Brothers share spotlight in CMU-WMU rivalry
Expect Central Michigan star receiver Titus Davis to be a little emotional Saturday afternoon.
After all, it will be Davis' final game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Oh, and by the way, the opponent is bitter rival Western Michigan. And, the Broncos just so happen to be led by Davis' younger brother, Corey, who is developing into one of the nation's elite receivers.
This is the biggest game between the teams since 2008, when CMU and WMU still were fighting it out for the MAC West title — both eventually falling short to Ball State in the final weeks of the season.
Now, WMU (7-3, 5-1) enters the game with its hopes still alive for a MAC West title, after a 1-11 record a year ago.
The Broncos have the MAC's top-rated offense, averaging 36.2 points and 461 total yards. They have won five straight and need to win at Mt. Pleasant and then again in their regular-season finale Nov. 28 at home against Northern Illinois, coupled with a Toledo loss Wednesday night against Bowling Green, to win the West and get the chance to play in the conference championship game Dec. 5 at Ford Field.
CMU (7-4, 5-2) has the MAC's top-rated defense, limiting opponents to 22.4 points and 328 total yards. The Chippewas have won five of their last six games. This is their regular-season finale and they could use one more win to guarantee a bowl invitation. Sure, they have won seven games, but Toledo was sitting on the sidelines last year during the holiday season with a 7-5 record.
"There's a lot riding on this game," Titus Davis said. "I'm excited, sure it's going to be emotional. It's a big rivalry game, my last game at Kelly/Shorts and I'll be playing against my little brother."
Just how good is WMU's offense and CMU's defense? Well, you just have to look back at Eastern Michigan's last two games to find out. The Chippewas limited EMU to 97 total yards in a 38-7 rout last month.
On Saturday, the Broncos scored on all seven first-half possessions to take a 48-0 lead over EMU with quarterback Zach Terrell completing 13 of 14 passes for 340 yards. Terrell finished 17-of-19 for 357 and four TDs, and his 99.96 QBR was the second-best rating nationally in the last 10 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Corey Davis, a sophomore, is ninth nationally in receiving yards (56 receptions, 1,069 yards, nine TDs). He has 33 catches for 681 yards and six TDs during the five-game winning streak.
"I tried to talk him (Corey) into coming here to Central," Titus Davis said. "Then, when he went there (Western) he was still in my spotlight, but he surprised me last year, along with the rest of the nation. I'm proud of him. There's no one more proud of him than me."
Titus Davis has to be proud of himself after his eight-reception, 102-yard, three-TD effort in last Saturday's 34-27 win over Miami (Ohio), hauling in a 9-yard TD toss from Cooper Rush for the difference with just over 10 minutes left.
The huge performance gave Titus Davis nine TDs for the year, making him the lone receiver in FBS history to have eight or more touchdown receptions in all four years of his career.
"It's a nice accomplishment, but that's for you guys to talk and write about," Titus said. "I just need to focus on what's ahead and there's so much riding on this game.
"I remember my freshman year, not really knowing what the rivalry was all about and we got beat there, 44-to-14. I've hated them ever since. I want to beat them 44-to-14 this time around."
Titus Davis had nine receptions for 122 yards in last year's 27-22 win over the Broncos to end a two-year slide in the rivalry.
He has matured a great deal since that freshman year, both on and off the field. He was suspended for the Little Caesars Bowl his sophomore year, but has since settled down, gotten married and has a son.
"I've made mistakes before, just like any 18-, 19-year-old kid does, but I've matured since then," said Titus Davis, who has 49 receptions for 755 yards despite missing three games earlier this season with a knee injury. "Now, I've been blessed. I'm married and have a beautiful son. I'm playing for more than just myself."
The Chippewas will need to have a big game from Titus Davis, especially since the Broncos have a 1,000-yard rusher in true freshman Jarvion Franklin (1,356, 22 TDs), the 1,000-yard receiver in Corey Davis and an accurate quarterback in Terrell (2,668 yards, 19 TDs, six INTs), who is fourth nationally in passing percentage (69.7), completing 76 percent the last half-dozen games (122-of-160, 1,744 yards, 13 TDs, three INTs).
"I feel Corey Davis is one of the most elite receivers in the country, not just our conference," said P.J. Fleck, WMU's second-year coach. "The one thing about Corey is he constantly wants to get better and when your best players are your hardest workers, that's when you know the program is headed in the right direction.
"Corey is our hardest worker and he constantly wants to change, constantly wants to grow, wants more knowledge and that's a special quality for such an elite player. He's attacking the football. He's more aggressive and is a better route runner. He's smarter than he was last year and is more comfortable in the system. He's really just becoming more mature by the day and it's a lot of fun to watch him prepare and it's a lot of fun to watch him play."
Franklin, who injured his ankle in the win over EMU, is expected to play against the Chippewas.
"We had a night practice on Sunday and he looked OK," Fleck said. "Hopefully, he'll be ready to go."