MAC notes: Western Michigan rushes back into title contention
Western Michigan played a near perfect game Saturday to put itself back in contention for the Mid-American Conference West Division title heading into the final month of the regular season.
The Broncos pushed their home record to 5-0 at Waldo Stadium with a dominating 49-10 win over Bowling Green, piling up 574 total yards, including 399 on the ground while converting 11-of-16 third downs and going 4-for-5 in the red zone.
WMU (5-4, 3-2) will play host to West-leading Ball State (4-4, 3-1) in Kalamazoo Nov. 5 as MAC play moves into multiple mid-week games.
Ball State lost to East co-leader Ohio Saturday, 34-21.
“It was complete team victory,” WMU third-year coach Tim Lester said Monday. “I thought we were pretty efficient on offense, I thought our defense tackled well and kept everything in front of them and did a good job of running around. We knew we had to win at the line of scrimmage and we had to win field position, and I thought we did a good job of doing both.”
The Broncos scored two TDs in the last three minutes of the first half – a 36-yard TD run by LeVante Bellamy and a 3-yard TD run by Davon Tucker – to open a 21-3 lead, then scored on the first drive of the third quarter, a 75-yard TD run by Bellamy for a 28-3 cushion.
Bellamy rushed for 178 yards and a career-high four TDs, giving him 1,055 yards and 17 TDs on the season to rank third nationally.
Bellamy, who rushed for 1,228 yards last season, now sits seventh in program history at 3,303 yards with his sights set on his former teammate, Jamauri Bogan (3,327, 2015-18) and Shawn Faulkner (3,341, 1980-83).
WMU senior quarterback Jon Wassink is healthy for the first time of his career at this point of the season. He has thrown for 2,273 yards and 16 TDs.
“I think he’s playing great,” said Lester of Wassink. “Really, when the game changed we scored with two minutes left in the first half, stopped them, used our timeouts and got the ball back with like a minute left and he made two big passes to help put us in the end zone to go up 21-3 at the half.
“We haven’t had him for the last four games in the last two seasons, so it’s fun that he’s healthy and he feels good and we’re excited to have him for the final stretch here.
“We’re efficient in the passing game with Jon and Gio (tight end Giovanni Ricci) and Skyy (Moore) and (Keith) Mixon. And when you have a guy like Bellamy, he doesn’t need a lot of space, he can take it to the house.”
Things will be interesting down the stretch for the Broncos, who are 2-6 under Lester during the month of November, but for the first time he will have Wassink running the offense. After Ball State the Broncos finish the season on the road at Ohio (Nov. 12) and at Northern Illinois (Nov. 26).
Another OT setback
Eastern Michigan (4-4, 1-3) fell to last place in the MAC West, losing at Toledo 37-34 in overtime.
The Eagles are now 0-6 in overtime games the last three years.
The Eagles battled back from a 10-0 first-half deficit, then a 31-10 second-half deficit before EMU quarterback Mike Glass engineered 75, 74 and 71-yard scoring drives to pull even to force overtime.
The Eagles had a chance to win in regulation, but Chad Ryland missed a 33-yard field goal with 1:03 left.
Ryland kicked a 24-yard field goal in overtime, but the Rockets won on Eli Peters’ 15-yard TD pass to Drew Rosi.
EMU failed to stop the run with Toledo rushing for 366 yards, including a career-high 259 yards by sophomore Bryant Koback.
Creighton knows the Eagles will have to do a better job of stopping the run when they play host to defending MAC East champion Buffalo (4-4, 2-2) Saturday with the Bulls rushing for 197 in a 43-20 win over Central Michigan.
“Buffalo is scary good at times,” coach Chris Creighton said Monday. “I was talking how Bellamy was the best back and I may have spoken too soon. And, they have some weapons on the outside as well.”
Buffalo sophomore Jaret Patterson has run for 835 yards, including 149 against CMU Saturday.
Streak is over
Central Michigan’s three-game winning streak came to an end at Buffalo. Five turnovers cost CMU (5-4, 3-2) a chance at the top of the West standings, as Buffalo turned the turnovers into 24 points in the 23-point win.
“If you turn the ball over like that you’re going to lose games,” said CMU first-year coach Jim McElwain.
CMU took a 7-3 lead, scoring on a 10-play, 75-yard drive, but then fumbled on its next two series, resulting in a pair of Buffalo TDs for a Bulls’ 17-7 lead and the Chippewas never recovered, trailing 30-14 at halftime.
The Chippewas had averaged 40.7 points and 542 total yards, 305 on the ground, during their recent winning streak, but picked up just 345 in the loss, including 73 rushing on 28 carries with Buffalo getting four sacks.
The Chippewas next play defending MAC champion Northern Illinois (3-5, 2-2) Saturday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Northern Illinois defeated winless Akron 49-0 Saturday.
“We’ve done a pretty decent job of whether it was a win or a loss, kind of tearing off the rearview mirror and learning from your mistakes, coming to work and focusing on the next task,” McElwain said. “Each opportunity is a chance to learn, get better, and this is no different. We obviously correct our mistakes, we also show the things that we’re doing right. I think that’s the biggest piece for us as a young program, just understanding the week to week and try not to get on that rollercoaster.”