YPSILANTI – To win its opener against Buffalo last Thursday, the Eastern Michigan football team needed, and received, contributions from all three units.
"It was a great win from a unity perspective," head coach Jeff Genyk said Tuesday. "To have a game like that where the offense picked up the defense, and the defense picked up the offense, and the special teams created a long field (for Buffalo's offense), was very impressive and it was great for the kids. It's a tremendous building block."
When they take on No. 11 Florida Saturday (12:45 p.m. on 89.1 WEMU), the Eagles will need that unity, plus a better passing game, to be competitive. Genyk admitted that quarterback Matt Bohnet's three fumbles against Buffalo forced some changes in EMU's offensive play calling.
"We got a little gun shy with Matt," Genyk said. "The early fumbles put us in a position where we didn't throw the ball downfield. We need to be better at throwing the intermediate pass and then we need to take some shots downfield. And we will."
Bohnet completed 11-of-20 passes for just 91 yards Thursday. He did throw for two second-half touchdowns.
Stopping Florida's high-powered offense, which averaged 391 yards and 30 points per game last season, is a greater concern for EMU.
"We are going to attempt to stop the run and force (sophomore quarterback) Chris Leak to attempt to beat us," Genyk said. "Our plan will be to provide some looks that are a little unusual and make a play on the defensive side."
Leak started nine games as a true freshman, throwing for more than 2,400 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was named SEC Freshman of the Year.
"He throws the deep ball as good as I've seen in a long, long time. He puts so much air under the ball and allows their receivers to run under the ball," Genyk said.
Genyk said he expects EMU's players to be nervous about playing in such a high-profile environment, but he does not plan to spend much time motivating his team.
"The game is going to be in front of 90 thousand people, against the 10th ranked team in the country," he said. "From a motivational perspective, you don't have to do anything. What you have to do is make sure the team is going to execute the plan."
Click on the audio icon above for Jeff Genyk's comments from his weekly media luncheon.
Praise for Sherrell: Genyk and his staff challenged star tailback Anthony Sherrell throughout training camp to improve his pass protection. At one point, coaches felt Sherrell's blocking was so inferior to Nelson Drew's that they demoted him to the second team. On Tuesday, Genyk acknowledged that Sherrell is making strides.
"Much improved," Genyk said of Sherrell's performance Thursday. "He actually started to embrace what we have been asking him (during camp). It hasn't been an easy time for Anthony, but we were able to see some improvements. He played much more physically."
When he wasn't blocking for Bohnet, Sherrell ran for 151 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. He was named the MAC West Offensive Player of the Week Monday.
Ivan Update: Hurricane Frances hit Gainesville this past weekend, causing power outages and flooding to part of the Florida campus. Frances also forced Florida to move its opening game against Middle Tennessee to Oct. 16. University officials are not expecting any disruptions from Hurricane Ivan this coming weekend. However, if the power situation remains unstable, the Florida-EMU game could start in the afternoon instead of the scheduled 6 p.m. kickoff.