Ypsilanti, MI – Eastern Michigan head coach Jeff Genyk expects his team to be involved in more close games this season--and soon.
"I would imagine that our game (this Saturday) against Ball State will come down to the last series," Genyk said, three days after EMU dropped its second-straight close game, a 45-41 decision to Idaho. "I'll be surprised if they blow us out or if we blow them out. I would imagine that in the fourth quarter, it's going to be a seven to ten (point) game either way, and we'll see who wants it the most."
The Eagles' offense ranks 28th nationally with more than 415 yards per game, after finishing the 2003 season 116th in the NCAA. But EMU's defense has allowed an average of 40 points per game, and both units have struggled down the stretch of recent games. That will have to change for EMU to win Saturday at Ball State (3:15 p.m. Saturday on 89.1, WEMU).
"There were probably 25 or 30 plays (against Idaho), that if we make one of them, we win the game," Genyk said. "Those last two games were right there in front of them."
Genyk and his staff attempted to generate more defensive pressure against Idaho, with mixed results.
"We blitzed as aggressively as possible in the first quarter," he said. "After they hit some hot routes, we went to less pressure. It's still a long way from what we want."
Ball State wide receiver Dante Ridgeway leads the Mid-American Conference in receiving yards, with 515 through 5 games. Genyk said Ridgeway will require more of EMU's defensive attention this week, adding to the problem of how to generate pressure on the quarterback.
Click on the audio icon above to hear Coach Genyk's comments.
Finally!: After going scoreless in the third quarter of three straight games, EMU broke out for 17 points in the third against the Vandals. The outburst turned a 35-21 halftime deficit into a 38-38 tie going into the fourth quarter.
"Hopefully, that's a sign of things to come," Genyk said. "We did a better job making adjustments at halftime. We're going to try and build on that success."
Secondary Shifts: Safety Jerame Perry returned to game action Saturday. He was suspended from the team following an off-campus incident in January, but returned to the team in September after resolving his legal case and serving 500 hours of community service as required by EMU administrators. Perry played on special teams, and was whistled for a penalty on his first play back. Still, Genyk was pleased with Perry's effort, which included a tackle on an Idaho kickoff return. Perry is expected to play more this week on specific defensive packages, and could ultimately land a spot as the fifth defensive back in nickel rotations.
Strong safety Rontrell Woodruff has been suspended for two games for a violation of team rules, Genyk said. He sat out last Saturday's game, and will not play against Ball State.