Detroit - Northwestern, under junior quarterback C.J. Bacher, had torched Big Ten opposition the past two weeks, putting up 97 points and over 1,200 yards of offense. Friday night against Eastern Michigan, the high-powered Wildcats' offense was held in check for three quarters by the Eagles but it wasn't enough as Eastern Michigan fell to Northwestern 26-14 at Ford Field in a non-conference matchup.
EMU QB Kyle McMahon
The Eagles opened the scoring when true freshman quarterback Kyle McMahon, starting in place of injured quarterback Andy Schmitt, engineered a 42-yard first quarter touchdown drive capped by McMahon's five-yard scamper into the end zone. The opening score was set up after EMU's Jacob Wyatt picked off C.J. Bacher's pass at the Wildcats' 42-yard line on Northwestern's first offensive possession.
Leading 7-3 early in the second quarter, the Eagles had an opportunity to add to their lead but a fumble by freshman Dwayne Priest inside the Northwestern five-yard line ended a promising drive. Priest suffered an injury to his right shoulder and did not return to the game.
But the Eagles' propensity for turnovers continued as missed opportunities haunted the Eagles throughout the contest as Eastern Michigan turned the ball over three times inside Northwestern's ten-yard line, including two interceptions by McMahon.
"I thought our turnovers in the red-zone were freshman-based," said Eastern Michigan head coach Jeff Genyk after the game. "If we had a little more experience, we probably don't fall into some of the traps that were set by the Northwestern defense. They (Northwestern) did a really good job of changing up their defense when we drove deep into their zone."
Despite their difficulties, Eastern trailed only 13-7 at halftime and dominated time of possession in the third quarter, holding the ball for ten minutes, but failed to score again until late in the fourth quarter when McMahon rushed for his second touchdown of the game on an 18-yard scramble with under five minutes remaining in the game to bring the Eagles to within 19-14.
Earlier in the fourth quarter the Wildcats had extended their lead when Bacher scored from one-yard out to put the Wildcats up 19-7.
The scoring play followed a fifteen-yard face masking penalty on EMU defensive end Jason Jones after it had appeared that Northwestern lost thirteen yards on third down after recovering their own fumble at the 18-yard line but the penalty negated the play and instead of facing fourth down, gave the Wildcats first and goal at the one-yard line.
"Jason Jones came through unblocked and hit C.J. (Bacher) and hit the ball," explained Genyk of the game changing series of events. "From my vantage point it appeared that Jason just hit the front of the face mask but they (the officials) called a personal foul and that's why I was so demonstrative there (on the sidelines)." Genyk's sideline reaction resulted in an additional penalty being called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Wildcats added a late touchdown to make it 26-14 when Bacher threw his only touchdown pass of the game, connecting with Kim Thompson on a 71-yard pass over the middle with 2:44 remaining in the game, ending any thoughts of an Eastern Michigan comeback as the Eagles were once again left on the short end of another close contest.
"All the hard work, all the effort and all of the foundation building that we're doing is fine, but we still have to find a way to make a big play," said Genyk.
EMU freshman quarterback Kyle McMahon, making his first collegiate start, completed 28-48 passes for 282 yards and was the Eagles' leading rusher with 44 yards and two scores. Tyler Jones had his best day as a wide receiver for the Eagles as the converted quarterback caught eight passes for 104 yards
The Wildcats were paced by Bacher's 361 yards passing and tailback Omar Conteh who rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Eastern Michigan (2-6, 1-2 MAC), which has now lost four straight games, resumes conference play October 27 against Western Michigan at Rynearson Stadium.