Ypsilanti — Mike Glass III and his teammates can’t wait to run through the doors of T.J.’s Garage for the first time to take the field at Rynearson Stadium for Eastern Michigan’s home opener Saturday afternoon against Central Connecticut State.
After all, the Eagles have played three straight away games to start the season, a rarity in today’s world of college football.
And, the Eagles (2-1) are coming off a thrilling 34-31 win at Illinois, giving them their third win in as many seasons over a Big Ten team.
The Eagles had a home-and-home series with Kentucky scheduled, but decided to give the game back to Kentucky and play at Lexington for the second straight year for close to $1 million to complete the $20 million, EMU Student-Athlete Performance Center, which provides a two-story, 60,000 square foot structure which showcases locker rooms, coaches’ office, a players’ lounge, along with sports medicine and equipment offices. A new million-dollar scoreboard stands over the building.
The EMU Student-Athlete Performance Center could well be called the building that Chris Creighton built since he took over a program that had 20 straight seasons of not having a winning record and has not only led the Eagles to winning records (7-6 in 2016, ’18), but put them in contention for the Mid-American Conference title.
“That new locker room is amazing, having all the detail that went into it and all the thought they put into making that players’ lounge, the locker room, the training room upstairs, the coaches are right there so you don’t have to go too far to talk to them,” Glass said. “It’s a place where we can all gel as a group and learn to basically live with each other. It’s a great place to be.”
The only thing that got in the way of EMU playing in the MAC championship game at Ford Field last season was a 26-23 triple-overtime loss to eventual conference champion Northern Illinois.
Glass has established himself as one of the premier quarterbacks in the MAC, after transferring from Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California, after the 2016 season.
“I came here because this was my only offer,” said Glass, who split time at quarterback last season with Tyler Wiegers. “It’s a bunch of underdogs here, and I’m an underdog. We’re all underdogs and we want to go show everybody that they better quit sleeping on us.”
Glass isn’t the lone player that had just one offer from EMU. T.J. Lang, who donated $500,000 to make T.J.’s Garage possible, had just one offer, playing for the Eagles more than a decade ago before a long NFL career which included a Super Bowl run with the Green Bay Packers.
Glass has completed 69.4 percent of his passes this season, throwing for 841 yards and eight touchdowns with two interceptions, getting sacked just four times. He completed 23-of-36 for 316 yards and three TDs without an interception in the upset win over Illinois, finding Arthur Jackson for TD tosses of 26 and 31 yards and a 54-yard TD strike to Matt Sexton.
Glass was never better than after Illinois tied the game at 31 with 1:44 remaining. He hit on four straight passes during the game-winning drive which was capped off by Chad Ryland’s 24-yard field goal as time expired, including 23-yard passes to Jackson and Dylan Drummond.
“I felt we had time, that’s how I felt, we had the time to score,” Glass said. “We just had to go down there and execute the two-minute drill. We worked it every Wednesday through fall camp, so it was like second hand to us, just go out there and make plays, drive down the field.
“I feel (the win over Illinois) makes people not sleep on us, you know waking a nation up. We know what we can do. We just have to continue to show everybody what we can do.”
When asked what he felt his strength is, Glass replied: “I feel like the strength of my game is staying in the pocket and passing, but me being able to improvise is a strength as well, the ability to use my feet when I need to."
Glass says he feels like he has a lot of options on offense as well.
“We have a great line and a lot of receivers who are capable of making plays." he said. "Like having Arthur, anytime they’re in man coverage you can take advantage of it with him on a single side. He’s always coming down with the ball for the most part. He runs great routes, has great speed, has great hands and can jump out of the building. Then, we have Matt (Sexton) who is more of a possession guy who can catch the little hitch and make people miss. We have other guys, too, so teams can’t double team just one guy because you’ll make a mistake and leave someone else open.”
Jackson has high praise for Glass.
“People underestimate his arm strength," said Jackson, who had 46 receptions last season, including two touchdown catches in a 23-21 Camelia Bowl loss to Georgia Southern. "This man can throw the ball 70 yards on his knees so with me, I don’t stop running. This guy is accurate and can run when he needs to. He can do it all.”
Jackson felt confident the Eagles would pull out the win on the final drive.
“Honestly, I’m going down the field and I’m feeling no pressure,” Jackson said. “I have him (Glass) leading us, and I have Dylan (Drummond) and Matt (Sexton) on the other side of me. I have Bryce (Kemp) our gunner in the middle, Bryson (Cannon) our tight end, so we have all the weapons and we have the leadership to do it. I know we’re going to make the plays because we worked this, repped it over and over again.”
Jackson and Glass feel the Eagles can win the close games this season to win the MAC West championship and play for the conference title at Ford Field.
“I’ve been waiting for my senior year for a long time,” Jackson said. “I know a lot of guys have been waiting for this year at Eastern for a long time. I know there’s a lot of excitement around this season and a lot of guys ready to make plays and take us all the way.”
Said Glass: “We have the talent. We have the mindset and we have the attitude. We have the coaches, so we have everything we need to win the MAC.”