MAC notes: Western soaring after Northwestern stunner
It would be safe to say Western Michigan is in the midst of its best three-game stretch in program history.
The Broncos’ 22-21 win at Northwestern Saturday afternoon was their first over a Big Ten team since a 2008 victory over Illinois at Ford Field.
And, the dramatic comeback win over Northwestern, a 10-win team from last year, followed WMU’s first win over a top-25 team, the Broncos’ 35-30 win over No. 24 Toledo last November and its first bowl win, a 45-31 Bahamas Bowl victory over Middle Tennessee.
It was also the 11th straight year a MAC team has defeated a Big Ten team.
Western had nearly a 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession (39-21), outgained Northwestern by a 416-319 and took the lead with 5:35 left when Jamauri Bogan scored on a 1-yard run on fourth down to cap off a 12-play, 75-yard drive.
And, then the Broncos made a big defensive stand to hold on to the lead when linebacker and Illinois native Robert Spillane forced a fumble at the 1 and cornerback Davontae Ginwright (Southfield) pounced on the loose ball in the end zone.
“I’m very proud of our players,” said WMU coach P.J. Fleck said. “We knew we had to hold on to the ball, possess the ball, we went for it (and made it) on fourth down four times and we knew we were going to have to do that. We knew any type of short yardage we were going to go for it and our players did a tremendous job.
“When you look at the line of scrimmage, and that was a key, and we talked to our players about it and how we were going to have to find a way to dominate the line of scrimmage against a team that was bigger than us, deeper than us and at lots of different positions quite better than us. Our kids how, their heart, their will and their spirit, I think that took over. It’s a big win for our program and a big win for our community.”
It also helps to have a veteran quarterback like Zach Terrell, who connected on 26 of 36 passes for 218 yards and didn’t turn the ball over.
Terrell’s top target, of course, was first-team All-MAC receiver Corey Davis (7 receptions, 70 yards), but he spread the ball around by finding nine different players, including completions to Carrington Thompson, Michael Henry and tight end Donnie Ernsberger on the winning drive, answering the question if they could overcome the loss of Daniel Braverman, who had 108 receptions for 1,371 yards last season before opting to leave after his junior year for the NFL.
Western hosts North Carolina Central Saturday night at Waldo Stadium before playing at Illinois Sept. 17. North Carolina Central, an FCS team which earned a share of the MEAC title, was crushed by Duke, 49-6, Saturday.
Eastern piles ups the points
Chris Creighton had the perfect start to Year 3 as head coach of Eastern Michigan, guiding the Eagles to a 61-14 win over Mississippi Valley State. They piled up 479 total yards and were 9-for-9 in the red zone.
The 61 points were the most scored by Eastern in a game since 2004.
Sure, Mississippi Valley State was a 1-10 FCS team last season, but Eastern dominated from the early going, forcing a pair of turnovers to jump to a 21-0 first-quarter lead.
“There’s a healthy confidence of what we’re capable of,” said Creighton of his quarterback Todd Porter who completed 15-of-22 for 171 yards and three TDs. “In the first game, his poise was really good. I thought he was composed and ran our offense and did a good job.
“He got here in January and one of the things I like about Todd so much is he has done everything he’s supposed to do and more to learn our offense and to develop and build relationships with guys on his team and the staff.”
Running back Shaq Vann ran for 156 yards on 20 carries and had two TDs and former Clarkston All-Stater Ian Eriksen had 97 yards on 12 carries and two TDs.
Next up for Eastern is a Saturday night game at Missouri and the Tigers will be in a bad mood after losing at West Virginia, 26-11. Creighton has yet to announce his starting quarterback.
“Brogan (Roback) will be playing this season and we feel really good about how Todd played last week,” Creighton said.
Roback entered the season as Eastern's No. 1 quarterback, but was suspended for the opener. Porter or Roback will have their hands full against Missouri.
“It’s no secret that they have been and continue to be a very, very good defense,” Creighton of Missouri. "They play a lot of people up front with their defensive line and they are very talented, they’re big and athletic. It’s going to be tough sledding running the football. Again, they just don’t let people get big plays.”
Central wins with running game
There’s no doubt senior quarterback Cooper Rush makes Central Michigan's offense go, but second-year coach John Bonamego knew coming into the season the running game had to improve.
Well, junior tailback Devon Spalding showed he is fully healthy, running for 135 yards on 15 carries, including a 69-yard TD run on the opening series in a 49-3 rout of Presbyterian Thursday.
Spalding suffered a broken collarbone against Northern Illinois in early October last year and missed the rest of the season.
“We were able to get things going quickly in the game with a long run by Devon Spalding,” Bonamego said. “We struggled moving the ball on the ground all year last year so for us to be able to establish the run was a great confidence boost for not just our offense, but our whole team. That was a major point of emphasis for us, a great part of our identity and what we are so to be able to have success on the ground was very encouraging.”
Central had 492 total yards, 255 rushing.
Rush was solid too, completing 16-of-26 for 237 yards and a TD, but also threw a pair of picks, something that will have to be cleaned up before Saturday’s game at Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State defeated Southeastern Louisiana 61-7 with former Melvindale standout linebacker Devante Averette making four tackles and forcing a fumble for Oklahoma State.
The Chippewas played tough against Oklahoma State last year in a 24-13 loss at Mount Pleasant, actually holding a 13-10 lead in the third quarter.