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Game #2 Preview: Eastern Michigan At Rutgers

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NCAA Football: Washington at Rutgers Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

How To Watch, Stream & Listen

Eastern Michigan (1-0) At Rutgers (0-1)

Where: High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, New Jersey

Kick-off: Saturday, September 9th at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV: BTN

Note: primary channel in NJ/NY/Philly area; non-local area click here for BTN channel finder

Stream: BTN2GO

Radio: Rutgers IMG Sports Network with Chris Carlin, Ray Lucas, Eric LeGrand, and Anthony Fucilli - WCTC 1450-AM, ESPN NY 98.7-FM, WENJ 97.3-FM, WNJE 920-AM, Sirius 83, XM 83

Current Spread: Rutgers -5

Series History: Rutgers lead 1-0, winning 28-10 in 2013 on the day Eric LeGrand’s number #52 was retired.

Eastern Michigan SB Nation site: The Hustle Belt Game Preview

Last Season: EMU was 7-6, losing in the Bahamas Bowl to Old Dominion 24-20

Returning Starters: 16 (8 on offense, 8 on defense)

Key Players For Eastern Michigan

Offense

QB Brogan Roback: The fifth year senior was 22-31 for 267 yards and an INT in last week’s 24-7 win over Charlotte. Roback is a gunslinger who threw for 34 touchdowns and a combined 4,998 yards combined the previous two seasons, while throwing just 18 interceptions. He poses a threat to the Rutgers defense and they need to put a lot of pressure on Roback with a strong pass rush. The secondary will need to play well too and hopefully can pick off Roback multiple times on Saturday.

RB Ian Eriksen: The 5’10” sophomore took over for Vann after his injury last season and rushed for 771 yards on 184 carries and 9 touchdowns, while catching 21 receptions for 243 yards. Last week, he was used mostly as a third down and goal line back, rushing 7 times for 37 yards and 2 touchdowns.

RB Shaq Vann: The 5’10” junior from South Bend, Indiana rushed for 90 yards on 23 carries in the season opener. Last season ended early for him with a shoulder injury and only had 21 carries because of it. His freshman season in 2015 saw him become a dual threat out the backfield, rushing 100 times for 586 yards and 5 touchdowns, while also catching 37 receptions for 264 yards and one score.

WR Sergio Bailey II: The 6’0” senior led the Eagles last season with 60 receptions for 868 yards and 7 touchdowns. Last week, he picked up right where he left off, catching 5 balls for a team high 78 yards receiving.

WR Antoine Porter: Like Bailey, both receivers are JUCO transfers entering their final college seasons. He is more of a speedy target at 5’8” and had 3 receptions for 74 yards last week, including a long of 41 yards. Porter did lose a fumble as well in the season opener, so expect the Rutgers secondary to try and go for the ball when tackling him. Last season, Porter was third on the team with 44 catches and had 491 yards receiving with 4 touchdowns.

Defense

DL Jeremiah Harris: Our David Brown focused on Harris as a player to watch this week and with good reason. He led the Eagles with 9 tackles last week, including 1.5 for a loss. The 6’5” junior had a solid season a year ago, finishing with 73 tackles, including 11 for a loss, 6 sacks and one interception. The offensive line, which played better than expected in week one versus Washington, will need to contain Harris as much as possible.

LB Kyle Rachwal: He had a big game last week as well, producing 6 tackles, 2.5 of which were for a loss, including 1 sack. Rachwal will look to blitz on the edge and will need to be picked up in pass protection to protect quarterback Kyle Bolin from EMU’s best pass rusher.

DB Brody Hoying: He also had 6 tackles, but his best play last week was returning an interception 35 yards for a touchdown. Hoying also had two pass deflections and Bolin will need to be careful not to be careless in throwing down the field with Hoying roaming the defensive backfield for EMU.

Special Teams

Paul Fricano: The sophomore place kicker had a solid debut last season as a freshman, making 19 of 24 field goal attempts. While his career long is from 46 yards, he was just 4 of 8 from 40+ yards last season. He made his only attempt last week from 32 yards and was 3 for 3 on extra point attempts.

Keys To The Game

Dominate The Line Of Scrimmage

Both the offensive and defensive lines of Rutgers held up well against Washington last week, which was probably the biggest surprise of the game. There is no reason to think they can’t continue to show improvement against Eastern Michigan. The offensive line needs to impose their in creating holes for the run game and giving Bolin time to throw more downfield in this game. On the other side of the ball, the more pressure that the defensive line can put on Roback, the better, especially with an inexperienced line protecting him. They have to make him uncomfortable in the pocket and not allow Roback to have too much time or he will make them pay.

Control Time Of Possession

While many hope that Rutgers does air it out more than in the season opener, I expect offensive coordinator Jerry Kill to look to dominate on the ground again in this game. Expect a 1-2 punch again with Gus Edwards and Robert Martin. I could also see Josh Hicks get a few carries due to his physical style potentially being a mismatch for EMU. After having over 38 minutes in time of possession against Washington, Rutgers will look to have similar success and keep the ball out of the hands of EMU’s offense.

Minimize Damage On Special Teams

A recipe for disaster against an underdog is to allow them hope by making big plays on special teams. After giving up a punt return last weekend, Rutgers needs to keep the EMU return game at bay as much as possible. Hopefully, true freshman Justin Davidovicz can produce a few touchbacks in this game. As for the field goal situation, it would be good to see Andrew Harte have an early opportunity from a shorter distance to build some confidence after missing in his lone attempt from 46 yards last week.

Force Turnovers

Ash talked about in the preseason how this was a major area of emphasis, but Rutgers is already -2 with turnover margin after the opening game. Roback is not mistake prone and is a bit of a gunslinger, so the Rutgers secondary will have opportunities to pick him off tomorrow. They have to take advantage and if they can grab one early, it could be a big day for them.

Avoid A Letdown

While last week’s loss to a top ten team bred confidence this team is improved, it would be a very Rutgers thing to do in coming out flat tomorrow. Perhaps unloading baggage as a fan of this team for the past 30+ years is unfair, but I’ve seen it far too many times. It’s a mid-afternoon game and the crowd will probably be less than in the opener, so they need to generate more energy on their own and come out ready to play. They can’t afford to fall too far behind early and the longer they let EMU hang around, the more confidence the Eagles will get. If they can start as sharply as they did against Washington, they can seize control right from the opening kickoff.

Get The Win No Matter What

I wrote this week that style points don’t matter in this game and Rutgers just needs to get the win any way possible. I know a lot of people disagree with that thought, but the most important thing is for Rutgers to end their current ten game losing streak and build momentum off of last week’s performance. Of course, it would be great to see them win big tomorrow, but teams from the MAC love playing the Big Ten and this is a bowl game for EMU tomorrow. They’ll come in thinking they can win and Rutgers needs to physically overpower them if they want to avoid the upset. I think they will, as does the rest of our staff, but this game is no sure win by any means.