ESPN’s ‘GameDay’ headed to Western Michigan

David Goricki
The Detroit News
P.J. Fleck

Western Michigan is just one of two unbeaten teams remaining in FBS college football and the Broncos are being rewarded by having ESPN’s “College GameDay” show coming to Kalamazoo this weekend.

“A few days ago I got a text from Rece Davis, who I got to know over the course of the season, telling me you’re kind of in the running in Kalamazoo (for GameDay), what would it be like, what kind of environment would it be, those types of things and we found out today they picked us,” said the 35-year-old P.J. Fleck in a phone interview Sunday morning.

“I think this is one of the biggest things to ever hit Kalamazoo, I really do. I want the entire city to embrace this. I know for the four years that I’ve been that this could be one of the greatest things to ever come to Western Michigan, Kalamazoo and the surrounding areas and I want everybody to embrace it.

“This does not happen all the time. The last time GameDay came to a MAC school I was a player (at Northern Illinois) and they came to Bowling Green. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the community to show what we’re all about on a national stage for multiple days, and then obviously with the game. I expect a sellout, I expect this town to really be turned upside down and to really enjoy this experience.”

The Broncos, 10-0 and ranked No. 14, will host Buffalo at Waldo Stadium Saturday at 3:30.

“I don’t know the whole steps just yet, but they will be will us all week, not necessarily the guys you will see Saturday, but their news crew and some cameras will be with us all week,” said Fleck of the GameDay set up. “I assume they will come Thursday and start setting up at that point. We’ll know more later in the week, but I assume they will set up on campus, maybe right in our quad unless they do it right outside the stadium, those are some of the logistics we’ll figure out soon.

“I want to make sure this is open to anybody that wants to see GameDay, not just Bronco fans, but anybody who wants to come to Kalamazoo to experience what we’re about, whether you’re a Wolverine fan, a Michigan State fan, a Grand Valley fan, a Ferris State fan, this is an opportunity for Michigan to really come together and spend some time in Kalamazoo.”

Fleck is looking forward to display the Broncos’ high-scoring offense (44.4 points, 498.2 yards), led by quarterback Zach Terrell (70.3 percent, 2,445 yards, 23 TDs, 1 INT), Heisman-hype receiver Corey Davis (62 receptions, 1,029, 14 TDs) and 1,000-yard running back Jarvion Franklin (1,152, 10 TDs).

Terrell and Davis have hooked up for 47 career TD passes, four shy of the FBS record.

Fleck wasn’t shockingly surprised with this past weekend of upsets, resulting in Michigan, Clemson and Washington getting knocked out from the ranks of the unbeaten. Iowa defeated the third-ranked Wolverines 14-13 on a last-second field goal, Pittsburgh upset No. 2 Clemson 43-42 and USC defeated No. 4 Washington, 26-13.

The Broncos defeated Kent State 37-21 last Tuesday, coming back from a 14-0 deficit.

“It shows just how difficult it is to have 18-to-22-year-old kids play their best all the time, every single week," Fleck said. "I think it shows how incredibly hard that really is, where the demands of college football affect these guys, these kids to be perfect all the time.

“I think it just shows no matter how good of players they are, that nobody’s perfect, and it’s hard to be perfect, and it’s hard to be undefeated and it’s hard to bring you’re A-plus game every single week and that’s why you’re seeing some of these elite teams go down. On that particular day they didn’t play their absolute best. You get everybody’s A-plus game when you’re undefeated and if you bring your B-minus game you’re going to get beat because you’re everybody’s opportunity and you’re everybody’s big game.

“Anything can happen and that’s why college football is so great. It doesn't mean the best team that day is going to win, that’s why there are upsets all over the country. In college football, they are still 18 and 22-year-old young men, still students and you don’t know what’s going on in their life. It’s hard, week in and week out, not only to handle the pressure and the expectation, but be able to still perform with all of that, not only just on the field but off the field and we're talking academically, socially and emotionally.

"We’ve had a lot of kids this past years who have lost so many family members, one who had their brother die, we’ve had numerous grandparents pass away or parent pass away, and then you have school thrown in there, plus football thrown in there, plus you have their girlfriend breaking up with them. These are still kids and to get them to play at that level, that everybody expects is so difficult to do.”