YPSILANTI, Mich. — Protesters gathered near an end zone and marched on the field after Eastern Michigan’s 27-24 victory over Wyoming on Friday night, three days after racial graffiti was found spray painted on a campus building.
The students sat peacefully and talked to EMU President James Smith late in the third quarter. They moved outside the end zone area in the closing moments before walking onto the field chanting, “No justice! No peace!” A Wyoming player joined them for a few moments.
The national anthem was played early while the teams were off the field, with the university citing safety and security concerns.
The graffiti was found Tuesday and included the letters “KKK” and a racial epithet. School officials say another racial slur was found Wednesday in a stairwell. Authorities also are investigating after an SUV pushed through a crowd protesting the graffiti Tuesday.
Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton said the protesters didn’t seem “aggressive” but were just “inching closer” near the end of the game. He spoke with the referees, and they told him they trusted security to handle the crowd.
Creighton and the Eagles walked onto the field linking arms Friday after meeting Thursday night to discuss “the things that are going on in our country and on our campus.
“And it was a very positive, very deep, very meaningful, respect-filled conversation among our team,” he said. “I was super proud of the dialogue we had.”
Eastern Michigan (3-1) rallied to win, taking the lead on Ian Eriksen’s 15-yard run with 1:35 left.
Brogan Robach, last year’s starting quarterback, guided the winning four-play, 47-yard drive in his first action after being suspended for the start of the season. Eriksen, who had 120 yards on 27 carries, scored untouched on a draw play .
Wyoming (2-2) held the lead most of the game, opening the scoring when Marcus Epps intercepted Todd Porter’s pass and returned it 66 yards midway through the first quarter. The Cowboys took a 24-20 lead with 12:45 to go when Logan Wilson returned Porter’s interception 27 yards.
“The secondary is playing more explosive,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “It is very encouraging to see their play develop.”
After the Cowboys built a 17-3 lead, the Eagles, off to their best start since going 3-1 in 1995, tied it at 17 by the half. Breck Turner went 50 yards for his first career score, and Porter found John Niupalau for a 7-yard score 18 seconds before intermission.
Jeremiah Harris blocked a Wyoming field goal attempt in the final minute of the third quarter.
“It was a hard fought game and we knew we were evenly matched,” Bohl said, “We had good things happen, but had also had some things happen that need to be corrected.”