Eastern Michigan eyes upset vs. Pitt in Quick Lane Bowl

Field Level Media

December 22, 2019 at 10:45 pm.

The Quick Lane Bowl will never be mistaken for a CFP venue, but for Eastern Michigan and coach Chris Creighton, their trip to Detroit for a Thursday night date with Pittsburgh at Ford Field is a big deal.

Not only does the Mid-American Conference school get a chance to beat an Atlantic Coast Conference team, the Eagles are making consecutive bowl appearances for the first time in program history. And it gives them a chance to beat a second Power 5 school this year after a September victory at Illinois.

What’s more, depending on how many EMU fans can be coaxed out of their houses on the day after Christmas, it could be a de facto home game. Ypsilanti is just 36 miles from Detroit, and Creighton is hoping his team plays in a raucous atmosphere.

“We look forward to our fans, students and the southeastern Michigan community being able to make the short trip to help us create a tremendous home field environment,” he said. “We know we will face a great opponent that will present a tough challenge, but we’re looking forward to the opportunity.”

Eastern Michigan (6-6) is led by quarterback Mike Glass III, who has completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 2,858 yards with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Seven players caught at least 20 passes, led by Dylan Drummond with 51 receptions for 483 yards and three scores. Arthur Jackson III leads the team with 679 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 39 receptions.

Pittsburgh (7-5) was in position to earn a trip to a more prestigious bowl, but it finished the season with a pair of losses — 28-0 at Virginia Tech and 26-19 against Boston College — to knock it down the postseason ladder.

Still, the Panthers present a stiff test for the Eagles. They won six of seven games after a 17-10 loss in mid-September at Penn State, including an upset of then-No. 15 Central Florida. They play tough, physical defense under fourth-year coach Pat Narduzzi.

“You’re only guaranteed 12 games in college football, so the opportunity to play one more time in 2019 is something our team is not going to take for granted,” Narduzzi said. “Coach Creighton has done an impressive job at Eastern Michigan.”

Pitt is No. 11 in the nation in total defense (302.5 yards per game) and in rushing defense (106.9 yards per game). Defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman is the man to watch on defense, logging 10 1/2 sacks for 76 yards. The redshirt sophomore earned multiple second-team All-America honors in his breakout season and is the first interior lineman to lead the Panthers in sacks since Aaron Donald had 11 in 2013.

Pittsburgh’s offense is pass-oriented, with quarterback Kenny Pickett hitting 60.9 percent of his attempts for 2,737 yards, 10 touchdowns with nine interceptions. Taysir Mack and Maurice Ffrench are the go-to receivers, combining for 146 receptions and 1,396 yards.

It’s a conservative passing attack, though, with Pitt ranking 117 out of 130 teams in yards per completion, at 10.5.

ALL  |  NFL  |  College Football  |  MLB  |  NBA