Scary scene reminds WMU's Fleck of tragedy at Rutgers

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Carrington Thompson is helped by medical personnel after being tackled by Central Michigan's Otis Kearney Saturday night.

Mount Pleasant – There was a scary scene in Saturday night's Western Michigan-Central Michigan game.

And it was all too familiar to WMU coach P.J. Fleck.

In the second quarter, WMU quarterback Zach Terrell found receiver Carrington Thompson for a 22-yard gain up the middle, before Thompson was drilled by CMU defensive back Otis Kearney.

Thompson popped right up and started to run off the field, before he collapsed and fell forward. He tried to get up again before staff held him down.

He was on the ground for several minutes, before walking off slowly under his own power – to the sidelines, where Fleck was waiting with a hug.

"Here's the thing, these players are my children," Fleck said. "I have two sons at home. I also have 105 sons here.

"And I was around (coaching) at Rutgers when Eric LeGrand broke his neck. Any type of hit brings back so many memories of that, and you immediately respond, 'That's my child, is he OK?'"

LeGrand was paralyzed in an October 2010 game against Army. Fleck was then the receivers coach at Rutgers.

Thompson, a senior receiver from Houston, didn't return to the game, but Fleck said that was as a precaution. He believes he'll be fine.

Kearney originally was called for targeting on the play, but that call was overturned on replay and he remained in the game.

Fleck agreed with that decision, calling it "a clean hit."

Close call

It's tough to tell right now which is better – WMU's offense or its defense.

For the second straight week, the Broncos scored on a pick-six, when Darius Phillips took a Cooper Rush pass 85 yards the other way for a touchdown. Yet, the offense is formidable, too, with Terrell making good decisions, a history-making receiver in Corey Davis, and a deep stable of running backs.

Paul: Fleck, Western Michigan cherish time they have together

"We definitely have an amazing offense," WMU linebacker Keion Adams said. "I'm definitely not going to give it to the offense."

Then he laughed.

"I mean, who knows?" Adams said. "That's up for y'all to decide."

Fleck certainly isn't going to pick sides, but it was hard not to be impressed with the defensive line Saturday. Rush, arguably the best quarterback in the Mid-American Conference, was harassed all game long, sacked seven times. He threw one pick and fumbled once.

"The only way you can have a shot at beating Cooper Rush is by getting some type of pressure on him," Fleck said. "But not one time, because he's tough. You can't do it two times, you can't do it three times, you gotta continue to keep coming."

Taking care of the ball

It brought a smile to Fleck's face when he was told Saturday night that, earlier in the day, Maryland had two turnovers.

"Is that right?" Fleck said.

It's significant because, now, Western Michigan remains the only Division I program without a turnover this season.

The Broncos have nine takeaways – including two Saturday – and no giveaways.

"Well, we have a saying, 'The ball is the program,'" Fleck said. "We were minus-15 in Year 1, and we were 1-11."

In other words, it's no coincidence WMU is plus-nine this year, and 5-0.


WMU has won seven straight, dating to last season. That's the fourth-longest active streak in the country, behind Alabama (17), Houston (eight) and Washington (eight). WMU last won eight straight in 2000.

Twitter @tonypaul1984