top of page

Community Advocacy Organization

Eastern Michigan Football is Heading to Mobile and the 68 Ventures Bowl!

Updated: Dec 6, 2023



Eastern Michigan Pinned For The 68 Venture Bowl


YPSILANTI, Mich. (EMUEagles.com) — The Eastern Michigan University football team will take on the University of South Alabama in the 25th Annual 68 Ventures Bowl Saturday, Dec. 23, at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Ala. The announcement was made Sunday, Dec. 3, by officials of EMU, the bowl, and the Mid-American Conference. Kickoff for the game will be at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT) on ESPN, WEMU (89.1 FM), and the Varsity Network.



No MAC school has appeared in more bowl games since 2016 than Eastern Michigan, as the Eagles will play in their sixth bowl game in the last eight seasons. Before 2016, EMU had earned the opportunity to play in a postseason bowl just once (1987 California Bowl). Additionally, Eastern earned bowl eligibility for the third consecutive season in 2023, the first such occurrence in program history.



Ticket prices start at $15 with a total of six different pricing locations throughout the stadium available for purchase. Tickets and parking are available at 68VenturesBowl.com. All EMU fans are encouraged to buy tickets since bowl ticket sales directly benefit EMU student-athletes and aid in future bowl considerations.



Sunday's selection also marks EMU's second appearance in the Mobile, Ala.-based bowl, as the Eagles played Liberty in 2021 when it was then known as the LendingTree Bowl. The 68 Ventures Bowl will be played on the campus of South Alabama for the third time after previously spending 22 years at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.  USA joins the short list of teams to play a bowl game in its home stadium, despite that fact EMU will be the home team on the scoreboard as the MAC was previously designated as the "home team" for the game.



The 68 Ventures Bowl will mark the first meeting between EMU and USA (6-6, 4-4 SBC). The Jaguars' season was highlighted by a 33-7 victory over Oklahoma State, Sept. 16, along with wins over ULM, Southern Miss, Arkansas State, and Marshall. The two teams share a common opponent in Central Michigan – South Alabama fell to CMU, 34-30, while EMU was edged by the Chippewas, 26-23. Overall, South Alabama is still looking for its first bowl victory, having dropped the 2014 Camellia Bowl, the 2016 Arizona Bowl, and the 2022 New Orleans Bowl.



"We are once again thrilled for the opportunity for our program to represent this university on a national stage," said EMU Vice President/Director of Athletics Scott Wetherbee. "We cannot thank Jerry Silverstein, Sherrie Dyal, and the entire bowl staff enough for inviting us back to The Azalea City. The hospitality displayed to us by the Mobile community in 2021 was fantastic and I hope a bunch of Eastern fans make the trip to a great destination to support our team."



EMU finished with a 6-6 overall record, including a 4-4 record in MAC play during the 2023 regular season. With victory at Buffalo, Nov. 21, Eastern Michigan has posted three consecutive seasons with a .500-or-better MAC record for the first time since 1986-89.


 


"We are excited to accept an invitation to compete in the 68 Ventures Bowl," added EMU Head Coach Chris Creighton. "We had to dig deep to make this last game possible and I am super proud of how we finished. We know we will face a great opponent and we are really looking forward to this opportunity."



The 2023 EMU football team recorded numerous accomplishments throughout the season with one of the more notable coming at the end of the regular season with the Eagles earning a bowl berth for the third consecutive season for the first time in program history. Eastern faced five teams that earned bowl invitations during the season, including three of its four non-conference opponents in Howard, Minnesota, and Jacksonville State.



Led by a strong defense and outstanding special teams, the Eagles finished the regular season ranked in the top 25 in several team categories, including 21st in red zone defense (76.9 percent) and 12th in defending fourth down attempts (36.4 percent). The backbone of the defense was the dynamic duo of linebackers Chase Kline (Chardon, Ohio/Chardon/Michigan State) and Joe Sparacio(Naples, Fla./First Baptist Academy/Boston College), who rank second (12.7 tackles per game) and seventh (11.2), respectively, on the national lists. Each posted single-game highs for tackles that led the nation, including Kline's 23 against Akron, Nov. 14, ranking as the most in a single game this year in the FBS while Sparacio's 22 against Western Michigan, Oct. 28, rank as the second-most in 2023.



Special teams also were outstanding on the season. Punter Mitchell Tomasek (Columbus, Ohio/Worthington Kilbourne), the program's lone All-MAC First Team honoree in 2023, ranks 20th nationally in punting with an average of 45.3 yards per boot and is one of only three players nationally to record two punts of 70+ yards on the year as he boomed one 72 yards at Jacksonville State, Sept. 23, and another for 70 yards at home against Ball State, Oct. 7. On the receiving side of the punts, the Eagles rank 19th nationally with 12.0 yards per punt return. Additionally, kickoff returns for scores by Hamze El-Zayat (Dearborn, Mich./Fordson/Fordham), Jaylon Jackson (Burleson, Texas/Centennial/Lamar), and Kendric Nowling (Chicago, Ill./Marist) made the Eagles one of only two schools nationally with multiple kick returns for scores.



On the offensive side of the ball, running back Samson Evans (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge/Iowa) once again showed his scoring prowess as he found the end zone 12 times – and added one through the air to move to 6-of-6 passing in his career, including five touchdown passes – to lead the team in scoring once again. Ranked 22nd nationally in rushing touchdowns, Evans is currently second among all active FBS running backs for career touchdowns at 41, a number that ranks him fourth in total touchdowns scored.



"It is a special year for us, as we celebrate our 25th year of providing great match-ups and bringing the post season, Bowl Season, to Mobile, Alabama," said 68 Ventures Bowl President Jerry Silverstein. "The game is proud to welcome back to the city of Mobile, Eastern Michigan and to have South Alabama making their first appearance.



68 Ventures (68V) is the parent company for numerous operating businesses along the Gulf Coast which focus on development, investment, and construction. Headquartered in Daphne, Ala., 68V is a purpose-driven, culturally focused organization with a strong operational track record that has resulted in it becoming the largest single-family developer within the region, deploying well over a billion dollars in capital, and reaching the rank of one of the top 100 private home builders.



Bowl games in Mobile have had a penchant for high-scoring games. Through 24 games, the teams have combined for 1,519 total points, an average of 63.3 points per game. Two of the highest scoring games in NCAA bowl history have taken place in Mobile. Marshall defeated East Carolina, 64-61, in double-overtime in 2001, while Toledo outscored Arkansas State, 63-44, in 2005



One of 14 bowl games played in an active college football stadium, the 68 Ventures Bowl is also one of 10 bowl games played in an on-campus stadium, joining Arizona, Boise State, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, FAU, Navy, New Mexico, SMU, and TCU. Four other bowl games are played in college stadiums, but at off-campus sites. UAB (Protective Stadium), USF (Raymond James Stadium), Memphis (Liberty Bowl), and UCLA (Rose Bowl) also host bowl games.



Last season, Eastern Michigan took home the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl title with a 41-27 victory over San Jose State, Dec. 19, 2022. Its only other victory came in the 1987 California Bowl, also against SJSU. All told, three of EMU's postseason appearances have come down to the wire, with plenty of high drama playing out on national television. The Eagles came up short against Old Dominion, 24-20, in the 2016 Bahamas Bowl, while Georgia Southern provided heartbreak with a game-winning field goal, 23-21, at the 2018 Camellia Bowl. Then, in front of a record-breaking crowd at the 2019 Quick Lane Bowl, Pittsburgh overtook EMU with 47 seconds remaining for a 34-30 victory at Ford Field.  



Ohio (Myrtle Beach Bowl), Miami (Avocados from Mexico Cure Bowl), Northern Illinois (Camellia Bowl), Eastern Michigan (68 Ventures Bowl), Bowling Green (Quick Lane Bowl) and Toledo (Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl) will represent the MAC in bowl games this season.


 


This marks the eighth time in MAC history to have six or more programs receive a bowl invitation (2012, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023) in a single-season. This also marks the 14th time in MAC history to have five or more programs receive a bowl invitation (2004, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023) in a single-season. 



"I want to congratulate our coaches and student-athletes for earning a bowl bid this postseason," said MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher. "The matchups this year are compelling, and we look forward to some exciting competition over the course of the bowl season. I am confident that our bowl partners will do an exceptional job of providing a first-class experience for our institutions."



2023 MAC Bowl Schedule


Myrtle Beach Bowl


Ohio (9-3, 6-2 MAC) vs. Georgia Southern (6-6, 3-5 Sun Belt)


Saturday, Dec. 16 | 11 a.m. ET | ESPN


 


Avocados from Mexico Cure Bowl


Miami (11-2, 7-1 MAC) vs. App State (8-5, 6-2 Sun Belt)


Saturday, Dec. 16 | 3:30 p.m. ET | ABC


 


Camellia Bowl


NIU (6-6, 5-3 MAC) vs. Arkansas State (6-6, 4-4 Sun Belt)


Saturday, Dec. 23 | Noon ET | ESPN


 


68 Ventures Bowl


Eastern Michigan (6-6, 4-4 MAC) vs. South Alabama (6-6, 4-4 Sun Belt) 


Saturday, Dec. 23 | 7 p.m. ET | ESPN


 


Quick Lane Bowl


Bowling Green (7-5, 5-3 MAC) vs. Minnesota (5-7, 3-6 Big Ten)


Tuesday, Dec. 26 | 2 p.m. ET | ESPN


 


Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl


Toledo (11-2, 8-0 MAC) vs. Wyoming (8-4, 5-3 Mountain West)


Saturday, Dec. 30 | 4:30 p.m. ET | The CW/Barstool.TV



MAC Bowl Appearances Since 2016


Total • Institution


6 • Eastern Michigan, Toledo, Ohio


4 • Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Miami, Northern Illinois


3 • Buffalo


2 • Ball State, Kent State, Bowling Green


1 • Akron



State of Michigan Bowl Appearances Since 2016


7 • Michigan


6 • Eastern Michigan


4 • Central Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan



About Eastern Michigan University Athletics


Eastern Michigan University has been a member of the Mid-American Conference since 1971 and has been among the league's most successful members. The Division I program boasts 157 MAC team championships, the most of any team in the league during that span. Eastern Michigan, which has had a representative at every summer Olympics since 1960, has won 15 team national championships and 55 individual national titles since 1932. For more information about Eastern Michigan Athletics, visit EMUEagles.com.



About Eastern Michigan University


Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 14,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors, and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit emich.edu.

3 views0 comments
bottom of page