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Poljan benched as EMU rolls Chippewas in rivalry

CMU players surround the EMU ball carrier on Nov. 3 at Rynearson Stadium.

Robi Stuart broke through Eastern Michigan’s offensive line and Malik Fountain followed intently.

The duo crashed into EMU starting quarterback Mike Glass III, forcing him out of the game with a right leg injury midway through the second quarter. 

Tyler Wiegers, the expected starter, jumped into action against Central Michigan, an in-state Mid-American Conference rivalry. That’s when coach John Bonamego’s defensive group capitalized, but it wasn’t enough. 

Struggles from starting quarterback Tony Poljan allowed the Eagles (5-5, 3-3 MAC) to pull off a 17-7 victory over the Chippewas (1-9, 0-6 MAC) on Nov. 3 at Rynearson Stadium.

"The defense was outstanding, just not enough on offense. Not even close," Bonamego said. "We weren't able to move the ball through the air.

"It's unacceptable. We need to be better. Go back to work tomorrow and try to figure it out and find some answers."

Poljan was 10-of-27 for 39 yards, one interception and two fumbles before being replaced by redshirt freshman Austin Hergott on CMU’s final drive of the contest. Hergott compiled 22 passing yards on two completions before throwing a pick.

"(Hergott) made some throws, moved the chains," Bonamego said. "Made some good quick decisions out there. I think we've got to give Austin a strong look this week and see how he does in practice.

"All options are on the table at this point."

Despite Poljan’s lack of success, Bonamego’s defense stepped up after a four-play, 88-yard drive on the Eagles first possession, which ended in a 26-yard score from running back Shaq Vann. 

Vann went for 117 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Blake Banham led EMU’s receivers with seven receptions, 99 yards and one score. 

EMU was unable to score on 12-straight offensive possessions due to a missed field goal, interception, two fumbles and a turnover on downs. All the while, CMU’s offense even more abysmal.

The Chippewas tied the game just before halftime on a 68-yard scoop-and-score by defensive end Mike Danna. Fellow defensive lineman Sean Adesanya popped the ball loose from Wiegers, allowing Danna to pick it up with a running start for a touchdown. 

In the first half alone, CMU forced three turnovers but had no offensive points to show for it. The Chippewas finished with 138 total yards of offense – 211 less than EMU. 

Wiegers completed back-to-back passes to Dylan Drummond for 36 total yards to the CMU 32-yard line, desperate for a score to take an edge on the scoreboard. 

Moments later, Wiegers tossed a 7-yard score to Blake Banham to give EMU a 14-7 lead with 7:33 remaining in the game.

As a graduate transfer from Iowa, Wiegers was 17-of-25 for 150 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Glass accumulated 100 yards before his injury. 

The ensuing CMU possession resulted in a fumble by Poljan. Maxx Crosby applied the hit, and the ball was picked up by defensive end Jeremiah Harris, a former CMU commit, at the Chippewas’ 7-yard line.  

Kicker Chad Ryland, who missed a 38-yard field goal earlier in the game, converted from 26 yards for a 17-7 margin.

With 4:42 left in the game, Hergott replaced Poljan at quarterback. He completed two passes to receiver Devon Spalding before being intercepted by EMU’s Vince Calhoun.

"We've got to put together four quarters," Bonamego said. "We've put together one and two; this game I thought we put together three. But we weren't able to finish it at the end."

Spalding led the Chippewas with six receptions for 36 yards. Romello Ross was the leading rusher – 17 carries for 57 yards. Junior running back Jonathan Ward, who accumulated nearly 1,500 yards all-purpose in 2017, missed the game due to injury. He has not found the end zone this season.

Calhoun’s interception secured EMU’s victory, pushing the Eagles to five wins on the season. More importantly, just one away from bowl eligibility.

CMU punter Jack Sheldon registered 394 yards against EMU. Of the Chippewas’ 14 offensive possessions, Sheldon was forced to kick the ball away 10 times. 

The Chippewas return to Kelly/Shorts Stadium to play Bowling Green on Nov. 10. The Falcons are 1-8 on the season and 0-5 in the conference.