Ypsilanti, MI – After seeing his team pull out two straight road wins, each requiring precise play and a bit of luck late, Eastern Michigan head coach Jeff Genyk has gently incorporated a new mission into the Eagles' preparation. Play smarter football.
"I started introducing that at the tail end of the Western Michigan week," Genyk said Tuesday. "You have to be the most physical team, you have to learn seize the moment (before) you have to play smarter. You have to do obviously do that, with a game like what's coming up against Bowling Green."
Genyk cited penalties and ball security as two areas where the Eagles (3-4, 3-1 Mid-American Conference) must improve to succeed in their final four games. EMU had nine penalties against Western Michigan Saturday, including a holding penalty that moved the ball back from inside Western's 10-yard line and an excessive celebration flag following A.J. Bennett's diving catch for the game-winning touchdown. As a team, the Eagles have fumbled nine times through seven games, including six from quarterback Matt Bohnet.
"It's something that he has to improve on or he'll get beat out next year," Genyk said of Bohnet's fumbles.
EMU's losses to Eastern Illinois and Idaho, each of which included mental lapses at key moments, seem like distant memories with the momentum the Eagles carry into the final four games.
"The team feels that if we played Idaho or Eastern Illinois this Saturday, we would win decisively. Unfortunately, we weren't ready to do that. Fortunately, those were two non-conference games. We're 3-1 in the MAC and that's what we're focused on."
EMU will spend its bye week resting and preparing for its next opponent, Bowling Green (Oct. 30, 5:45 p.m. on 89.1, WEMU). The Eagles took Sunday off as a reward for beating Western, and will have an extra day off later in the week. Genyk said the coaching staff will implement new playbook material this week, though most will be centered on the Falcons.
Click on the blue 'Real Audio' icon above to hear Coach Genyk's comments.
Click here to hear audio highlights from Saturday's thrilling finish.
Say What?: Before each game, placekicker Andrew Wellock gives Genyk the maximum distance he can kick a field goal, according to game and field conditions. With EMU trailing by three in the final minute, and the Eagles driving with the wind, Wellock's number stood firmly in Genyk's head.
"Sixty," he said. "In fact, earlier in the game, we almost tried a 60-yard field goal."
On EMU's final drive, two completed passes brought the ball to the WMU 30, where Genyk made the decision to try for the end zone, resulting in Bennett's heroics.
"47 (yards) is still a big kick, especially to tie the game, which is what would have transpired had A.J. not caught the ball," Genyk said. "However, I didn't feel like gaining six or seven more yards there was going to really matter."
On the Shelf: Tailback Anthony Sherrell won't practice this week, as he rests his injured knee. Genyk said Sherrell suffered no ligament damage from the first-quarter injury, though his long-term status remains uncertain.
Cornerback Chris Roberson missed the entire game Saturday with a high hamstring pull. He will continue to test his leg prior to the Bowling Green game.
Bohnet has been cleared to practice after sustaining a mild concussion late in Saturday's game.
"He started to feel better in the locker room," Genyk said. "I think he'll be fine."