Jeff Genyk's Eastern Michigan Eagles have scored just one touchdown in the last ten quarters. His quarterback is still hobbled by a bruised ankle that severely reduces EMU's offensive versatility. Yet Genyk's biggest worry heading into Saturday's game against Miami (Ohio) is his team's mental state.
"I don't think everyone in the locker room before the game expects to win," Genyk said Monday. "(We) still have a portion of the team that is wondering 'Well, we'll kind of see how it goes.' That's part of the (rebuilding) process. How about believing this week and coming out of the tunnel expecting to beat Miami, instead of wondering? That's going to be the big theme of this week."
Saturday's game (5:45 p.m. on 89.1, WEMU) will be the third straight for EMU against an elite Mid-American Conference team. The Eagles offense managed just three points two weeks ago in a loss at Toledo, and failed to score a touchdown against Northern Illinois Saturday despite starting three drives inside NIU territory.
"You get against championship-caliber opponents, and you need to make more of those plays to get the ball in the end zone," Genyk said. "It's a challenge for our offensive staff and for our offensive players to stay mentally in the game, to stay confident, and realize that if you continue to do the little things, you're going to found a way to get the ball in the end zone."
EMU quarterback Matt Bohnet played Saturday, though his ankle injury prevented him from scrambling and affected the Eagles offense.
"He was about 75 percent, and had a difficult time moving in the pocket," Genyk said. "Once he started to move around, he really struggled. And Matt was late with a few of his throws. That's (part of) why were not able to put the ball in the end zone. All the practice time that (Bohnet) missed last week really affected us."
Genyk also pointed to a key drop by wide receiver Eric Deslauriers and a muffed exchange on a reverse between running back Dwayne Harrison and receiver A.J. Bennett as other contributors to the offensive woes.
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Plethora of Playmakers: Quarterback Josh Betts, running back Brandon Murphy and wideouts Ryne Robinson and Martin Nance make Miami's offense among the most explosive in the MAC.
"I think this is the most talented team in the league as far as guys who have an opportunity to play in the NFL," Genyk said.
In recent weeks, the Eagles have contained a pair of big play receivers, NIU's Sam Hurd (4 catches, 45 yards) and Kent State's Najeh Pruden (3 receptions, 18 yards). But Genyk said his team won't be able to focus on just one of the Redhawks' receivers.
"You're going to have to play sound defense all the way around," he said. "I don't think you can choose to double-cover one of the receivers. What do you do, double team Nance and leave Robinson? Well, he's the fastest player in the league. Or do the opposite? Well Nance is 6-foot-3, 215 (pounds)."
Injury Update: Genyk said his staff will continue to evaluate Bohnet's ankle, though he hinted that Bohnet may not play Saturday if he is unable to practice during the week. EMU lost three players to injury against NIU. Cornerbacks Jerame Perry and wide receiver Trumaine Riley each suffered high ankle sprains and are unlikely to play against Miami. Team doctors thought cornerback Steven Lewis may have suffered a broken rib, but x-rays were negative. Lewis is day-to-day with bruised ribs.
"It was a physical, hard-hitting game," Genyk said. "Unfortunately some guys were lost for a few weeks if not longer."
NIU tailback Garrett Wolfe, the MAC's leading rusher, left Saturday's game with a potentially serious knee injury.