BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University football team’s opponent, Eastern Michigan, comes into today’s 3:30 p.m. contest at Doyt Perry Stadium with a 1-6 record.
But Falcons coach Dave Clawson said the Eagles should not be judged by that record.
“Before the season started, they were one of the teams in the West [Division] that, because of the way they had played last season, would come on and maybe even qualify for a bowl game,” Clawson said.
“But they got off to a slow start.”
That slow start was caused by an offense that scored just 77 points in the team’s first five games. But a 47-point eruption in a loss to Toledo, followed by 48 points in a win over Army, signals that EMU’s slow start is a thing of the past.
“They have found their identity now in terms of running the football and the play-action passing game,” Clawson said of the Eagles. “They have found a quarterback, and they are playing extremely well.
“Defensively they are very aggressive, and their linebackers are active. They have some good corners, and good defensive ends. … This is a very dangerous football team.”
A key to Eastern Michigan’s offensive turnaround has been the running game, which has piled up 323 yards against the Rockets and 208 yards versus Army after averaging just 126 yards per game in the team’s first five contests.
“When you watched Eastern Michigan last year, they were a team committed to knocking you off the ball,” Clawson said. “They were committed to running the football and playing good defense.
“It seems that [this year] they almost changed their offensive identity, to run more of a spread offense. … They were turning the ball over, and I think their defensive numbers are bad in part because their offense put them in some bad positions.”
Two big changes came at quarterback, when sophomore Tyler Benz replaced senior Alex Gillett, a product of Clyde High School, at quarterback while sophomore Bronson Hill has taken over at running back.
Benz has completed 55.7 percent of his passes for 983 yards and nine touchdowns in five games, while Hill has 548 yards rushing and six TDs in just six contests.
“Right now our guys are playing with a lot of confidence,” Eastern Michigan coach Ron English said. “They believe they can score on every possession.
“I think we have some talented guys, and I think we are able to put some pressure on people offensively. We’ve been more aggressive in our play-calling, but we’re getting some performance from our playmakers.”
Clawson was especially impressed by Hill, who ran for 283 yards and four scores against the Rockets — including touchdown runs of 47, 58, and 70 yards — and added 185 rushing yards against Army.
“Three or four times against Toledo he made a housecall,” Clawson said of Hill. “He can make people miss, he’s fast, and he can run you over.”
Contact John Wagner at: jwagner @theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.