Saturday's state football: Western Michigan beats Buffalo in MAC opener, wins fourth straight

Detroit News staff and wires

Buffalo, N.Y. — Kaleb Eleby threw a pair of touchdown passes to Skyy Moore and Western Michigan won its fourth straight game, defeating Buffalo, 24-17, on Saturday in a Mid-American Conference opener.

Eleby hit a streaking Moore with a 64-yard strike to give the Broncos (4-1, 1-0) the lead with 9½ minutes remaining. After Buffalo went three-and-out for the fourth straight possession, the Broncos burned almost six minutes off the clock before La’Darius Jefferson scored from a yard out.

Western Michigan quarterback Kaleb Eleby piloted an offense that ranked in the top 10 nationally in points per game (41.7) last season.

Kyle Vantrease’s 1-yard keeper cut the lead to seven with 1:17 remaining but WMU recovered an onside kick.

After WMU’s Parker Sampson had missed two field goal attempts, punter Nick Mihalic kicked a 26-yard field goal to tie it at 10 earlier in the fourth quarter.

Eleby found Moore in the right corner of the end zone for a 12-yard score and a 7-0 lead in the opening quarter before Buffalo tied it less than 30 seconds later on Ron Cook’s 55-yard sprint up the middle. The Bulls (2-3, 0-1) had the lead with Alex McNulty’s 37-yard field goal in the third.

The game featured the MAC’s top two receivers in Buffalo’s Quian Williams and WMU’s Corey Crooms but it was Moore piling up a career-high 163 yards on 11 catches. Williams finished with 119 yards on six catches.

Eleby was 21-of-33 passing for 279 yards as WMU outgained Buffalo 457-282. Jefferson rushed for 96 yards on 23 carries.

Zaire Barnes forced a fumble by recording the first sack against Buffalo this season but Western Michigan failed to score off the turnover.

Western Michigan’s Tim Lester returned to coach in a game for the first time since Sept. 18 after testing positive for COVID-19 with a breakthrough infection.

More games

► (At) Miami (Ohio) 28, Central Michigan 17: Backup quarterback AJ Mayer threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to rally Miami in a Mid-American Conference opener.

Starting QB Brett Gabbert staked the RedHawks (2-3, 1-0) to a 14-0 first-quarter lead with touchdown strikes to Andrew Homer and Jack Sorenson, covering 24 and 36 yards, respectively. Miami was leading 14-7 when an injury sidelined Gabbert late in the second quarter. Marshall Meeder’s 39-yard field goal was the only scoring in the third quarter, cutting the Chippewas’ deficit to four points. Daniel Richardson gave Central Michigan a 17-14 lead on an 11-yard TD toss to Dallas Dixon with 1:25 gone in the fourth quarter. But Mayer connected with Nate Muersch for a 23-yard TD on the ensuing possession and wrapped up the win with a 11-yard scoring strike to Sorenson with 7:44 left to play.

Mayer completed 13 of 18 passes for 179 yards with one interception for the RedHawks. Gabbert completed 12 of 20 throws for 171 yards before leaving. Mac Hippenhammer hauled in eight passes for 170 yards, while Keyon Mozee rushed for 83 yards on 13 carries.

Richardson was 22-of-41 passing for 326 yards and two TDs – including a 41-yarder to JaCorey Sullivan in the second quarter for the Chippewas (2-3, 0-1). Dixon finished with seven receptions for 113 yards.

► (At) Northern Illinois 27, Eastern Michigan 20: Antario Brown rushed for 101 yards and Northern Illinois scored the game’s first 17 points then held on to defeat Eastern Michigan in a game delayed by lightning between the first and second quarters.

The Huskies (3-2, 1-0 MAC) built their lead on a 5-yard run by quarterback Rocky Lombardi, a 28-yard field goal from John Richardson and Jaden Dolphin’s 59-yard interception return.

The Huskies led 17-3 at halftime and did not give up the lead although Eastern Michigan’s Ben Bryant threw touchdown passes of 42 yards to Bryson Cannon and 17 yards to Dylan Drummond in the third quarter. Clint Ratkovich’s 2-yard run in the third helped Northern Illinois maintain the lead at 24-17 and the teams traded field goals late in the fourth quarter.

Bryant completed 27 of 40 passes for 338 yards with the two touchdowns and the interception. Hassan Beydoun caught 14 passes for 167 yards, but the Eagles (3-2, 0-1) had only 38 yards rushing.

The Huskies rushed for 242 yards and Lombardi was only 9-of-20 passing for 84 yards.

► (At) Northern Michigan 26, Wayne State 19: Wayne State squandered a 19-0 lead over the game's final 20 minutes to remain winless. DJ Stewart broke a 19-19 tie with a 50-yard TD run with 1:10 to play for Northern (3-2, 1-0 GLIAC).

The Warriors (0-5, 0-1) built their lead with scoring runs of 6 and 1 yards in the first half by Myren Harris and a 6-yard pass from Chase Churchill to Nick Poterack with 8:22 left in the third quarter.

Northern erased the lead with TD runs by Drake Davis and Isaiah Popp sandwiched around a Danier Riser field goal. Davis finished with 21 completions in 36 attempts for 165 yards. WSU's Harris finished with 126 yards on 26 carries.

More scores

Ferris State 67, Northwood 25

Grand Valley 49, Saginaw Valley 17

Hope 67, Kalamazoo 0

Michigan Tech 31, Davenport 7

Olivet 33, Alma 10

Trine 36, Adrian 20