'Historic' win is step in right direction for Roback, Eastern

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Ypsilanti — Brogan Roback came to Eastern Michigan as a four-star quarterback from nearby Toledo with a mission of helping turn the Eagles football program around.

No doubt, Roback is proud of what he has helped the Eagles accomplish the past couple of years, first leading them to their first winning season since 1995 last season, then to their first win over a Big Ten team Saturday with a 16-13 victoryat Rutgers, ending a 0-38 slide.

Roback, a senior, threw for 260 yards and a touchdown, spreading the ball around to nine different receivers, including five for 107 yards to Sergio Bailey and seven for 62 yards and a TD to Antoine Porter.

“We’re trying to change the culture and in order to do that there has to be a lot of things that has to be done that hasn’t been done before so this is just another step in the right direction to changing the program around and obviously this is a great feeling, one we’re going to hold our hat on to. But at the end of the day it can’t be the greatest moment of the season," Roback told The Detroit News on Sunday. “It’s definitely a confidence booster and it shows we belong. The scary point is we weren’t even clicking on all cylinders, so to grind one out and get a win that way, stay in it for the full 60 minutes, shows of the toughness this team has.”

The Eagles (2-0) are off this week before playing host to MAC runnerup Ohio Sept. 23, a team they beat last year, 27-20. They will get another crack at a Power Five conference team when they play at Kentucky on Sept. 30.

Roback was happy to spread the ball around and praised both sides of the line.

“I felt like I distributed the ball pretty well, got the ball in my playmakers hands and see what they could do with it,” said Roback. “The offensive line played very, very well. I could sit in the pocket for a while and they picked up any blitz that came so they made my job a lot easier. I just took what they gave me and I felt like I was pretty locked in at what was going on and getting the ball on target.

“Like I said, we left a lot of plays out there. I had a few missed target passes. We had some drops. We had some miscommunication, but at the end of the game we came out with a W and once we get all those things corrected and we hit on all cylinders it could be a really big thing.”

Junior Shaq Vann showed he is healthy after missing the majority of the 2016 season because of a shoulder injury, rushing for 67 yards on 16 carries.

“He’s a great back, but they all are though, all bring something different to the table and they are probably the most loaded position on our depth chart, next to the D-line. But having Shaq back who is also a captain with myself back there on the offensive side kind of brings a sense of leadership, but playmaking ability as well,” Roback said.

Eastern’s defense limited Rutgers to 326 yards, including 128 on the ground, and forced two turnovers.

The Eagles’ defense improved dramatically a year ago, limiting opponents to 167.5 yards rushing to help them to a 7-6 record and their first bowl appearance since 1987 after giving up an average of 316.8 the previous year when they struggled to a 1-11 mark.

“The D-line is an awesome group and I think that has pushed our offensive line to play pretty well,” said Roback. “The offensive line was a question mark and the D-line all through camp really was giving them a tough time and pushed them and made them tougher.”

Roback, who missed a few games at the start of last year due to a suspension, feels he has grown up and is proud of how he has fought through adversity during his career.

“It’s been a long ride and there’s been a lot of ups and downs so to just trust in the process is something I had to accept, but at the end of the day that’s my story, that’s my journey and I wouldn’t trade it for the world because look at how it’s been the last two years,” Roback said.