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Mon October 31, 2005
Michigan MAC Trophy Within Eagles' Grasp
By Brian Nemerovski
Saturday was a wild day in the Mid-American Conference, with three lower-tier teams beating preseason favorites.
And Eastern Michigan, with a bye, watched it all from home. The Eagles were still stewing after a 24-23 loss to Miami (Ohio), which realistically ended EMU's MAC West division title hopes.
"We have to do a great job as coaches to make sure we're focusing completely on Western Michigan and not watching the scoreboard," head coach Jeff Genyk said Monday, noting that EMU still has a mathematical chance at a share of the MAC West title. "Obviously during the bye week that's all you do is watch the scoreboard. But we have a lot to play for in this game, with an intra-state rivalry, playing at Ford Field, with a chance to win the Michigan MAC Championship. All those things are very important to our program."
Saturday's game against the Broncos (12:45 p.m. Saturday on 89.1, WEMU) will be the Eagles' second trip to Ford Field. Last November, EMU topped Central Michigan 61-58 in four overtimes at the Detroit Lions' dome.
As was the case in 2004, the Eagles enter this year's Ford Field game with three wins, and with a chance to sweep their in-state league foes. A win Saturday would give EMU the inaugural Michigan MAC Championship trophy, which is sponsored by the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
WMU, however, has launched an impressive turnaround from last year's 1-10 disaster. First-year head coach Bill Cubit has led the Broncos to five wins in six games and a 3-2 conference record.
In their last two games, wins over Bowling Green and Kent State, Western scored 89 points, including three defensive touchdowns.
"They're very opportunistic," Genyk said of the Bronco defense. "They have to be playing with tremendous confidence. They have a lot to play for with where they are (in the standings). But so do we."
Click on the audio icon above to hear Coach Genyk's thoughts.
QB Picture Still Murky: For the third straight game, EMU likely will not name a starting quarterback until Friday or Saturday this week. Senior Matt Bohnet is still recovering from an ankle injury.
Genyk said both Bohnet and redshirt freshman Tyler Jones, who started against Miami, are well-equipped to handle WMU's pressure defense.
"Both could have some positives there," he said. "Matt, from an experience standpoint (knows) how to distribute the ball real quick because he's been through it so much. And obviously, Tyler's athleticism could help him avoid the blitz. He's hard to bring down. Matt still hasn't practiced since the Toledo game, so we're going to see where he is Tuesday and make a decision."
Marked Man: WMU's Greg Jennings leads the MAC with 934 receiving yards (117 per game) and 12 touchdowns. Genyk said his team will commit to double-covering Jennings, who had 11 catches for 142 yards and two scores in last year's meeting.
"He can single-handedly beat you," Genyk said. "He's a very good receiver and also a dangerous return man. We've had a lot of practice at (double-covering) because our defense had had to defend (Eric) Deslauriers all spring and all fall."
Tickets: Fans may purchase tickets for Saturday's game at the EMU Convocation Center ticket office. Prices range from $5 to $20 for advance sales, while tickets purchased Saturday will be $25.
EMU is also offering bus transportation to and from the game for $5. For information, call 487-2282.