Ypsilanti, MI – With Ball State tailback Adell Givens pounding away, and wide receiver Dante Ridgeway finding open seams, the Cardinals scored 14 third-quarter points and took a 24-21 lead into the fourth quarter of Saturday's game against Eastern Michigan. No one would have been surprised if the Eagles dropped their third straight heartbreaker.
Instead, EMU mounted a strong defensive fourth-quarter, and finished the Cardinals off.
"With six minutes left, I went into the defensive huddle and said 'What are you going to do?'" head coach Jeff Genyk said Tuesday. "'Are you going to stop them? Or are you going to let them score?' They stopped them pretty decisively and we had two good drives in the fourth quarter."
While he was pleased with his team's offensive performance throughout the game, Genyk drew greater satisfaction with the defense's ability to make game-deciding plays and "take" the victory in another close game.
"We emphasized it so much; it was the theme of the entire week," he said. "Fortunately, it was just what we had envisioned and they went out and got it done. Ball State had two good drives and 14 points (in the third quarter), and the defense responded."
Genyk credited freshman cornerback Tyler Griffin, senior safety Jerame Perry and junior defensive end Kevin Howe with elevating the unit's play.
"You get three new guys at different phases that are out there making plays, and are fresher and faster," he said. "Competition can only make your team better."
EMU must take that level of play back on the road Saturday against a potent Western Michigan offense (EMU vs. WMU airs at 12:15 p.m. Saturday on 89.1, WEMU). The Broncos may play both Rutgers transfer Ryan Cubit and junior Blayne Baggett at quarterback.
"Both are good players, both run the offense well, and both have similar attributes," Genyk said, noting that Western's attack differs from an offense where one quarterback primarily passes and the other is a better runner.
The Eagles are just trying to generate solid pressure on the quarterback for the second straight week.
"We had great pressure in the first quarter and in the fourth quarter (against Ball State) from our front four," he said. "(That) was unusual, and it was very much welcomed."
Click on the 'MP3' audio icon above to hear Coach Genyk's comments on the Ball State game and his preview of Western Michigan.
Gaines Honored: Senior free safety Jerry Gaines was named as MAC West Defensive Player of the Week on Monday. The Canton native had 12 tackles and defended on two key pass plays late as the EMU defense thwarted Ball State's comeback attempt. Gaines is second on the team with 66 tackles this season.
Senior Corey Parker has started opposite Gaines at strong safety for the last two games as Rontrell Woodruff sat out a suspension. Genyk said Parker earned the starting spot during Woodruff's absence.
"It's his to lose," he said.
Bohnet's Bonanza: With a career-high 390 passing yards, the eighth-highest mark in school history, and 426 total yards against Ball State, junior quarterback Matt Bohnet now ranks sixth in the NCAA in total offense. No EMU player has ever averaged more than Bohnet's current 308.67 yards per game mark for an entire season.