MAC notes: WMU foe Georgia State operating at ‘new level’
Western Michigan and Central Michigan would like to put their lopsided losses against Big Ten teams in the rearview mirror as they move forward to Week 3.
The Broncos lost to No. 19 Michigan State 51-17 at Spartan Stadium Saturday while No. 17 Wisconsin blanked Central Michigan 61-0 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
WMU will play host Saturday night at Waldo Stadium to a Georgia State (2-0) team that upset Tennessee 38-30 in the season opener, while CMU plays host to Akron in the MAC opener for both teams at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
WMU third-year coach Tim Lester said the Broncos were about 85 percent in executing the game plan against the Spartans. Lester thought the Broncos could put 25-30 points on the Spartans.
WMU senior quarterback Jon Wassink did a good job of moving the offense, getting the ball to his receivers quickly. However, the Broncos failed to close out drives with points.
For instance, the Broncos moved the ball to the MSU 31 on the first drive, missing a 48-yard field goal, then had a drive stall at its own 44 when receiver DaShon Bussell hesitated after making a catch and coming up two yards short of a first down. They scored on their third drive, going 66 yards on 10 plays with Wassink finding tight end Giovanni Ricci for a 14-yard TD, but that was to pull them within 21-7.
The Broncos had two more opportunities to put points on the board in the second quarter, driving to MSU’s 10 after getting an interception, only to miss on a 27-yard field goal, then coming up empty after having a first-and-goal at the 3 when Wassink’s pass was intercepted in the end zone.
“They jumped on an early lead quickly, and we had a couple of chances to get back in it, missed two field goals, and threw an interception going in and that would have been our best chance to stay in it,” Lester said Monday. “Defensively they were stout. I thought we moved the ball fairly well. Jon did a good job of getting rid of the ball, and not letting the D-line wreak to much havoc on the game.
“A lot to learn from, but a lot of missed opportunities against a top-20 team, and you can’t miss any of those opportunities.”
The Broncos also have to get their running game going after picking up just 90 yards (33 carries) in their season-opening 48-13 win over Monmouth, when Wassink threw for 368 yards and five TDs, and just 67 yards (27 carries) against the Spartans.
WMU dominated a 2-10 Georgia State team down south last year, 34-15, when Wassink hit on 20-of-25 passes for 234 yards and three TDs while LeVante Bellamy ran for 121 yards.
The Broncos did a good job against Georgia State senior quarterback Dan Ellington, who has thrown for 501 yards and seven TDs this season without an interception. He picked apart Furman’s defense in a 48-42 win Saturday, completing 29-of-37 for 362 yards and five TDs.
Georgia State piled up 213 yards on the ground against Tennessee with Tra Barnett leading the way with 95 yards and a TD.
“They’re dynamic. They’re playing with unbelievable confidence, their quarterback is in rhythm right now – he can run, he can throw it,” said Lester of Georgia State. “They have a lot of team speed. We have to tackle better, and we have to communicate better.
“We have to clean up on our communication. We have to make sure we have our eyes on this quarterback (Ellington) because he’s going to be all over the field. We were able to do that last year, but they are playing at a new level this year.”
CMU looks ahead
The best thing that could have happened to CMU first-year coach Jim McElwain was to see Akron on the Chippewas’ schedule after Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin.
Akron is 0-2 and coming off losses to Illinois (45-3) and Alabama-Birmingham (31-20).
Wisconsin outgained CMU by a 599-58 margin, throwing for 400 yards.
Heisman Trophy candidate Jonathan Taylor rushed for more than 70 yards and two TDs in the first quarter, eventually finishing with 102 yards on 19 carries and three TDs, also catching a TD pass.
“They took it to us and yet we had some guys who played their tails off and competed,” McElwain said. “We were able to play everybody that was on the trip, played significant time that will help us in the future. We got beat up pretty good.
“As we told our guys, it was an experience, we can learn from it, and now we get to come home and open up conference play, which is exciting. We’re excited to get back home and play a game.”
CMU (1-1) will be trying to earn its first MAC win since a 31-24 victory over Northern Illinois on Nov. 24, 2017, its fifth straight conference win before a 37-14 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl loss to Wyoming. The Chips were 1-11 last season, losing all eight MAC games, including 17-10 to Akron.
Akron’s defense gave up 401 total yards in the loss to Illinois, 207 on the ground, then 402 to UAB, 319 through the air with four TDs.
McElwain is impressed with Akron junior quarterback Kato Nelson, who has thrown for 481 yards and two TDs, 359 yards and two TDs in the loss to UAB.
“They played two really good football teams in Illinois and UAB,” said McElwain of Akron. “I’m really impressed with their quarterback. He’s a guy that can really cause us issues just with our makeup. Defensively, they spread you out and they make you play in space. If you don’t keep your rush lanes he can hurt you with his feet, and I’ve been really impressed with how he gets the ball out to the quick receivers.”
EMU vs. Illinois
Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill.
Records: EMU 1-1, Illinois 2-0
Line: Illinois by 8.5
CMU vs. Akron
Kickoff: 3 Saturday, Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Mt. Pleasant
Records: CMU 1-1, Akron 0-2
Line: CMU by 4
WMU vs. Georgia State
Kickoff: 7 Saturday, Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo
Records: WMU 1-1, Georgia State 2-0
Line: WMU by 11.5