MAC notes: Central, Western set up showdown with big wins
Last Saturday Western Michigan accomplished something it had never done before — defeating a pair of Big Ten teams in the same season with its dominating, 34-10 rout of Illinois.
In fact, the Broncos (3-0) became just the fourth team in Mid-American Conference history to get the job done. Bowling Green defeated Purdue and Maryland last season, then went on to win the MAC championship.
Central Michigan earned an impressive 44-21 win over UNLV at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant Saturday, a week after that miracle finish and 30-27 win at Oklahoma State.
The Broncos and Chippewas open the MAC season against each other Oct. 1 in Mount Pleasant, but both teams have business to take care of before that showdown.
The Chippewas will try to get a second win over a Power Five conference team when they play at Virginia Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Broncos have a payback in front of them, playing host to a Georgia Southern team which ran over the Broncos a year ago, 43-17 with Matt Breida rushing for 176 yards and scoring four TDs, including runs of 70 and 34 yards.
Breida is back and Georgia Southern will make the trip to Kalamazoo with a 3-0 record.
“Georgia Southern, out of the games we played last year, that was the one team that just physically kicked our butts, but it’s a different year and last year has nothing to do with this year,” said WMU coach P.J. Fleck, whose Broncos have won 10 of their last 12 games since a 1-3 start last year. “This team has had a lot of experiences and they are very smart and they know how to learn from the past and how to connect the dots going forward.”
Fleck pointed out that Georgia Southern went on to defeat MAC champion Bowling Green 58-27 in the GoDaddy Bowl last December.
The Broncos are getting the job done with a ball control offense which is pounding the ball on the ground with sophomore running back Jamauri Bogan leading the way. Bogan is fifth in the nation with 423 yards and four TDs, rushing for 189 yards on 24 carries and two TDs against Illinois.
“They handle their business, they’re a very tough group collectively, they all get along, they hang out with each other all the time and that carries over on the field,” Fleck said of WMU’s offensive line which helped the Broncos hold on to the ball for 40 minutes in their season-opening 22-21 win over Northwestern, then by a 35-25 margin over Illinois.
The Broncos also have an outstanding passing game with senior Zach Terrell completing 70 percent of his passes (50-of-71) for 623 yards and five TDs, completing 9-of-13 for 150 yards against Illinois.
WMU hasn’t turned the ball over this year.
Cooper Rush is enjoying a strong senior year for the Chippewas.
After connecting with Jesse Kroll, who then flipped the ball to Corey Willis for the winning TD against Oklahoma State, Rush came back to Mount Pleasant and gave the home fans some thrills by throwing for 352 yards and six TDs in the win over UNLV to give him 10,311 career passing yards.
Rush has completed 65.7 percent of his passes this season, throwing for 957 yards and 11 TDs.
“He’s a guy who has played a lot of football here, he’s playing at a high level and prepares at a high level,” CMU coach John Bonamego said of Rush. “He has all the qualities you want in a player, especially at that position.”
And, Rush has spread things around. CMU has four receivers with 10 or more catches, led by Mark Chapman (13 catches, 186 yards, two TDs), Kroll (12-205, TD) and Willis (11-182, four).
Bonamego is impressed by Willis, who had six receptions for 108 yards and two TDs against UNLV.
“Corey’s an intensely competitive guy,” Bonamego said. “If you put him in a checker match with his grandma, he’s going to try and beat her. That’s really where it starts with Corey, his intense, competitive nature and his heart. He’s worked really hard.”
Now, the Chippewas will try to get a second win against a Power Five Conference team for the first time in school history. Virginia has struggled in its first year under Bronco Mendenhall, the former BYU head coach.
Virginia is 0-3, including a season-opening 37-20 loss to FCS power Richmond and a 13-10 loss at Connecticut last Saturday.
Eastern Michigan has an opportunity to make a big statement Friday night at Rynearson Stadium by defeating Wyoming to open the season with a 3-1 record.
It’s nice to have wins against Mississippi Valley State and at Charlotte (37-19) on Saturday, but Mississippi Valley State is an FCS team which was 1-10 last year and Charlotte’s program is just four years old, beginning in 2013 and finishing 2-10 last season.
A win over Wyoming (2-1) would mean the Eagles have taken a major step in Chris Creighton’s third season. The last time EMU started a season 3-1 was 1995, also its last winning season.
The Eagles defeated Wyoming 48-29 last year, knocking out starter Josh Allen in the opening quarter. He was sidelined the rest of the season.
Allen, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound sophomore, is back and playing well, throwing for 245 yards and two TDs in a 40-34 overtime win over six-time defending MAC West champion Northern Illinois in the season opener.
“We don’t forget what happened in that series and a half when Josh Allen was quarterbacking against us last year,” noted Creighton. “They went right through us and it was 7-0, got the ball again and was going right through us before he injured his shoulder. So, watching him play is scary.”
Creighton is pleased with how Todd Porter has filled in for suspended starter Brogan Roback, whose suspension is over.
Porter threw for 171 yards and three TDs in the 61-14 rout of Mississippi Valley State, when the Eagles were 9-for-9 in the red zone, then completed 24-of-31 for 285 yards and two TDs with an interception against Charlotte.
“Brogan’s suspension is over so he’s good to go,” Creighton said. “Todd threw an early interception, but ended up 24-of-31 and took care of the ball from that point on (against Charlotte). He’s doing a really good job, getting better as we go, getting more and more familiar with the offense. We like what we’re seeing.
“He’s (Porter) quarterbacking us right now. We have two good quarterbacks. We’re fortunate that we have two guys than can run our offense and lead us.”
Roback completed 17-of-24 for 330 yards and three TDs in the win over Wyoming last year.
■Wyoming at Eastern Michigan, 7:30 p.m. CBSSN
■Central Michigan at Virginia, 12:30 p.m. FSD
■Georgia Southern at Western Michigan, 7 p.m.
■Kent State at 1 Alabama, noon SEC
■Gardner-Webb at Ohio, 2 p.m.
■Appalachian State at Akron, 3:30 p.m.
■Miami (Ohio) at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m. ESPN News
■Western Illinois at Northern Illinois, 3:30 p.m.
■Ball State at Florida Atlantic, 6 p.m.
■Army at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
■Bowling Green at Memphis, 8 p.m. ESPN News