MAC notes: Broncos are on track as MAC schedule begins

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Junior running back LeVante Bellamy (2) leads Western Michigan with 389 yards rushing and a 7.8 yards-per-carry average over four games.

Second-year head coach Tim Lester has steered the Western Michigan ship in the right direction after its 0-2 start with losses to Syracuse and Michigan.

The Broncos earned an impressive 34-15 win over Georgia State this past weekend at Turner Field in Atlanta, piling up 294 yards on the ground with Jamauri Bogan and LeVante Bellamy both having 100-yard games.

Junior quarterback Jon Wassink was highly efficient, completing 20-of-25 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

Now, the Broncos (2-2) — who are averaging 225 yards rushing per game — will play their Mid-American Conference opener Saturday at Miami (Ohio) (1-3, 1-0) before returning to Kalamazoo for a Homecoming tilt with Eastern Michigan on Oct. 6.

Miami (Ohio) won its MAC opener, 38-23, at Bowling Green behind a strong rushing performance from Alonzo Smith (164 yards, 19 carries).

Wassink has completed over 60 percent of his passes for 984 yards and eight touchdowns with freshman receiver Jayden Reed emerging as a big weapon. He grabbed seven passes for 101 yards and a touchdown at Georgia State after returning a punt 93 yards for a score the previous week against Delaware State.

Lester is expecting a battle in the MAC opener.

“Defensively, I think they are a great team,” Lester said. “They’re physical up front and they’ll come at you and hit you in the mouth and challenge you at the line of scrimmage.”

Chips eye upset

Buffalo put on a dominating performance in a 42-13 victory at Rutgers Saturday to give the Mid-American Conference a third win over a Big Ten Conference team in as many weeks.

Eastern Michigan defeated Purdue 20-19 on Sept. 8 and then Akron came away with a 39-34 win at Northwestern Sept. 15.

So, can Central Michigan come up with an upset to give the MAC another win Saturday in East Lansing against No. 21 Michigan State?

CMU’s chances to pull off the upset are slim at best, but the Chippewas are thrilled to have the opportunity after earning their first win of the season ove FCS No. 13 Maine, 17-5, at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

The Chippewas have a few wins over the Spartans in East Lansing, consecutive victories in 1991 and 1992 that stamped Herb Deromedi’s name in the College Football Hall of Fame and in 2009 when Antonio Brown worked his magic at Spartan Stadium.

However, this CMU team is not nearly as talented or experienced, with 20 redshirt or true freshmen already having taken the field.

Still, CMU fourth-year head coach John Bonamego knows he will be getting the best efforts from his Chippewas, dozens of whom have competed against current Spartans at the high school level and feel they should be competing at the Big Ten level.

CMU redshirt junior defensive lineman Mike Danna might be one of those players who feels like he should be playing at a Power Five Conference team. He led Warren De La Salle to the Division 2 title in 2014, earning a spot on The News Dream Team and is now one of the premier defenders in the MAC, coming up with four sacks and five tackles for loss in the win over Maine.

CMU junior quarterback Tommy Lazzaro earned his first start against Maine and completed 7-of-16 for 82 yards with a TD and interception, while rushing for 44 yards and a TD.

“Tommy, that was his first start and I thought he handled everything really well and he’s a very intelligent young man and has improved leaps and bounds since he came into our program and there’s not a lot of things that he can’t handle,” Bonamego said. “The thing that he does exceptionally well is move in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield and if need be he can improvise and make plays with his legs. We have some designed runs for him which is the main staples of our offense and that’s how he scored his first touchdown against Maine.

“We have a talented core of young receivers that are finding their way, getting better every week and as they accumulate more and more game experience I expect that the offense will improve as that goes along. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a young player have success. We’ve played an awful lot of young players, I think we’re up to 16 redshirt freshmen, eight redshirt sophomores and four or five true freshmen have played and a number of those kids are starting. We’re talented, but we’re just young at some spots and it’s fun to watch them grow.”

Of playing the Spartans, Bonamego said: “Michigan State’s a very, very good football team. They certainly have our attention. We’re a young football team and we’re just going to try and execute the things that we’re capable of doing.”

Eagles clipped late again

Eastern Michigan defeated Purdue on a last-second field goal but is failing to finish other games.

Eastern battled back from a 17-3 deficit against San Diego State on Saturday, then settled for a 20-17 lead on Chad Ryland’s 24-yard field goal with 3:18 left. San Diego State forced overtime with a 50-yard field goal, then won the game, 23-20, with a 38-yarder after Eagles quarterback Mike Glass threw an interception on the second play of OT.

Glass completed 9-of-16 passes for 153 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Tyler Wiegers finished 8-for-11 passing for 83 yards.

“They are both good players, both do a good job of leading the offense,” Eastern coach Chris Creighton said of Glass and Wiegers. “Tyler came in and started the game and did a really good job, was effective and always has a really high completion percentage. He’s smart and gets us in the right play. Mike has the ability to use his feet and keep people honest in the run game, and we think the combination of the two of those guys makes us better.”

Glass rallied the Eagles back with a 2-yard touchdown run and a 37-yard TD pass to Arthur Jackson. His 54-yard toss to Line Latu on third down set up Ryland’s short field goal for EMU’s only lead late in regulation.

“I’m proud of their effort and there’s a lot to take away from the game that are positives,” Creighton said. “But the hard piece is that we didn’t finish it with a victory, something that was there for the taking but weren’t able to do it.”

Eastern (2-2, 0-1) will play host to Northern Illinois this Saturday. The Eagles have lost eight of their last 14 games by seven points or less, with four of those setbacks coming in OT.

Northern Illinois (1-3, 1-0), the preseason MAC West favorite, is coming off a 37-19 loss at Florida State despite forcing four turnovers.