The concept of a football game lasting 60 minutes is not outdated. Problem is no one seems to have consulted either Army or Eastern Michigan.
The Black Knights have lost their first three games, despite having held the lead at least once in all three. Eastern Michigan has lost two of its first three; in both its losses, it blew double-digit leads. The Eagles’ last such loss was last week, 28-17, to Ball State, despite having held a 17-0 lead. They lost to Old Dominion 48-34 in the season opener after twice having had 14-point leads. Eastern Michigan did overcome an early 7-0 deficit to Wyoming in its second game before winning 48-29. The Eagles can start. Finishing has been the problem.
“I think of three different scenarios to be honest with you,” Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton said. “The game [against Old Dominion], when we’re up 14 twice, I think we felt good about things, and that was not the case at Wyoming, and we did finish that game off. And in the game [against Ball State] we’re up 17 and, again, I think our energy got sapped a little bit when they came back before [the] half. Then they got the ball, obviously after halftime, they made those key five to six plays a game to change it. But it’s not just one issue. We’re learning every week. And, you know, learning how to win is part of being your best. On a Saturday afternoon, game day, just the ice in the veins, withstanding the punches, making the plays, all of those things become habits and become a mindset and we’re gonna have that, and we’re getting there. But, obviously, haven’t been able to do it two out of three times thus far.”
Eastern Michigan hosts Army Saturday at Rynearson Stadium in a game that can be considered a season changer for both. A victory gives the Eagles a .500 record before next week’s road game at LSU. Army enters the game winless and is on the road next week against Penn State, so if there’s any realistic hope of turning the season around, it had best start this week.
“As we do every week, we are trying to devise a game plan that we think will be best to defend them and also a game plan as to how we will best execute offensively against their defense,” Army head coach Jeff Monken said.
The Black Knights’ defense will likely need to focus on Eastern Michigan running back Darius Jackson. He’s rushed for 266 yards and five touchdowns, averaging just over six yards per carry; he’s also caught 10 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown. His 97 yards rushing last week included a 64-yard TD run, one of only seven times he touched the ball.
“That’s one of those when you look at the stats afterwards, and those are one of the things that just jump out at you, both him and [running back] Shaq [Vann] not getting carries,” Eastern Michigan offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said.
The Eagles’ quarterback, Brogan Roback, has done his share as well, averaging 199 yards passing per game and three touchdowns. Scoring has not been their problem.
“You certainly have to be conscious of a guy who has been that productive,” Monken said of Jackson. “He is a really talented player. They get him in a lot of different positions, throwing the ball to him out of the backfield, and he has had some great runs. We are going to have to stop that guy for sure. He is not the only talented skill-position player they have. We will have to defend the entire field and that is the difficulty in facing a team with a really talented player. You have to defend all the other guys and can’t say it is all hands on deck to defend one guy.”
Both Army and Eastern Michigan have their challenges. The Eagles have expressed their concern about Army’s triple-option offense. Army, on the other hand, has yet to find a single running back who can be counted on to carry the load. And twice this season they lost games in the fourth quarter, including last week against Wake Forest on a last-second, game-winning field goal.
So, once again, it comes down to the length of the game.
“Oh man, it’s absolutely going to be 60 minutes,” Creighton said. “I mean, every single one of our games has been 60 minutes, that’s why our off-season theme was E-60. That’s what we train for. We’re in shape for it physically and we have to be able to stay balanced emotionally and stay focused mentally for 60 minutes. We know that Army is a team that is going to play for 60 minutes, and we love that.”
Army senior running back Matt Giachinta is among the semifinalists for the 2015 William V. Campbell Trophy presented by Fidelity Investments, the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame.
Giachinta is one of 135 semifinalists. The NFF will release 15 finalists Oct. 29 and each will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class, presented by Fidelity Investments. The finalists will be in New York City for the 58th NFF annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 8. The winner of the 26th William V. Campbell Trophy will be announced and his postgraduate scholarship increased to $25,000.
The trophy is named after Bill Campbell, the chairman of Intuit, and former player and head coach at Columbia.