MAC notebook: Chippewas cast as spoiler in rivalry matchup with red-hot Broncos
Sure, everyone knows all about the Michigan-Michigan State game Saturday afternoon in East Lansing, but there will be another big rivalry game going on that day about an hour north when Western Michigan plays Central Michigan at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
And, CMU would love nothing more than spoiling the Broncos’ season, especially since the Chippewas are coming off a heartbreaking 24-23 loss at home to Ball State Saturday on a field goal with 47 seconds left to leave them at 1-6 (0-3 MAC).
And, WMU has had to battle back from second half deficits in all three MAC games, including a 27-14 deficit to beat Miami of Ohio 40-39, and a 28-14 deficit to win at Bowling Green 42-35 this past Saturday.
Western trailed the entire game at Bowling Green before scoring consecutive touchdowns during the final 11 minutes, finally taking the lead with 5:06 remaining when Jamauri Bogan scored on a 3-yard run to cap off an 86-yard drive.
“Obviously, that’s a red-letter game for both teams or it wouldn’t be a rivalry,” said Central coach John Bonamego. “It will have a lot of emotions tied to it and there’s going to be a lot of energy. It’s a great rivalry and a fun rivalry to be a part of it.
“It’s something that’s very important to both sides. We’re playing for something so there’s a tangible reward after the game in the Cannon Trophy and both sides want it desperately. It will bring out the best in both teams.”
No doubt, there will be more on the line for the Broncos who can capture a pair of trophies with a win, the Cannon Trophy and the Michigan MAC Championship Trophy, both won by the Chippewas a year ago when they battled back from a 28-14 third-quarter deficit, scoring 21 fourth-quarter points to beat the Broncos 35-28 in Kalamazoo.
So, what makes the Broncos’ offense so powerful? They are averaging 36.5 points and 483 yards a game.
“They are a team that’s very deep in the backfield, have four running backs that they roll through there and there’s no drop off,” Bonamego said. “Their offensive line is big, they’re strong and they play together. They’re sound in everything they do. (Jon) Wassink is back at quarterback. He’s very smart. He doesn’t make many mistakes and they have speed at the receiver position.”
Western has displayed a balanced attack all season, and it was never more apparent than in Saturday’s win at Bowling Green when junior quarterback Jon Wassink threw for 286 yards and two TDs and the Broncos rushed for 282 yards, 199 coming during the second half comeback.
Wassink ranks eighth nationally in passing yards (1,924 yards, 16 TDs, 6 INTs) and has been sacked just four times all season. Junior LeVante Bellamy is the MAC’s leading rusher (676 yards, 6.6 yards a carry) and Bogan was the MAC West Offensive Player of the Week for scoring four TDs against the Falcons, ultimately resulting in Bowling Green head coach Mike Jinks being fired Sunday.
This will be Wassink’s first taste of the Western-Central rivalry since he missed last year’s game with a broken collarbone.
Meanwhile, junior Jonathan Ward could miss the game. Ward was the hero in last year’s win, rushing for 137 yards and a 29-yard TD to start the comeback. He has missed the last two games due to an undisclosed injury.
Despite Ward’s absence, Central rushed for 261 yards (50 attempts) against Ball State with junior Romello Ross picking up 111 and quarterback Tommy Lazzaro, 110.
And, while the Broncos have a lot to feel good about, WMU second-year head coach Tim Lester can still have their attention by drilling it inside their minds how they have to do a better job of eliminating the big play after Bowling Green had seven plays of 30 or more yards, including a 74-yard TD run and a 76-yard TD pass.
Fortunately for the Broncos, safety Justin Tranquill stepped up and made a few big plays to stop Bowling Green’s final two drives, breaking up a third down pass on the first one, then putting pressure on quarterback Jarrett Doege on a fourth down play at the Western 15 on the second one, resulting in an interception by Anton Curtis who also picked off Doege on a Hail Mary pass from midfield on the game’s final play.
Obviously, Curtis (Detroit East English) has made a successful move from receiver to cornerback this season.
Eagles make statement
Eastern Michigan earned its statement win Saturday afternoon, defeating Toledo for the first time since 2006 with a 28-26 victory at Rynearson Stadium.
Eastern jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead, led by junior Mike Glass III who made his first start at quarterback and threw for 100 yards and rushed for 125 yards and two TDs before getting sidelined with a leg injury just before halftime with the Eagles leading 28-3.
Still, the Eagles had to make a great play on a two-point conversion to prevent overtime. They had lost 10 of their previous 16 games by a touchdown or less.
Toledo quarterback Mitchell Guadagni scored on a 10-yard TD run on fourth-down play with 20 seconds left to pull the Rockets within 28-26, but Freddie McGee III knocked away a two-point conversation attempt to secure the win for the Eagles (3-4, 1-3) who ended a four-game losing streak.
“It was obviously a bummer that he (Glass) wasn’t able to finish the game,” said Eastern head coach Chris Creighton, who wouldn’t elaborate on Glass’ injury. “He’s been effective in all the games he’s played in. He allows us to run the ball a little more effectively because he can keep people accountable. He throws the ball really well, was 6-for-8 in the first half. He’s not lightning fast or anything like that, but knows how to move his body and read it and take what people give him so that’s the difference between the first and second half.”
So, how big was the win over Toledo?
“I just think that Toledo is a program and for me that’s a huge compliment," Creighton said. "They are not a team year-to-year, but a program and that’s what we are aspiring to be. We feel really good about being able to finish a close game. I’m proud of our guys.”
Now, Eastern has a chance to make a run,since the Eagles have having played the top teams in the West Division in Northern Illinois, Western and Toledo. The Eagles will play at Ball State (3-4, 2-1) Saturday with a Nov. 3 date at home against CMU, Nov. 10 home game against Akron (2-3, 0-2) and road game at Kent State (1-6, 0-3). EMU will play Army (4-2) on Homecoming Oct. 27.