No. 18 football will host its third home game of the season when Eastern Michigan comes to DeKalb Saturday. The Huskies (7-0, 3-0 MAC) have been flawless to this point, coming off an impressive 38-17 victory over Central Michigan. The Eagles (1-6, 0-3 MAC) have had a season of heartbreak and have lost their last six games in a row. With a win, the Huskies will increase their home-game winning streak to 24 games as well as increase their MAC-winning streak to 21. Sports writer Brian Earle breaks will break down EMU’s players.
Quarterback: Redshirt junior Tyler Benz has had his share of ups and downs this season. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is not good, coming in at nine touchdowns compared to eight interceptions. He has thrown for 1,403 yards and completed 63.4 percent of his passes. Benz and the Eagles do not stretch the field through the air often as the longest pass on the season was a 62-yard completion. He is not a strong runner as he has run the ball 39 times for negative 9 yards on the season.
Running back: Junior Bronson Hill is the most explosive player on the Eagles’ offense. On the season, Hill is the fifth-leading rusher in the MAC with 752 yards, averaging 107.4 yards per game. He has reached the end zone four times on the ground, two of those touchdowns coming against Howard in the season opener. Hill has the ability to break a big gain as his longest rush of the season was a 7-yard gain. Hill is also effective in the Eagles’ passing game. He has recorded 13 receptions out of the backfield for 151 yards and a touchdown.
Wide Receiver: Benz’s favorite target this season has been junior tight end Tyreese Russell. Russell leads the Eagles in receptions with 31 for a team-leading 366 yards per game. Against Rutgers, Russell posted his season-high nine receptions for 84 yards. At the tight end position, Russell creates mismatches with linebackers by using his speed. He can make big plays as he hooked up with Benz for the Eagles’ longest completion of the season for 62 yards. He has recorded two touchdown receptions this season and is one of Benz’s favorite targets in the red zone.
Offensive line: Redshirt junior Campbell Allison and the Eagles’ offensive line will have their work cut out for them. Allison is the Eagles’ most experienced offensive lineman, starting in 31 consecutive games dating back to the start of the 2011 season. Coming into this game the Eagles have surrendered 20 sacks on the season. NIU has recorded the third-most sacks in the MAC by recording 22, so Allison and the offensive line will have to do their best to get Benz some time to throw.
Defensive line: The Eagles’ defensive line is anchored by sophomore Pat O’Connor. O’Connor does it all for the Eagles as he leads them with four tackles for a loss of 24 yards. He also gets to the quarterback, leading the Eagles with three sacks for a loss of 23 yards and three quarterback hurries. He leads all defensive linemen in tackles with 32. O’Connor is an ultimate lineman who has the ability to rush the quarterback and also stop the running game.
Linebacker: Sophomore Ike Spearman can do it all for the Eagles. He is second on the team with 45 tackles and leads all linebackers. He can stop the run as well as play back in coverage. He has recorded two and a half tackles for a loss of 10 yards this season. He has also gotten to the quarterback for half a sack this season, resulting in a loss of 2 yards. In pass coverage, Spearman has recorded one interception and returned it for 2 yards.
Defensive back: Senior Mycal Swaim is the leader of the Eagles’ defense. Swaim leads a relatively young defense with 49 total tackles, 22 of them solo. His season-high in tackles came just last week against Ohio when he recorded nine tackles. He can stop the run as he recorded one tackle for a loss of 1 yard. He has also shown he can catch the football, recording one interception, which came against Penn State.
Special teams: Last week, junior kick returner Tyler Allen made the biggest play of the season for the Eagles. In their first game since the death of junior wide receiver Demarius Reed, Allen paid his tribute by running back the opening kickoff for a 90-yard touchdown. He has been the fourth-best kick returner in the MAC this season, averaging 22.7 yards per return.