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MAC notes: Eastern Michigan thriller highlights big weekend for state teams

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Illinois' Dre Brown is tackled by Eastern Michigan's Vince Calhoun (3) and Brody Hoying (24) in the second half.

Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Western Michigan tossed aside losses from the previous week by earning impressive victories on Saturday, including the Eagles’ thrilling 34-31 win at Illinois.

It was the third time in as many years that EMU (2-1) defeated a Big Ten opponent, also earning wins at Rutgers in 2017 and Purdue last year. It will now play at home for the first time this season, against Central Connecticut State at Rynearson Stadium.

CMU (2-1, 1-0) has already doubled its win total of a year ago and already has a MAC win after going winless in conference play last season, dominating Akron 45-24 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Now, the Chippewas’ goal is to get through their game at Miami (Fla.) healthy for their rivalry game with the Broncos on Sept. 28.

WMU (2-1) rebounded from a loss at Michigan State with a 57-10 win over a Georgia State team that upset Tennessee in the season opener. Next up is a road game at Syracuse.

‘Fun day’ for EMU

EMU put on a strong effort on both sides of the ball to become the third team in MAC history to beat three Big Ten teams in three years or less. Northern Illinois defeated Iowa (30-27) and Purdue (55-24) in 2013, and Northwestern (23-15) in 2014; Bowling Green defeated Indiana (45-42) in 2014, and Maryland (48-27) and Purdue (35-28) in 2015.

“I’m proud of our guys,” said EMU coach Chris Creighton. “We played well, not perfect. It wasn’t a perfect start to the game. We took the ball away two times and gave it up once. We just played a pretty clean game, only had two penalties for 20 yards, so I’m really, really proud of our effort. It was a fun day for our program.”

Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters  looks for a receiver as Eastern Michigan's Hunter Andrews applies pressure in the first half.

The Eagles’ defense played well for the majority of the game, roughing up former Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters, getting six sacks and forcing a pair of turnovers (fumble, interception).

After trailing 17-14 after one, the Eagles took a 23-17 halftime lead, then extended it to 31-17 with an impressive drive led by EMU senior quarterback Mike Glass, who started the drive with an 18-yard run, followed by a 13-yard pass to tight end Bryce Kemp and another 8-yard run by Glass, leading to Willie Parker’s 4-yard TD run with 11:20 remaining.

Peters turned the ball over twice in the third quarter, coughing up the ball when sacked by EMU safety Brody Hoying and also getting picked off by cornerback Korey Hernandez. But he led consecutive Illini scoring drives to pull even, including a 36-yard TD pass to Josh Imatorbhebhe – a USC transfer – with 1:44 left to pull even at 31.

But Glass showed why he is now one of the premier quarterbacks in the MAC, directing a 68-yard drive, hitting on four straight passes, including 23-yard tosses to Arthur Jackson and Dylan Drummond to reach the Illini 17, and after a Breck Turner 13-yard run, Chad Ryland kicked a 24-yard field goal on the final play for the win.

Ryland, who also kicked a 24-yard field goal on the game’s final play to beat Purdue last year, kicked a career-long 52-yard field in the first half.

“We had a minute and 44 seconds left when they scored, got the ball back and Mike orchestrated an exceptionally efficient drive, called timeout with three seconds left for a chip-shot field goal to win,” said Creighton of Glass, who completed 23-of-36 passes for 316 yards and three TDs – 26- and 31-yard scoring strikes to Arthur Jackson and a 54-yard TD pass to Matt Sexton. “We need to play an overtime game and win because we’ve played in a lot of overtime games and haven’t won, but it was sure nice to go down there and to respond to their score to go ahead and put it away in regulation.”

Glass was named MAC West Offensive Player of the Week.

Hoying, a senior safety who said last week, “Games like this is the ones you grow up as kid wishing for,” fully took advantage of his opportunity, sacking Peters and then recovering the fumble, and later also forcing another Peters fumble that Illinois recovered.

“He (Hoying) just has a knack for the ball,” said Creighton of Hoying. “He does the things that are hard to coach, just lines in the playbook and words on paper can’t adequately tell the whole story of what a guy needs to do with his eyes, hands, feet. He is a great football player. He’s very instinctive and very smart. He makes plays and we try to put him in positions where he can make plays and he takes full advantage of those.

“The interception by Korey Hernandez was a great play. That was just an unbelievably great play by him, literally took the ball away from the wide receiver. What I love about our team is that they respond to challenges. The guys really want to be a great team, so when we tell them that there’s areas that need to improve they really embrace that, so I was really pleased with our defense.”

CMU turnaround underway

While his former Florida team is playing well and ranked No. 9 nationally, Jim McElwain is doing an outstanding job of turning CMU’s program around.

After going 1-11 last season and winless in the MAC, the Chippewas are 2-1 with a season-opening win over Albany, followed by a lopsided loss (61-0) at Wisconsin and the 21-point conference win over Akron.

David Moore

“I’m so happy for our players,” McElwain said. “We had a great crowd at the game and thought they made a difference. It’s been a while since we’ve won a conference game and I just feel real good about our program.”

Junior quarterback David Moore, who played at Memphis and then led Garden City Junior College to the national championship game last year, filled in for the injured Quinten Dormady and played well, completing 20-of-31 passes for 316 yards and two TDs without an interception.

Moore found former quarterback and now tight end Tony Poljan (five receptions, 90 yards) for a 2-yard TD and Kalil Pimpleton (seven receptions, 116 yards) for a 35-yard TD.

“I thought David had really good command of the game,” said McElwain of Moore. “Obviously, he missed a couple of throws he’d love to have back, and yet sometimes you get in there and try to do too much. I thought he let the game come to him and took his shots when he needed to, which was great to see.”

As for Pimpleton, McElwain said, “We’re better when he has touches and meaningful touches. He’s a real playmaker and his energy is infectious.”

Sophomore Kobe Lewis rushed for 146 yards (27 carries) and three TDs as CMU piled up 553 total yards, including 189 on the ground while limiting Akron to just 40 rushing yards (29 carries).

And now McElwain goes back to the state of Florida to coach against the Hurricanes, who picked up their first win under new head coach Manny Diaz, a 63-0 blanking of Bethune-Cookman following consecutive losses to Florida (24-20) and North Carolina (28-25).

“Bringing our team into Miami, to face a team like that will be tough, but our guys are up for it and we have quite a few kids from the state on our team and I know they are excited to get back and show their families and friends what they are doing up here at Central Michigan.”

Mission accomplished for WMU

WMU third-year coach Tim Lester was looking for the Broncos to run the ball and make life tough on Georgia State quarterback Dan Ellington.

Mission accomplished.

The Broncos piled up 450 yards on the ground (44 carries) and a school-record seven rushing TDs with senior running back LeVante Bellamy rushing for 192 yards on 15 carries and true freshman Sean Tyler 138 yards on six carries and two TDs. Senior Jon Wassink completed 15-of-20 passes for 246 yards and a TD.

LeVante Bellamy

“I was happy with the way we played,” Lester said. “We knew we had to get the ground game going and get our running backs into the second level. We were efficient when we threw it.

“I challenged him (Bellamy) after his first touchdown to make somebody miss and he made people in the third level miss as the game went on, and we got our young running back Sean Tyler going, which was fun to watch, and the O-line played great.”

WMU’s defense also played well after getting dominated by the Spartans.

“I felt the biggest thing was keeping Ellington off balance,” Lester said. “We were able to get after him, and we sacked him a couple of times. We knew their offense was really talented and it was going to be a battle, maybe even a shootout-type game, but our defense played great, tackled well and kept everything in front of us.”

Now the Broncos play at Syracuse, a team that beat them in Kalamazoo in last year’s season opener, 55-42.

“Their defensive front, they are a physical group up there and they fly around and they can hit you,” said Lester of Syracuse’s front, which includes defensive ends Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson. “Their secondary, they do a great job in man coverage, so it will be a huge challenge for us to move the ball.”

After a season-opening 24-0 win over Liberty, Syracuse has given up 104 points the last two weeks in losses to Maryland (63-20) and top-ranked Clemson, 41-6.

EMU vs. Central Connecticut State

Kickoff: 3 p.m. Saturday, Rynearson Stadium, Ypsilanti

Radio: 89.1

Records: EMU 2-1, Central Connecticut State 3-0

Line: Even

CMU vs. Miami (Fla.)

Kickoff: 4 p.m. Saturday, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.

TV/radio: ACC/1270

Records: CMU 2-1, Miami 2-1

Line: Miami by 30.5

WMU vs. Syracuse

Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.

TV/radio: ACC/1130

Records: WMU 2-1, Syracuse 1-2

Line: Syracuse by 6.5