
“(Porter was) under duress for some of those,” Creighton said. “Some (were) just not being on the same page as the wide receiver, and just some poor choices on Todd’s part.”
Porter finished 14-of-28 for 214 yards and a touchdown, to go with his four interceptions.
Brogan Roback, once Eastern’s starter before his two-game suspension to begin the season, entered in the fourth quarter, jump-starting the EMU offense and orchestrating the comeback win for the Eagles. He was 3-of-6 for 47 yards.
Creighton said the offense needed a boost after the fourth interception, a 27-yard pick-six from Logan Wilson to put Wyoming ahead 24-20 a drive after Porter was sacked on fourth-and-6, turning the ball over on downs. Roback replaced Porter two drives later.
“That’s some of the reason we made the change in the fourth quarter,” Creighton said. “We were in a little bit of a lull. We just didn’t (know) who was going to make the play (or) what are we going to do just to give a little spark. That was some of the reason for going with Brogan.”
Roback showed some composure in the pocket, despite being pressured for most of his two drives in the game. That composure was often absent each of the last two years.
“He (Roback) took us right down and scored,” Creighton said of Eastern’s winning drive, a five-play, 67-yard strike that ended with a 15-yard touchdown run from redshirt sophomore Ian Eriksen (Clarkston). “That was great. I think he’d be the first to tell you that in the two series that he played, it wasn’t perfect. For any of us, or either of those two (Porter and Roback). It was great to have him back out there and he did well.”
Creighton wouldn’t say who the starter would be on Saturday afternoon at Bowling Green, but did imply that Porter’s four picks were not enough to oust him from the starting role.
“We haven’t made a final decision,” Creighton said. “We’ve got the whole week. Todd’s been our starter. He’s played really well. He made some poor decisions and so it was not difficult for us to get Brogan in there to give us that spark. I don’t know at this point if it necessitates changing all of that, but we’re going to continue to look at that.
“I know for a lot of people it’s a huge deal, and in a lot of ways I understand that. But I look at as we’ve got two guys who can play with this team. Ultimately and overall, over a long season, I just know that we’re going to need two guys. I look at it as a positive.”
Raising the bar
Creighton said his team has done well meeting expectations since he arrived prior to the 2014 season, despite winning as many games so far this season as it won each of the last two seasons combined.
“When we’ve challenged the team the last 2 1/2 years, they’ve really responded,” Creighton said. “That’s one of the things I really, really like about our guys. When we (the coaches) challenge them, they meet the challenge. We said that this was the first time, or one of the first times that we were going to get a team’s absolute best.”
To Creighton, the second quarter has consistently been a problem for the Eagles, but has improved dramatically the last two weeks. That improvement came to its fruition on Friday, when the Eagles overcame a 17-3 deficit to tie the score by halftime.
“You don’t ever want to be down and have to come back, but our program has needed a come-from-behind victory,” Creighton said. “There’s a lot that we gained not only from the first-half comeback, but then the fourth quarter being down and coming back and winning.”
Stopping the run
Last season, EMU finished dead last in FBS in rushing yards allowed. On Friday, the Eagles held Brian Hill — who ran for 242 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries in Eastern’s 48-29 win over Wyoming last year — to 82 yards on 22 carries. As a whole, Wyoming gained only 79 yards.
“Our defense was fantastic,” Creighton said. “I don’t know how else to say that.”
Eastern also forced three turnovers on defense and had a blocked field goal from Jeremiah Harris, who was named MAC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday morning.
“So as bad as it was that we turned the ball over four times, we were really only minus-1 in the overall turnover ratio,” Creighton said. “Minus anything isn’t good, but our defense gave us a chance.”
Eastern Michigan at Bowling Green
Kickoff: 3 p.m. Saturday, Doyt Perry Stadium, Bowling Green, Ohio
Records: EMU 3-1, Bowling Green 1-3
Line: Bowling Green by 3 1/2
Did you know?: Former Detroit King standout quarterback/receiver/defensive back Armani Posey is now a freshman on Bowling Green’s football team. He is not expected to play, however. A representative from Bowling Green’s athletic department said Posey is redshirting this year.
Al Willman is a freelance writer