MAC notes: Western’s Franklin rushes back to the top

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Jarvion Franklin

Western Michigan junior running back Jarvion Franklin isn’t in the doghouse anymore.

Franklin rushed for a school-record 281 yards in Western’s 41-0 win over Akron on Saturday, and on Sunday the 7-0 Broncos moved up to No. 20 in the AP poll.

Franklin earned the MAC Offensive Player of the Year award his freshman season when he rushed for 1,551 yards and 24 TDs. Now, he has put together the best three-game run of his career.

He has 87 carries for 582 yards and four TDs in wins over Central Michigan (49-10), Northern Illinois (45-30) and Akron. He is seventh in the nation in rushing with 795 yards on 135 carries, pushing him over the 3,000-yard mark (3,081) for his career.

The Broncos (7-0, 3-0) will play the MAC’s most improved team in Eastern Michigan (5-2, 2-1) Saturday afternoon at Waldo Stadium. They will enter the game as a 22 1/2-point favorite despite the Eagles winning three straight road games for the first time since 1967.

Franklin was in coach P.J. Fleck’s doghouse last year, losing his starting job to Jamauri Bogan after too many fumbles.

Franklin had just 48 carries for 213 yards in the first four games this season while Bogan got the bulk of the carries and helped the Broncos earn wins over Northwestern and Illinois.

Then, Bogan was plagued by injuries, opening the door for Franklin, who had 33 carries in the win over the Zips Saturday.

Western’s scorching start makes P.J. Fleck hot prospect

Franklin put on nearly 10 pounds of muscle during spring ball and is now playing at 6-0, 226 pounds.

“He has matured so much, he’s grown so much and he is a way better student of the game,” said Fleck of Franklin. “He’s more of a leader than he’s ever been. He’s stronger, more agile, tougher and has learned from his past.”

The Eagles, 1-11 last season, are attempting to earn their first winning season since 1995 and in the process gain their first bowl appearance since 1987, when they last won the MAC title.

“They are a much improved football team,” said Fleck of the Eagles. “Chris Creighton has done an outstanding job there. He really rebuilt it and you can see his players believe in the culture. They believe in him. They believe in each other and they play their tails off. They have a really good defensive scheme. They have an incredible defensive line. They rotate guys in there, four in and four out, and they stay fresh.

“I think the game’s always won in the trenches and their quarterback (Brogan Roback) is playing at a high level and he’s not getting much pressure on him.”

Creighton is thrilled with EMU’s start and is busy trying to find a way to slow down WMU’s high-powered offense with quarterback Zach Terrell, receiver Corey Davis and Franklin among the weapons.

Terrell completed 21-of-31 for 207 yards and two TDs against Akron and now has thrown for 1,597 yards and 17 TDs without an interception this season. He topped the 10,000-yard mark (10,161) for his career.

“Our guys have responded to nearly every challenge we’ve set before them and we know that this will be a huge challenge,” Creighton said. “Western’s a great football team. They are playing great football. They have a lot of talent and a lot of momentum and I think our guys will take this as a great opportunity to go out there and compete."

Creighton has to feel good about the Eagles’ line play. They have given up an average of 139.9 yards on the ground this season, compared to 316.5 a year ago, and their offensive line allowed just one sack against an Ohio team that entered the day leading the nation in sacks with 25.

The Eagles defeated Ohio 27-20 with Roback having the best game of his career, completing 29-of-39 for 347 yards and three TDs without an interception.

Central winning the close ones

Central Michigan (5-2, 2-1) has bounced back from its 39-point home loss to Western Michigan by winning consecutive close games against Ball State (24-21) and at Northern Illinois (1-6, 1-2) Saturday, 34-28 in triple overtime.

The Chips also beat Oklahoma State 30-27 in Week 2.

“I think it comes from our toughness and resolve and that really starts with the leadership we have on this team,” said CMU second-year coach John Bonamego of the Chippewas’ ability to pull out close wins. “It’s a gritty group and offensively you look at (quarterback) Cooper Rush and what he’s been able to do. He’s going to fight until the very end and that’s contagious. I’m just real proud of how we finished that game.”

CMU finished the game with a blocked field goal, followed by Rush finding tight end Tyler Conklin for a 25-yard TD.

Rush threw for 254 yards and three TDs with two interceptions. The Chippewas were also able to run the ball (50 carries, 230 yards) with Devon Spalding showing he is now healthy with 124 yards and a TD. Senior linebacker Nathan Ricketts had three tackles for loss and had an interception in overtime.

CMU will play at Toledo (5-1, 2-0) Saturday, trying to end a six-game slide in the rivalry.