Rockets Land in Eagle's Nest

Rocket Digest reporter Tom Mauter gives his veiw on the Rockets MAC opener at Eastern Michigan this weekend. Toledo (0-1) and Eastern Michigan (1-1) are both looking to win their opening conference game for the first time since 2006. Will the feathers fly when the Rockets land in the Eagle's nest?

Head Coach Jeff Genyk has his EMU Eagles flying in the right direction. While not soaring they are gaining altitude. A look inside the EMU office offers proof with the proudly displayed glass mitten-shaped MAC Michigan trophy, symbolizing on-field success over two in-state rivals. Last year the Eagles upended both Western and Central for directional dominance.

Could this be the year the Eagles crest above .500 in league play? Air currents would have to be most favorable for this to occur. A loss to the Rockets would surely dampen some feathers.

On Offense
Veteran QB Andy Schmitt, 6'4" 238# triggers the spread offensive scheme. His career 60+% pass completion is complimented by his ability to run the ball.

Schmitt has three of this top receivers from last year back in Jacory Stone, Tyler Jones and DeAnthony White. All three receivers average 10 to 11 yards per catch last year. Graduation claimed TE Ken Bohnet but he accounted for less than 180 receiving yards last year.

Perhaps one of the biggest weapons for the Eagles O is RB Terrence Blevins, 6'1' 226#. He averaged 6.0 YPC against Spartans and has the potential to be a 1,000 yard rusher. Additionally, he has five pass receptions in the first two games. With sub 4.5 speed along with a 405# bench stat, Mr. Blevins will be a handful.

The offensive line, somewhat improved over last year, is led by All-MAC candidate LG Andy Fretz. Small by MAC standards, this starting group averages 6'2" 288#. RT Bridger Buche, a converted tight end, had a solid first half against MSU, doing a good job of protecting Schmitt. Buche mostly battled MSU DE Trevor Anderson, with one first-half block knocking Anderson's helmet off.

On Defense
MLB Daniel Holtzclaw may be the best line backer in the MAC. He's the heart and soul of the Eagles D. His 114 tackles led the team last year. He's picked up where he left off this season.

Pursuing Holtzclaw for tackling honors is safety Jacob Wyatt who led the Eagles in tackles with 13 against the Spartans. Part of this may be attributed to the lack of support from the DL and outside LBs. Both units appeared to have dropped off a bit from last year's squad. WLB Jermaine Jenkins did intercept two passes against Indiana State. Eight returners to the secondary make this the strength of the Eagles defense.

Special Teams
Bad news for the Eagles. Zach Johnson, P PK, KO, did not play in the MSU game after suffering an injury to his leg late in Eastern Michigan's 52-0 opening win over Indiana State. He aggravated his injury last week prior to the MSU game.

Eagles punting duties fell to placekicker Joe Carithers. Johnson is on the Ray Guy Watch List thus the Eagles clearly missed his punting. Carithers averaged 37 yards per punt giving Michigan State great field advantage. Carithers is one for two in field goal attempts missing on his only attempt beyond 40 yards.

What to Look for:
Terrence Blevins to break at least one run from scrimmage of 30+ yards.

At least one INT by the Rockets.

Aaron Opelt to run the ball on at least one play.

The Rockets running trio of DaJuane Collins, Jake Walker and Morgan Williams will be more consistent creating sustained drives.

Trick plays by EMU including Tyler Jones on WR end around and/or passing; fake field goal with holder Ryan Downard running the ball.

Pressure on Andy Schmitt forcing him to throw short passes to wide outs, tight end, and running backs.

The Rockets to score touchdowns when in the red zone.

The Rockets will win the battle of field position if Zack Johnson is not on the field.

Morgan Williams to have a good game returning kickoffs from the vicinity of the five yard line.

Nick Moore to catch at least one pass.

The Rockets defense to be off the field longer.

Alex Stiegerwald's new look (if you didn't make it to Tucson).

Not betting the line – the game is a "pick ‘em" with EMU, at most, a slight 2 point favorite.

Saturday noon presents a chance for the Rockets to reach .500 and build from there. The urgency of now will be a huge plus for the Midnight Blue and Gold.

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