Western Michigan coach Tim Lester talked after a 35-10 victory over Central Michigan on Saturday in Mount Pleasant. The Detroit News
Mount Pleasant — First Eastern Michigan, now Central Michigan.
Western Michigan has officially claimed the Michigan Mid-American Conference Trophy with two in-state wins during the last three weeks.
The Broncos rode running back tandem LeVante Bellamy and Jamauri Bogan past the Chippewas, 35-10, Saturday at Kelly/Short Stadium and to their sixth consecutive win.
Bellamy and Bogan combined for 241 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 38 total carries.
In its first three conference games, WMU (6-2, 4-0 MAC) beat Miami (Ohio) by one point, EMU by three and Bowling Green by seven. Needing a statement win in a rivalry game, Broncos coach Tim Lester’s group prevailed with authority in the 25-point thrashing.
“The way we lost last year was embarrassing,” Lester said. “I was proud of the way we came out and finished things today. Winning the trophy back is great, but we had to play the game first.”
Western Michigan defensive back Justin Tranquill talked after a 35-10 victory over Central Michigan on Saturday in Mount Pleasant. The Detroit News
As CMU (1-7, 0-4) took over its third offensive possession with 8:17 to play in the first quarter, the game was delayed due to lightning and restarted 33 minutes later.
Fifty-eight seconds into the second quarter, WMU defensive end Eric Assoua poked the ball free from CMU quarterback Tommy Lazzaro’s hands. It was picked up by linebacker Drake Spears and, one play later, the Broncos were in the end zone.
Bellamy found a gap in the defense and exploded for a 29-yard rushing touchdown, giving WMU a 14-0 advantage.
The Chippewas never fully responded.
WMU, picking up its first win against CMU since 2016, featured a vigorous defense, specifically in the first half. Of Central’s nine offensive possessions, six ended in a punt. The other three resulted in a turnover on downs, a fumble and an interception.
Safety Justin Tranquill intercepted Lazzaro as time expired in the first half. It was Tranquill’s first career pick and solidified a heroic effort by WMU’s defense through two quarters. Linebacker Alex Grace also made his first career interception in the fourth quarter.
“Two years ago when we played here, I had an interception in the exact same spot, but the refs called me out of bounds,” Tranquill said. “It’s just a blessing.”
Grace’s interception at the CMU 40-yard line set up a 3-yard quarterback keeper into the end zone by Jon Wassink for a 28-10 edge early in the fourth.
Wassink, accounting for three rushing touchdowns on eight carries, was not forced to throw the ball often against CMU’s defense. He finished 5-for-9 passing for 51 yards with no turnovers.
Back-to-back plays of 15 and 21 yards by Bellamy put WMU in the red zone, and Wassink executed. Fighting through a downpour, he faked a handoff to Bogan and scored from a yard out for a 7-0 lead just less than four minutes following the restart.
Western Michigan all-purpose back LeVante Bellamy talked after a 35-10 victory over Central Michigan on Saturday in Mount Pleasant. The Detroit News
“Whenever we are on the same page, it’s going to be a good day rushing the ball,” said Bellamy said, who rushed for 145 yards. “The game plan was to play our best and hope for a win.”
Facing another goal-line situation late in the first half, Wassink handed the ball to Bogan. He smashed through the defensive line to make it a 21-0 advantage for the Broncos.
CMU scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter, starting with a 40-yard field goal by Ryan Tice. Following the field goal, Romello Ross danced into the end zone for a 4-yard rushing touchdown to cut WMU’s edge to 21-10 heading into the fourth.
Lazzaro finished the game 9 of 24 passing for 104 yards and two interceptions. He added 38 rushing yards in the loss, while Julian Hicks made three catches for 57 yards.
Two fourth-quarter scores by WMU and multiple stalled CMU offensive drives switched momentum back to the Broncos.
Despite CMU’s third-quarter push, WMU’s defense slammed the door throughout the final 15 minutes to secure the win. The Broncos sacked Lazzaro four times, while Grace led the team with 11 total tackles.
“It means everything for the team and the city of Kalamazoo,” WMU center John Keenoy said. “It’s nice to bring the trophies back home.”
Evan Petzold is a freelance writer.