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Eastern Michigan 24, Charlotte 7
Eastern Michigan opened the 2017 season with a 24-7 win over Charlotte.
The seven points allowed were the fewest EMU (1-0) had given up in a season opener since 2005. The game also marked the 150th career win for Head Coach Chris Creighton in his 21-year career.
EMU got most of their offensive edge through the passing game, finishing with 267 yards. The run game added an additional 126 to its total for 393 yards in all. Meanwhile, Eastern's defense did their job limiting the 49ers (0-1) to 280 total yards, with only 114 yards through the air. As part of the excellent passing defense, the Eagles picked off three errant Charlotte passes, including a pick six from redshirt sophomore Brody Hoying (Coldwater, Ohio-Coldwater) to open the scoring. It was coincidentally the first interception returned for a touchdown since the Charlotte game last season.
Also getting in on the interception party were senior Jason Beck (Indianapolis, Ind.-Aresnal Technical) and junior Justin Moody (Richmond, Va.-Monacan), the third and first of their careers, respectively. As a whole, EMU disrupted the 49er offensive attack all night, totaling seven tackles-for-loss, as well as two sacks. Redshirt junior Jeremiah Harris (Lambertville, Mich.-Bedford Senior) led the way with nine total stops, including 1.5 for loss and a half sack.
On the offensive side of the ball, senior Brogan Roback (Maumee, Ohio-Toledo St. John's Jesuit) led the EMU attack, throwing for 267 yards. In doing so, Roback surpassed Andy Schmitt for third all-time in career passing yards. The veteran spread the love, completing passes to 10 different wideouts, including three who had at least three receptions on the day. Senior Sergio Bailey II (San Diego, Calif.-Olympian (Grossmont)) led the way with five catches for 78 yards. while fellow senior Antoine Porter (San Francisco, Calif.-Mission-City (College of SF)) had a solid game with three catches for 74 yards.
Redshirt junior Shaq Vann (South Bend, Ind./John Adams) paced the rushing attack with 23 carries for 90 yards while redshirt junior Ian Eriksen (Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston) picked up two rushing touchdowns to go along with his 37 yards on the ground. It was the fourth two-touchdown effort of his EMU career.
The Eagles started out promising, with a 20 yard scamper from Vann, followed by a 21-yard pass to Bailey II to get EMU into Charlotte territory. The drive failed to get any further though, as UNCC forced a fumble to end the momentum.
Charlotte began their first drive in their own territory, but it did not last long as on the sixth play Hoying intercepted a Hasaan Klugh pass. The Ohio native, with his first career interception, jumped the route and returned the ball 35 yards the other way for a touchdown to give EMU the early 7-0 lead.
Charlotte drove into Eagle's territory on the ground with a 51 yard rush on its first play from scrimmage on its next drive. With a third-and-nine, the 49ers completed a 21 yard pass into the end zone for a touchdown, knotting the score back up at seven apiece with just under eight minutes in the first quarter.
On the next drive, Eastern took advantage of a key Charlotte penalty on third down and used the new life to score its second touchdown of the game. Charlotte gave EMU a first down after a roughing-the-passer penalty was called. The Green and White took full advantage of the penalty as Eriksen dove the ball into the end zone for a touchdown six plays later, and with the extra-point, gave the Eagles a 14-7 lead.
As play turned to the second quarter, the Eagles were not able to maintain their rhythm. On the fourth play from scrimmage in the quarter, Roback threw an interception, and the 49ers responded by putting together a long drive. Charlotte, struggling with penalties throughout the first half, seemed to break the yellow flag curse with a 26-yard pass that placed them in EMU's territory. The penalties continued to haunt the 49ers the rest of the drive though as it stalled and they were once again forced to punt.
Roback saw nothing but open teammates during the Eagles' next possession, connecting with four different receivers for 60 yards on the drive. The Eagles capped off the 74 yard drive with a 32-yard field goal from redshirt sophomore kicker Paulie Fricano (Rochester, Mich.-Churchville Chili) to push the lead to 17-7. Charlotte did not not get anything going in its final possession of the half to maintain the 10-point advantage.
Charlotte started with possession to begin the second half, as they looked to begin a comeback. They were able to move up the field into the Eagle's territory before the penalties once again hit the 49ers, stalling their drive. Eastern continued to use Charlotte's errors for their advantage as Beck picked his first pass since the 2015 campaign, giving the Eagles possession deep in their own territory.
The ball passed quickly between teams after the initial Charlotte drive, as each side failed to drive longer than three minutes. Moody, with the first interception of his career, broke up the 49ers 50 second drive before the Eagles had a turnover on downs less than two minutes later. Charlotte struggled to find their rhythm as the Eagles limited them to a three-and-out, keeping it 17-7 with 5:41 left in the third.
Eastern got the pace moving on its next drive, with four-straight first downs for 76 yards. Roback's 41 yard pass to A. Porter put the Eagles within striking distance. An Eriksen rush pushed the Eagles to within five yards of a score and, one play later, he dove into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. With the extra point, the Green and White stretched their lead, 24-7.
EMU's defense, like they had all day, continued to hold the 49ers offense down the rest of the way, limiting them to just 20 yards total in their final six possessions. While neither team threatened to score, the efforts on both sides of the ball were enough to allow the Eagles to cruise to the 17-point win.