Eastern Michigan Becomes Bowl Eligible With A 48-41 Victory Over Ball State

In a wild game that saw wild momentum swings throughout, the Eastern Michigan Eagles came up with one more big play than the Ball State Cardinals in a 48-41 victory. This win secured six wins for the Eagles and their first trip to a bowl game since a 1987 trip to the California Bowl, a 30-27 victory over San Jose State.

We have been waiting ever so patient for a game to go full out MACtion this season. We have sat through too many uninteresting games to count. Tonight, we finally got a true taste of MACtion and it was glorious.

EMU quarterback Brogan Roback attempted 71 passes on the night for 468 yards and three touchdowns. His 71 pass attempts were 26 more than in any other game of his college career. Ball State quarterback Riley Neal nearly matched Roback throw for throw with 393 yards and three touchdowns. In the end, multiple turnovers by Neal were way too costly in the defeat.

The Cardinals looked to be in store for a rout early on as they jumped to a 21-0 lead in the opening quarter. Much of that was due to mistakes from the Eagles as Willie Parker fumbled a kickoff EMU, recovered by Ball State. The Eagles then fumbled on their very next offensive play, resulting in another Cardinals touchdown and the previously mentioned 21-0 lead.

Despite EMU slowly getting back into the game, trailing 21-9, Neal had a chance to put the dagger in the heart. He found daylight versus the EMU defense and sprinted to the endzone. Before making it to paydirt, Neal lost ball. His fumble resulted in EMU taking over on their own 20-yard line. They proceeded to take control of the game, rolling 80 yard for a score and adding a field goal to pull within 21-19 late in the half.

Ball State responded with a late score by KeVonn Mabon to give the home team a 28-19 lead at the half.

The Eagles, needing a score to get back in the game, found the endzone twice in the third quarter. They were able to use a suddenly alive rushing attack and the arm of Roback to take their first lead of the night at 33-28. EMU added another score on a Blake Banham rush to take a 40-28 lead and seemingly put the game away.

Instead, we got one of the wilder endings of the season. Neal pulled the Cardinals within five at 40-35 on a 62-yard touchdown pass to Cywtttnie Brown. Then after a series of wasted opportunities by MEU to put the game away, Neal led the Cardinals on a 60 yard drive that saw the quarterback find the endzone from one yard out. A failed two-point conversion later, Ball State held a 41-40 lead with 1:35 left on the clock.

For many, needing a score with that little time on the clock was cause for concern. Roback proved tonight that he is not just anyone in going 6-7 for 85 yards in less than a minute. Running back Ian Eriksen capped the game-winning drive with a one-yard score to give the Eagles a wild 48-41 win.

This win makes EMU bowl eligible and virtually guarantees them a spot in the postseason. I hate to use absolutes since you never know when a deserving team will be left out, but Eastern Michigan is going bowling.

It is the perfect cap to a surprising season that no one can claim to see coming. This was a team that had won six of its last 36 games and had no reason for anyone to predict great things.

Now, the question becomes what bowl EMU will end up attending. Our projections all put the Eagles in the Potato Bowl to be played at Albertson’s Stadium in Boise, Idaho.

We are officially 2/3 of the way to the least expected bowl trio of all time. Wyoming, Idaho, and Eastern Michigan have never all played in bowl games in the same season. This truly is an odd and interesting year.

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