Idaho Potato Bowl: Get To Know Eastern Michigan

Idaho Potato Bowl: Get To Know Eastern Michigan

Bowl Season

Idaho Potato Bowl: Get To Know Eastern Michigan

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Idaho Potato Bowl: Get To Know Eastern Michigan


Eagles are on the rise under Chris Creighton


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French Fry Bowl Day

San Jose State takes on Eastern Michigan in the best mascot bowl game in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl so to get to know the Eagles from the MAC, we chatted with Zack VanNieuwenhze of Hustle Belt.

  • Are there any key players out with the portal or injuries?

Eastern Michigan has been guarded with its injuries this season and while they did finish the regular season as a banged-up team, I would expect that most of those issues have been resolved by the nearly month long leadup to this bowl game. Spot-starter QB Austin Smith did miss the last game with an ankle injury but Taylor Powell performed more than admirably. The team has been missing players like DE Mikey Haney since the spring and DB Blake Bogan since early in the season but I would expect that injury-wise, you will see a similar, but healthier and more refreshed team than what we saw on Black Friday against Central Michigan.

The portal hasn’t really hit the EMU football roster just yet. I am not naive enough to believe that Eastern will be immune to the portal, as I would expect some movement post bowl game. The players who have left the squad thus far were (with all due respect) developmental players lower on the depth chart.

  • Who are the players that San Jose State should know?

On defense, it starts with the MAC Defensive Player of the Year in Jose Ramirez. Ramirez was honored as an All-American by several outlets following his 12-sack season. He is likely to be a day two NFL draft pick.

Jordan Crawford is a space-eating defensive tackle in the center of the defensive line while transfers Chase Kline and Joe Sparacio from Michigan State and Boston College respectively, gave Eastern some of its best linebacking play in recent years. The Eastern secondary improved as the season went on, led by Chicago native Kempton Shine.

On offense, the Eagle attack starts with HB Samson Evans. The one-time Iowa Hawkeye transfer was a second team all-conference selection this year. He had over one thousand yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. He is a power back who runs angry and is capable of icing a game. Running behind Eastern’s experienced line, which is led by draft prospect Sidy Sow and Brian Dooley (both all-MAC performers) certainly helps.

Transfer QB Taylor Powell arguably saved his best for last, going 24 of 36 with three touchdowns against rival Central Michigan on senior day. Few Group of Five teams have the depth at receiver that Eastern Michigan has. Tanner Knue and Hassan Beydoun are both third team all-MAC selections, while Dylan Drummond likely would have been as well if he had not missed time with injury. When Darius Lassiter is your fourth receiver, you are pretty good there. The tight ends of Gunnar Oakes and Andreas Paaske have really come on late in the season as well.

Also, here in the Midwest we like our special teams and in Ypsilanti the special teams are pretty special. Punter Mitchell Tomasek and returner Jaylon Jackson were first-team all-MAC. Kicker Jesus Gomez was a third-team all-conference selection. Long snapper Steve Bird would have been first-team all-conference as well, if the MAC ended its archaic practice of not honoring snappers. 

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction

  • Head coach Chris Creighton has done an amazing job in his tenure to turn the Eagles into a perennial bowl team. How did he get this program turned around when his predecessors could not?

I will try to answer this without being overly long winded. When Coach Creighton came in, the program’s identity was losing football games. He came in and developed an identity of hard work. The program prides itself in being blue-collar and hard-working, as evidenced by our gray turf and “The Factory” stadium moniker. Classroom achievement is way up, fan support is better, facilities have improved, bowl games are now a yearly expectation, and Eastern football will welcome its best recruiting class in modern times later this week. Eastern Michigan football continues to trend up. Nine wins, and a bowl trophy would further prove that to the nation. 

  • What is the biggest advantage that Eastern Michigan will have over San Jose State?

These are two very different styles of teams, who both beat their only common opponent in Western Michigan (I love mentioning that). I feel as if EMU’s biggest advantage may be the weather. Not to sound like a “Frozen” song but coming from Michigan, the cold won’t bother Eastern Michigan as much. I also feel as if Eastern could follow the gameplay from their “upset” against Arizona State, where they powered the ball behind their offensive line and battering ram back Samson Evans to ice the game. Cold, wind and snow shouldn’t affect that aspect much.

  • How do you see this playing out?

The last time these two teams met was in the 1987 California Bowl where Eastern earned its only bowl win with an upset of San Jose State. Now, Chevan Cordeiro might be the best quarterback Eastern has seen this season. Eastern is the betting underdog and hasn’t beaten a bowl eligible team all-season long. I think that ends in Boise, Eastern seems to be improving late season while SJSU has regressed somewhat. This program is hungry for a bowl victory. I think that EMU rides Samson Evans, and Taylor Powell makes some timely plays while the defense led by Jose Ramirez keeps the Spartans in check and some strong special teams aids Eastern in a cold field position battle, en route to its first bowl victory since 1987.


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