Western Michigan QB Kaleb Eleby rebounds in rout of Kent State

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Kaleb Eleby bounced back from a turnover-plagued loss to defending Mid-American Conference champion Ball State with a strong performance last Saturday, leading Western Michigan to a 64-31 rout of East Division favorite Kent State.

The Broncos (5-2, 2-1) travel to Toledo to take on the Rockets (3-4, 1-2).

Western Michigan's Kaleb Eleby

Eleby shined against Kent State in Kalamazoo, throwing for 307 yards and three touchdowns. On the season, he has thrown for 1,745 yards, 12 TDs and two interceptions, both against Ball State.

“Kaleb really played well on Saturday,” WMU coach Tim Lester said. “He was in control of our offense and really made some great throws. I was proud of his response after last week’s loss.”

The Broncos piled up 648 total yards, 341 on the ground. Sophomore running back Sean Tyler accounted for 169 yards and a TD. The Broncos limited Kent State — which entered the game as the MAC’s leader in total offense — to 362 yards, including 149 in the second half.

WMU’s defense sacked the MAC’s top quarterback, Dustin Crum, five times while limiting him to 210 yards and two TDs.

More: Saturday's state football: Ball State wins shootout against Eastern Michigan

The Broncos last won in Toledo in 2015.

Toledo will be looking to avenge last year’s 41-38 loss to WMU when the Broncos scored two TDs in the final 45 seconds. The run was capped by Eleby’s fake-spike and 9-yard TD toss to Jaylen Hall (Macomb Dakota) with 17 seconds left. Eleby finished 20-of-29 passing for 284 yards and three TDs.

Eleby hit Hall with a 68-yard TD pass against Kent State. He connected with Skyy Moore eight times for 140 yards and two TDs. Moore ranks seventh nationally in receptions (49) and 12th in receiving yards (634).

“Toledo is a great football team and the Glass Bowl is a really tough place to play,” Lester said. “We will need to play our best game to come out with a win.”

Historically, it's rare for he Rockets to not play well at the Glass Bowl. But they have lost two of three home games in 2021. Toledo has struggled in close games, losing at Notre Dame, Northern Illinois and Central Michigan.

Former Detroit King standout Dequan Finn is Toledo’s starting quarterback.

Chips face MAC West leaders

Central Michigan will carry a two-game winning streak into Kelly/Shorts Stadium Saturday in hopes of climbing atop the West Division.

The Chippewas (4-3, 2-1) play host to West leader Northern Illinois (5-2, 3-0). CMU is 3-0 at home and has enjoyed success against Northern Illinois, winning six of the last seven meetings.

Northern Illinois has been piling up big yardage on the ground in recent wins over Bowling Green (319), Toledo (242) and Eastern Michigan (242).

Freshman Jay Ducker rushed for 210 yards in a 34-26 win over Bowling Green last Saturday.

Northern Illinois sophomore kicker John Richardson has made 13-of-14 field goals, including five in a 22-20 win over Toledo.

CMU has also been strong on the ground. Sophomore running back Lew Nichols ran for 134 yards in the win over Toledo. He set the tempo in the first half, piling up 110 yards to help the Chippewas take a 17-3 lead.

Nichols, who had 173 total yards, including a TD catch, has rushed for a MAC-leading 725 yards this season.

EMU braces for BGSU

Eastern Michigan fell to 0-2 against West Division teams, losing to Ball State at Rynearson Stadium last Saturday, 38-31.

Coach Chris Creighton knows the Eagles have little room for error in MAC games. He noted the Eagles turned the ball over twice against the Cardinals.

Ball State set the tempo by scoring on drives of 75 and 68 yards to take a 14-0 lead.

The Eagles (4-3, 1-2) hope to turn things around when they play at Bowling Green (2-5, 0-3). The Falcons have dropped three straight games since a shocking 14-10 upset of Minnesota.

Bowling Green lost at Northern Illinois 34-26 last Saturday.

EMU was limited to 46 yards on the ground in the loss to Ball State. It had just 51 rushing yards in the 13-12 win over Miami the previous week.

“I’m excited to get back out there again," Creighton said. "Last Saturday did not go the way we wanted it to. We got behind and were playing catch up the rest of the game. We turned the ball over twice and don’t take it away, so it’s really tough to win.”

Bowling Green’s defense has given up big yardage on the ground. It yielded 262 yards against Kent State in a 27-20 loss, then 319 in the loss to NIU.

“We wanted to be balanced and last week we weren’t, but we certainly want to be able to run the ball this week,” Creighton said.

david.goricki@detroitnews.com