Ypsilanti – Recent history gives Jeff Genyk hope heading into Saturday's football game at Michigan..
In 2004, Mid-American Conference member Miami (Ohio) played the Wolverines close into the second half. Later that season, mid-major San Diego State led the Wolverines at the half. And two weeks ago, another of EMU's compatriots, Northern Illinois, rolled up 411 yards, but lost to Michigan 33-17.
"I think Northern Illinois, San Diego State and Miami (Ohio) did a lot of great things. But they didn't hold on to the ball, so it didn't matter," the Eastern Michigan head coach said Tuesday at his weekly media luncheon. "It's important for us to have perfect ball security. We have to hold on to the ball."
U-M forced seven turnovers against Miami, three against SDSU and four against NIU.
Genyk said a positive turnover margin is crucial for his team to stay with the Wolverines Saturday (11:45 a.m. on 89.1, WEMU).
"We need to get a couple of turnovers ourselves while being perfect with our ball security," he said. "From a defensive perspective, with Kevin Grady being a young guy and Chad (Henne having) some issues with the ball, we've got to attack them. If we keep coming, it's going to be on the ground a couple of times. We just need to get it. "
Genyk was direct about U-M's physical superiority, as well as his own defense's inexperience. EMU defensive tackle T.J. Lang, who won't turn 18 until Tuesday, will face guards Leo Henige and Matt Lentz. Both fifth-year seniors.
"(EMU is) going to be overmatched from a strength and speed perspective," he said. "We have 17-year-olds starting against two 23-year-olds. It's going to be tough for them."
On offense, EMU's no-huddle spread attack could test the Wolverines' fitness.
"If you're in good shape as a defensive player, you're fine," Genyk said. "But if you're not in great shape, you will start to get tired and have to rotate, and that works to our advantage. Their front four, I think, are all NFL players. If we get them tired, then we have a chance to block them."
But Genyk also knows that, beyond schemes and game plans, heavy underdogs must believe they can compete with teams like U-M.
"We have to come in extremely loose, having some confidence, and enjoy the experience. The opportunity is outstanding."
Click on the audio icon above to hear Coach Genyk's comments.