WEST POINT, N.Y. — For Army coach Jeff Monken and his Black Knights, there’s no place like Michie Stadium.
A week after winning for the first time on the road, Army (4-2) returns to the banks of the Hudson River on Saturday to face Eastern Michigan (2-3). Army is unbeaten in three home games so far this season.
“It’s always good to be in front of our own crowd, our own stadium, be in front of our own fans, be in front of the corps (of cadets),” Army center Bryce Holland said. “It’s especially good to come home with some victories. It’s just another one to get us closer to our goals.”
The Eagles haven’t been so fortunate. They’re coming off a 20-15 loss at Toledo, their third straight setback, and all three were one-possession games. Last week was especially painful. The Eagles defense held Toledo to its fewest points in two years and 22 below its season average.
“We’ve had four games come down to basically the last play and would have liked to have won more than we have,” EMU coach Chris Creighton said. “But I love our team. I think our best football is ahead of us, so what else can you do?”
The Black Knights defeated Rice 49-12 last Saturday night, forcing six turnovers in a game that quickly got out of hand. Four of those turnovers came in a span of 67 seconds in just seven plays spanning the first and second quarters and helped stake Army to a 35-0 halftime lead.
Army entered the game without forcing a turnover in 13 straight quarters.
“It’s good to come back home here after getting a victory like that on the road,” Monken said. “We hadn’t gotten a win on the road all year, and it’s really important to our team to accomplish that.”
Other things to know when Army hosts Eastern Michigan on Saturday at Michie Stadium:
SPREAD IT AROUND: In each of the first five games of the season, Eastern Michigan QB Brogan Roback has completed passes to at least eight different receivers — 12 against Ohio, 10 against Charlotte, eight against Rutgers and Kentucky, and nine against Toledo.
“We haven’t completed 12 passes the whole season,” Monken said.
Army is 8 of 33 for 125 yards and one touchdown passing with four interceptions to rank 129th — or last — in FBS.
BLACK KNIGHTS ROLLING: Dating back to last season, Army has won seven of its last nine games. The last stretch with seven wins in nine games was in 1996, when Army won a school-record 10 times. Army has won four of its first six in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1988-89.
DEFENDING THE RUN: The Eastern Michigan defense has been stout. The Eagles rank in the top 50 nationally in 10 major categories. They’re 43rd defending the run, allowing just under 130 yards a game. Army’s triple option ranks third in rushing with an average of 372.7 yards per game.
“They’ve played everybody really tight and have played particularly well on defense,” Monken said. “They just make a bunch of plays and are doing a good job stopping the run. That’s going to be a big challenge for us. Obviously, that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
CLOSE, BUT: In Eastern Michigan’s last 18 games, 12 have been decided by 7 points or fewer and EMU has split them. However, this season the Eagles are trending down. Four of their five games have been one-possession contests, and they’ve won just one (16-13 at Rutgers).
“It’s incredibly frustrating. We know we’re capable,” Creighton said. “We are right there, against really good football teams. We’re going to be OK. I think we’ve got a chance to have a really good football team, still.”
PUNTING BY COMMITTEE: Eastern Michigan has had four different players punt this season, the most of any team in the country. Ivan Oraha has 14 punts, Jake Julien 12, Paulie Fricano one, and Roback, the only quarterback in the nation to also lead his team in punting. Roback has nine punts for 422 yards, including a long of 66 yards.