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OHIO STATE GAME 4 PREVIEW: Eastern Michigan Eagles of the Mid-American Conference

MEGASPORTSNEWS.COM FEATURE

It was not long ago that Eastern Michigan University, located in the west Detroit suburb of Ypsilanti, was nicknamed the Hurons. But after much rumblings by several groups who didn’t much care for Indian tribe names being used as athletic teams mascots and nicknames, Hurons became Eagles.

Ohio State’s fourth opponent this week is from the Mid-American Conference West Division.

The Eagles were an embarrassing 0-12 overall, 0-8 in the MAC. Some people in the media and several former coaches have said that the administration had basically ignored the needs of the program and that is why it has fallen to these lowly depths.

But in came Ron English last season. He is no stranger to EMU, having coached at the University of Michigan which is next door to Ypsilanti in Ann Arbor, just 7 miles away, as the defensive coordinator under Lloyd Carr. After that stint, English spent some time in the same capacity at the University of Louisville.

Coach Tressel turns his attention to Eastern Michigan in Week 4 (WAXX-TV photo)

OSU AD Gene Smith served in same capacity at EMU in the 1980's (OSU photo)

Eastern Michigan is 0-3 in the 2010 season. They lost two close games against Army (31-27) and at Miami (28-21). But last week against a tough offensive juggernaut like Central Michigan, they were blown out 52-14.

Coming into the season, the Eagles returned 44 lettermen and 12 starters.

At tailback, there was alot being expected of tailback Dwayne Priest. If he could stay healthy, he would be a factor. He had played in 34 games the past three years, but nagging injuries have held back his progress. He did produce 633 yards and seven touchdowns in 2009.

So far Priest has held up so far in 2010. He was named the Mid-American Conference’s West Division Offensive Player of the Week for the period ending September 5. The honor marked the first time Priest has collected the weekly accolade after running for a career-best 142 yards on 26 rushes and scoring two touchdowns in the loss to Army on September 4.

Another threat on the Eastern Michigan offensive side of the ball is tight end Ben Thayer. He caught 29 passes a year ago for 261 yards and 2 touchdowns.

This season, he is off to a start that might push him pass those 2009 stats. Thayer has 10 catches for 109 yards, a 10.9 average with 1 touchdown.

One weakness on offensive to most observers was at quarterback where Alex Gillett was very inconsistent while being pressed into action last year because of an injury to the starter. Gillett’s pass completion percentage was below 50%.

After three games this season, Gillett has made some improvement. In three starts, he is 34-of 59 passing with 3 interceptions, 4 touchdowns, 350 yards an efficiency rating of 119.66. He can also rush the ball with 39 carries for 172 yards, a 4.4 average with 1 touchdown while averaging 57.3 yards per game.

During last week’s loss to Central Michigan, both quarterbacks were called upon. Gillett from Green Springs, Ohio-Clyde High School, started the game and completed 12-of-20 passes for 148 yards and 1 touchdown pass while redshirt freshman Devontae Payne of Cleveland, Ohio- South High School, completed 13-of-24 passes for 134 yards.

Not much is expected of the Eagles program, as far as the media is concerned. They were picked to finish sixth in the Mid-American Conference West Division as voted on by 26 members of league’s media contingent at the annual media day held at Ford Field on July 30.

The Eagles received 20 votes in the annual poll with Northern Illinois picked to finish first followed by Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Toledo, Ball State and Eastern Michigan.

The 2010 season is the 35th year that the Eagles have been a part of the Mid-American Conference football race. EMU was admitted into the league in 1971, but a complete league schedule was not available until 1976.

This season also marks the 118th for the Eastern Michigan University football team. The first year of intercollegiate football in Ypsilanti was 1891 when the team had an 0-2 record. EMU fielded a team every year since 1891 with one exception, when the 1944 season was canceled because of World War II.

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