EMU Tries to Bounce Back in Home Opener
Ypsilanti, MI – After three days of breaking down film and reliving Eastern Michigan's season-opening 28-26 loss to Cincinnati, the disappointment finally sank in for head coach Jeff Genyk.
"It's a shame we didn't win that game," he said Monday at his weekly media luncheon. "With all the hard work you spend in the (off-season) and preseason camp, your paycheck is that victory.
"We can't let Cincinnati beat us twice."
The Eagles face Lousiana-Lafayette Saturday (5:45 p.m. on 89.1, WEMU) in their home opener. To win, EMU must add consistent offense to the timely defense and outstanding special teams play from the Cincinnati loss.
"It was one of the most dominating special teams performances I've ever been a part of," Genyk said. "Defensively, we made two plays to put us in position to win the game. Offensively, we just didn't execute. I don't think that's a step backwards. It's just two series we wish we had back."
Trailing by two points with seven minutes to play, EMU gained just one first down on its final two possessions of the game.
The Ragin' Cajuns feature dual-threat quarterback Jerry Babb as part of a versatile offense. Genyk said his defense will face an attack more similar to a Mid-American Conference offense than the run-heavy Cincinnati scheme.
"Our playmakers will have more of an opportunity because Louisiana-Lafayette likes to throw the ball more," Genyk said. "This will probably be more representative. But (UL) wants to run the ball and they probably will."
Click on the audio icon above to listen to Genyk's comments.
Shining Special Teams: EMU's kickoff and punt coverage teams forced Cincinnati to start eight of 12 drives inside its own 20-yard line. Genyk credited long snapper Jerry Topolinski and kicker/punter Andrew Wellock with elevating the inexperienced units' play.
"(Our) long snapper and (our) punter/kicker are veterans and they're exceptional," he said. "(Younger players)see that type of execution and that work ethic. That lends itself to those younger guys being a little more focused. We spent extra time meeting during camp because we knew we were going to have many true freshmen on those teams."
Genyk also singled out true freshman safety Jacob Wyatt, who delivered a blistering hit on a Bearcat returner who hesitated on a kickoff return.
"There's a certain level of inexperience that just allows you to make a play."
Running Back Rotation: Genyk praised tailback Tim Conner's performance. Conner gained 48 yards and scored two touchdowns, but came up short on fourth down with 18 seconds to play.
"Tim Conner, for a true freshman, played quite well," Genyk said. "He was great with ball security. On the last play, Tim was running hard. Our right side fired off, and our left guard didn't make the block."
Conner and fellow freshman Dwayne Harrison will likely share time in the backfield Saturday. Junior Pierre Walker left Thursday's game with a foot injury, and his status for Saturday's game is uncertain.
Hurricane Impact: Genyk spoke with UL head coach Rickey Bustle over the weekend about how Hurricane Katrina affected the Cajun football program.
"It's obviously been disruptive for them. I'm sure there is a tremendous amount of worry, and we send our thoughts and prayers to them," Genyk said. "They probably are happy for the opportunity to play college football in the midst of such a disaster."
Hundreds of evacuees fled to Lafayette, including the families of several players and coaches.