Eastern Michigan remedies Big Ten hangover with dramatic victory

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Eastern Michigan is off to a 3-1 start heading into its bye week.

Eastern Michigan earned dramatic wins over Big Ten teams the past two seasons, only to follow with losing streaks both times.

The Eagles defeated Rutgers in 2017, 16-13, followed by a six-game losing streak, including three overtime losses.

Last season, the Eagles won at Purdue, 20-19, only to go on a four-game losing streak, including two more overtime losses.

You get the point. The Eagles wanted nothing to do with another loss after last Saturday’s thrilling 34-31 win at Illinois for their third straight win over a Big Ten team.

Still, things looked grim for the Eagles, who trailed Central Connecticut State 29-28 with 20 seconds left in their home opener at Rynearson Stadium before EMU senior Matt Sexton blocked a punt, picked up the ball and ran 30 yards for the touchdown in a 34-29 victory.

Sexton, a receiver with tremendous speed, has made plays like that before, blocking a punt in last year’s Camellia Bowl. It was EMU’s sixth blocked punt in Chris Creighton’s six years as head coach.

But, this one was EMU’s biggest, giving the Eagles a 3-1 record heading into their bye week as they prepare for their Mid-American Conference opener Oct. 5 at Central Michigan.

“He’s had a couple of them in his career, and if you've seen it in some ways it looked effortless,” Creighton said of Sexton’s blocked punt. “The best guys, when they’re blocking punts, it looks as if they’re not going hard because they just have so much poise and they shoot their hands low and late, they keep their eyes on the ball and they take the ball right off the foot. With Matt, it was just all of that. There was a ton of effort involved, but again in some ways it looked effortless, and that is just kudos to him and our special teams coach, Jay Nunez.”

More: 'Underdog' Mike Glass offers warning to EMU foes: 'Quit sleeping on us'

Things looked good for the Eagles early in the fourth quarter when EMU quarterback Mike Glass connected on his fourth TD pass, this one going to Quian Williams for 21 yards for a 28-15 lead before lightning hit the area, forcing a delay.

And, once the game resumed it was all Central Connecticut State — before Sexton’s blocked punt.

Central Connecticut State scored on TD drives of 75 and 71 yards to take the lead, and then Glass threw an interception at the EMU 47 which looked at the time like it ended all hopes of a win.

But, EMU’s defense forced a three-and-out, forcing the punt Sexton blocked and returned for a TD.

“Our defense played some of the best football of the day when we were seemingly out of the game," Creighton said, "and so when you want to talk about things you’re proud of or the state of the program, the defense didn’t hang their head, they went out there and played with passion and executed at a high level. We were able to use the timeouts which gave us a chance at the blocked punt.”

Glass completed 26 of 39 passes for 279 yards and four TDs with two interceptions, and now has thrown for 1,120 yards and 12 TDs with four interceptions.