Ypsilanti – Eastern Michigan head coach Jeff Genyk wants his players to forget about Saturday's 55-0 loss at Michigan.
The Eagles won't watch film from the drubbing. They'll make no references to it in the locker room. Genyk won't even tell his team how proud he was that they continued to play hard in defeat. To do any of those would take EMU's focus off of Saturday's game at Central Michigan (12:45 Saturday afternoon on 89.1, WEMU). Last season, EMU defeated CMU in four overtimes and Western Michigan, beating both in-state rivals for the first time since 1986.
"When I woke up on Sunday, difficult as it was, that was my first day to prepare to defend our Michigan MAC championship, and not the day after the Michigan game," Genyk said Monday at his weekly media luncheon. "We have our entire conference schedule in front of us, and we're quite optimistic about what we're going to be able to accomplish."
EMU and CMU are expected to be among a group of teams fighting for an upper-tier finish in the Mid-American Conference standings. Genyk says the teams' identical 1-2 records this season shows how similar the programs are.
"They played Indiana; I would imagine they feel they should have won that game. We felt we should have beaten Cincinnati," Genyk said. "They had a great win against Miami. We had a good win against (Louisiana) Lafayette. They struggled (in a 40-3 loss) against Penn State. Both programs are moving in the same direction."
The Chippewas have shown more offensive prowess this season, led by mobile quarterback Kent Smith. Smith set a school record for total offense in a 38-37 win over MAC power Miami (Ohio) two weeks ago, passing for 356 yards and rushing for 122 more.
"He looks like he has improved 30, 40 percent on what he was last year," Genyk said. "Before we played them (in 2004), I though he had a lot of room to grow, and he has done a nice job. He releases the ball a lot better, he's much more decisive, and we have to put some pressure on him or he'll pick us apart."
Click on the audio icon at the top of the article to hear Coach Genyk's comments.
RB review: Genyk is disappointed that no EMU running back has emerged as a clear starter. The Eagles had just 15 net rushing yards against Michigan, and have not had a 100-yard rusher all season. Freshmen Tim Conner and Dwayne Harrison, along with senior Anthony Sherrell, will continue to split the carries.
"I think all three will still play," Genyk said. "We really haven't found that guy. I think Dwayne Harrison is playing the best out of those three, but it's not by a lot. They're all practicing hard and playing hard."
Genyk said EMU's offensive line is not helping the running game succeed.
"It helps our offense if we can spread the field, run the ball, and then attempt to pass," he said. "We were unable to run-block Michigan's front seven. Therefore, we became one-dimensional."
CMU deals with charges: CMU's remarkable win at Miami came just days after five former Chippewa players were indicted on murder charges connected to the 2004 beating death of a Saginaw man outside a Mount Pleasant nightclub. The incident has followed CMU throughout the season.
"Those distractions, because the charges are so severe, they're going to be there all year," Genyk said. "It can be a cause that you're rallying for."
Strategically, Genyk said the absence of running back Jerry Seymour, who is among the players charged, makes CMU harder to prepare for. Without Seymour, CMU has called more pass plays, giving Smith more opportunities to scramble.