EMU playing hard through adversity

Former Eastern Michigan head coach Ron English.
Former Eastern Michigan head coach Ron English.

BOWLING GREEN — At this point in the season, every college football team has faced hardship to some degree.

Bowling Green State University will face a team Saturday which has had a player shot and killed one month ago, then saw its coach fired with three games still to play.

“Eastern has undergone as much adversity as any team can face,” BG coach Dave Clawson said. “First, the loss of a teammate is tragic, and then your head coach gets let go. The players seem to have rallied around each other.”

EMU fired coach Ron English on Nov. 8 and named offensive coordinator Stan Parrish to replace him, a transition Parrish called “difficult.”

“I wasn’t approached until late Friday afternoon — and we had to play Saturday,” Parrish said. “Ron is a very dear friend, and I had a very short time [to prepare]. Fortunately we were able to get things organized quickly.”

The day following English’s firing, the Eagles (2-8, 1-5 MAC) rallied for a touchdown and a trick-play two-point conversion to tie their contest with Western Michigan in the final minute of regulation. EMU then scored a touchdown in overtime to beat the Broncos 35-32, snapping an eight-game losing streak with its second win of the season.

“I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms in 35 years, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a more happy or relieved [locker room] than ours,” Parrish said.

In watching a replay of that game, Clawson said the Eagles have not given up.

“They had a phenomenal effort against Western Michigan,” Clawson said. “They are playing excited football.

“When they make a good play on defense, what happens? When they score, what do they do [to celebrate]? Against Western, they were playing inspired football.”

EMU did not play last Saturday, and Parrish said he gave the team much of last week off.

“We needed some space, and we needed to get away from football a little bit,” he said. “We got back to work Thursday, and I think the kids are in as good a frame of mind as they could possibly be.

“We’re just trying to focus on football, handling things day-to-day and bringing things home strong.”

Meanwhile, Clawson gave his Falcons (7-3, 5-1) some time off following his team’s 49-0 win over Ohio one week ago. BG took Wednesday off, then lifted Thursday before a combined film session and light practice Friday.

“We started our Eastern Michigan prep on Saturday,” Clawson said. “With the long week, we’ll get in two extra practices for this game.”

SCHMIEDEBUSCH HONORED: Punter Brian Schmiedebusch was named Mid-American Conference East Division special teams player of the week.

Schmiedebusch, a senior from Ottawa-Glandorf, averaged 43.0 yards on four punts in the a win over Ohio. He had two punts downed inside the Bobcats' 20-yard line, and his longest punt of the day traveled 50 yards.

“This year, when we’re trying to pin people inside the 10-yard line, his touch on those punts is [good],” Clawson said.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.