EMU Football Seniors Have Optimism To Make Ford FieldJuly 28, 2012
DETROIT— With championship banners and school logos displayed around the perimeter of the arena looked ready for a game. Ford Field was decked out with Mid-American Conference signage and looked the part as some of the selected MAC football players snuck peaks at the playing surface during the coach’s preview this week.
Eastern Michigan University Head Coach Ron English and EMU Football Sports Information Director Greg Steiner took senior linebacker Justin Cudworth and senior offensive lineman Korey Neal down to the field level. The players were wowed with the space and all the surroundings.
“This is my first time on the field,” said Neal. “The MAC banners look awesome.” Both players knew that the MAC Championship will be played here on November 30. Also, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl will be a favored selection for one MAC school on December 26th.
Coach English added, “For us to get here we have to have consistency. We have to gain respect by playing every minute and making every second count.”
Neal, who hails from Bowie, Maryland, has slimmed down and the 6’3” blocking specialist is expected to protect senior quarterback Alex Gillett. As Gillett goes, so does the Eagles offensive success.
Neal added, “We are in year four and while we were a little unsure, now we see Coach English system works. We left some opportunities on the field in the fourth quarter last year.”
English chimed in, “I knew it would take some time. We are family now. It doesn’t matter if I didn’t recruit you, you’re my guy now.”
Cudworth started all 12 games last season on defense and averaged 7 tackles a game.
Eastern has an adventurous non-league schedule with Purdue and Michigan State on the road September 15, and September 22, respectively. EMU will host Illinois State on September 8th and Army on October 20th at Rynearson Stadium.
The MAC will have three new coaches with Terry Bowden at Akron, Charley Molnar at U-Mass and Matt Campbell at Toledo. Campbell at 32 is the youngest NCAA D-I coach in the country. This will be the first season for U-Mass in the MAC.
Bowden who has a long coaching pedigree has been in the TV booth as an analyst recently. His love of coaching brought him back to try and re-energize the program at Akron. In their new stadium, the Zips were 1-11 last season.
Bowden said, “The strength of this team is not going to be on a superstar talent.” He added, “The collective will of a team that is willing to do whatever it takes to be successful……I believe the exact same team as last year, playing at a different level, is what we are going to hang our hat on.”
The MAC recorded a 4-1 mark during the past bowl season. That record had national appeal. The power is again in the west division especially with Toledo and Northern Illinois. The west has been a dominating 27-11 during interleague play over the past two years and that trend should continue.
The Conference will have a variety of national and regional TV packages this season with games scheduled on a host of ESPN channels. Detroit native sons Michael Reghi and former Rutgers head coach Doug Graber will again be calling the games on the marquee ESPN package. Eight contests will be broadcast on the ESPN Regional Television Network starting at noon as a lead in to the ABC national game of the week. The first one will have U-Mass traveling to Miami on September 22.