YPSILANITI, Mich. -- It was only seconds after the opening kickoff that the Eastern Michigan football team found a fitting way to honor a fallen teammate.
EMU's Tyler Allen returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown against Ohio Saturday at Rynearson Stadium. In doing so, he became the first Eagles player to record a return touchdown since Demarius Reed returned a punt for a score in 2011.
Reed was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds early Friday morning in the hallway of an off-campus apartment building in what police said was an apparent robbery.
His Eagles teammates took to the field a little more than 24 hours after learning of his death, in a 56-28 loss to Ohio that was part football game, part tribute in front of 3,237 fans that braved a cold rain.
Ohio's Tyler Tettleton threw for 375 yards and four touchdowns, two in a 21-point burst in the final 5 minutes of the third quarter.
After the Eagles tied the game at 21 in the third, they were driving for the go-ahead score when Devin Bass picked off Tyler Benz in the end zone. On the next play Tettleton connected with Chase Cochran for an 80-yard touchdown. Tettleton finished three yards short of becoming the first Ohio quarterback with 8,000 passing yards.
Eastern Michigan (1-6, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) gave the heavily-favored Bobcats (5-2, 2-1) fits behind Bronson Hill, who ran for 257 yards and a touchdown.
"I know that our football team and our coaching staff really wanted to honor Demarius by giving our best effort and we wanted to give our best effort for four quarters," Eastern Michigan coach Ron English said in a recorded statement released by the school. "I thought our team and our coaches really played hard and really worked at it under a really difficult and trying last 24 hours or so."
Reed, a junior wide receiver who attended Simeon High School in Chicago, had started all six of Eastern Michigan's games and was the team's fourth-leading receiver with 15 catches for 185 yards and a touchdown. He had also returned seven punts on the year.
"We lost a terrific leader, a young man who really turned his life around and a young man who really became a Christian," English said. "This has been really difficult for all of us, but we really wanted as a team and as a program to honor Demarius today and we gave our best effort in doing that."
A moment of silence was held for Reed before the game, and team captains led the team out of the locker room holding his No. 2 jersey aloft.
Players wore helmet decals and jersey patches with Reed's number on them and one staff member even had the number two saved in the side of his head.
"We're going to stay together and keep the team together throughout the remainder of the season and continue to work on their character as young men, and that's really what our focus is," English said.