Western Michigan has no problem working overtime, earning its second OT win in the past three weeks Saturday with a 20-17 victory over Eastern Michigan at Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti.
The Broncos pulled out a 71-68 win at Buffalo in a record 7 OTs on Oct. 7 and needed a win over the Eagles to remain in the hunt for the MAC West title after suffering a 14-13 home loss on Oct. 15 against Akron in Kalamazoo.
While WMU (5-3, 3-1) has no problem going to OT, the same can’t be said for the Eagles (2-5, 0-3) who dropped their second overtime game of the season, falling to Ohio 27-20 in 2 OTs at Rynearson Sept. 23 which, by the way, started a five-game losing streak with each of the losses one-possession games.
That’s right, no other team in the nation has experienced five consecutive gut-wrenching losses by a combined total of 20 points.
WMU first-year coach Tim Lester is looking forward to having a little extra time before the Broncos’ next game, a Wednesday Night showdown Nov. 1 against rival Central Michigan (4-4, 2-2).
“The biggest thing is to just get them healthy,” Lester said. “We have a lot of people banged up after eight weeks straight and we took them to the pool this morning and tried to do a less impact workout in the pool and we’re giving them a day off tomorrow.
“We’re going to slowly take these couple of days to recover, then we’ll start out with Central Michigan on Wednesday. We have a couple of extra days, but we really just want to make sure that we get as many people dressed on that Wednesday, November 1st when they (Chippewas) come into town.”
Yes, the rivalry game against CMU at Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo will be a big one for the Broncos who will try to clinch their fourth straight Michigan MAC championship — a sweep of EMU and CMU — while setting up their final quarter of the season, a home game against Kent State (2-6, 1-3) on Nov. 8, followed by road games at Northern Illinois (5-2, 3-0) Nov. 15 and Toledo (6-1, 3-0) on Nov. 24.
Lester is hoping the shoulder injury to redshirt sophomore quarterback Jon Wassink isn’t a serious one, but he could be out for a week or more. Lester said he will know more when doctors check Wassink out on Tuesday.
Wassink was injured late in regulation. True freshman Reece Goddard helped the Broncos pull out the victory.
It would be a big blow to the Broncos if Wassink is sidelined for a long period of time since he completed 16-of-24 for 190 yards against the Eagles and has connected on 64.2 percent of his passes for 1,391 yards this season with 14 TDs and four interceptions.
“I know our doctor is coming in tomorrow to give us the final say,” said Lester of Wassink’s condition. “We got him back here and did X-rays. Obviously, it’s the throwing shoulder. So, we’ll find out more when the doctor looks at everything and gives us the final call. I don’t know if it’s one week, two-week or a six-week thing yet, but will know soon enough.
“I felt Reece did a good job. I let him know immediately, as soon as I knew Jon wasn’t coming back that it was his game and he did a good job using his feet and making good decisions ... He was 2-for-3 and one got tipped. He’s an exciting player. He’s young and has a lot of talent, He’s got great moxie with the ball in his hands when he gets in the pocket, and he’s a guy that it looks like we’ll have to lean on. I’m excited to watch him play, and every time he drops back I feel like something great could happen.”
WMU senior Jarvion Franklin became the Broncos’ all-time career rushing leader, earning his third consecutive 100-yard game, running for 104 yards on 24 carries and a TD to give him 4,281 for his career, 10th best in MAC history. He has 52 TDs, also a WMU record.
“He’s got such a great work ethic and for him to set the record, really he set two records Saturday, becoming the all-time leading rusher and also broke Corey Davis' touchdown record, so to be able to do that over a four-year period, especially for a running back with all the hits you take. He’s a tough kid, battles through nicks and bumps and I’m excited to be around him every single day,” said Lester of Franklin. “It’s been fun to coach him, and he really got the run game going and helped us control the game a little bit toward that second half as the offensive line continued to try and wear down their defense.”
WMU’s special teams were just that with punter Derrick Mitchell placing four punts inside the EMU 10.
And, for the Eagles? Well, they have little time to lick their wounds, playing at Northern Illinois on Thursday.
“We missed a chip shot field goal there to take it to a second overtime, had an unnecessary penalty which ended up being a 90-yard penalty and took seven points off the board in the fourth quarter and good football teams don’t do those things so very costly and very disappointing,” EMU coach Chris Creighton said. “We’re in a five-day turnaround here so that’s ancient history and we’re moving on towards NIU.
“I don’t think a five-day week is wise in any way, I think for the players’ safety issue, but it is what it is so we’ll be as ready as we can be. We’ll try to rest and prepare the best way we can. We’ll travel on Wednesday and be ready to go Thursday night.”
The Eagles had three turnovers and missed a field goal in OT after WMU freshman Josh Grant — who missed a 37-yarder in the final seconds of regulation — connected on a 21-yarder.
EMU’s first turnover, an interception thrown by Brogan Roback at the WMU 27, proved costly when the Broncos took advantage, scoring on a 73-yard drive with Wassink finding Keishawn Watson for an 11-yard TD and a 10-3 first-half lead.
EMU's Breck Turner fumbled at the WMU 12 with Andre Turner recovering in the third quarter, erasing another scoring chance. The Eagles also had a long TD run called back due to a penalty during the fourth quarter.
Chips get back to .500
Central Michigan quarterback Shane Morris has to be thrilled receiver Corey Willis and tight end Tyler Conklin are back to full health.
Morris completed 16-of-21 passes for 199 yards, which included scoring tosses of 31, 63 and 4 yards to Willis and a 34-yarder to Conklin in a 56-9 rout of Ball State Saturday. The victory evened CMU’s record at 4-4 overall, 2-2 in the MAC.
Conklin broke his foot early in training camp and Willis suffered a hand injury early in the season.
CMU had its running game going too, piling up 256 yards, led by sophomore Jonathan Ward who ran for 97 yards and two TDs.
“It was important for us, after a disappointing loss a week ago to Toledo at home, to get back to the grind and I credit the leadership in our locker room, the character of the kids in our program in staying the course and not letting one disappointing loss bleed into another week,” said CMU coach John Bonamego. “I thought they came out and inserted themselves. I thought our defense played exceptionally well and Joey Ostman, our captain and senior leader, had four sacks and that was the key to the game, how well we played defensively.
“Offensively, we found some rhythm and some balance in the running game. We were able to gain yards on the ground, which quite frankly was something we’ve been inconsistent with the last couple of years, so it was good for us to be able to see that. We feel we have a number of good backs on this team, good young backs.”
CMU senior defensive lineman Joe Ostman has 10 sacks, four coming against Ball State.
Redshirt sophomore running back Romello Ross (Detroit Western) showed he is back after missing all last season due to a knee injury. Ross, who had a 100-yard game in the Quick Lane Bowl loss to Minnesota in 2015, ran for 83 yards on 15 carries.
Sophomore Kumehnnu Gwilly (Utica) had 48 yards on six carries, including a 33-yard TD run.