Eastern Michigan University welcomes it’s cross state rivals the Broncos of Western Michigan University, in the battle of Interstate-94. The game will be played on Thursday, Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m. It’s the first time in school history that EMU will host a weekday night game.
Michigan MAC Trophy: The Michigan Mid-American Conference Trophy is at stake in this game, the trophy is rewarded to the winners between the three MAC schools in the state of Michigan. Western Michigan already defeated Central Michigan earlier this year, 41-39, and will be looking to re-claim the trophy for the second straight year if they can beat Eastern Michigan.
Last season the Broncos beat the Eagles, 51-7, for the largest margin of victory ever between the two schools.
“They return the opening kick for a touchdown, and you look up at the end of the first quarter and it was a lot to a little. It was just a bad embarrassing day for us,” said head coach of EMU Chris Creighton.
The last time Western Michigan beat Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti, was back in 2009, when WMU won, 35-14.
Fleck Receiving Flack: In just his third year at the reigns of the Broncos, head coach P.J. Fleck has made many national headlines. Fleck, the youngest coach in division-one college football at the age of 34, has put together a couple of the best recruiting classes that the MAC has ever seen.
Fleck has drawn attention throughout the country with his charisma and passion as a head football coach. At WMU they go by the slogan of, “Row The Boat.” Meaning in order for a rowboat to properly function, every man must do his job to get the boat going in the right direction.
Fleck took over the Broncos football program in an attempt to help WMU accomplish something that has never been done at WMU; win a bowl game. The Broncos are currently 0-6 all-time in bowls. Fleck has set the bar high, to try and compete with some of the biggest schools in the country.
In his first season at WMU, the Broncos went 1-11 then had the biggest turnaround in the nation in 2014 going 8-5. Coming into the game this weekend, WMU is 4-3; with three straight MAC wins.
Stable Boat: Interesting how the concept of “Row The Boat” has fit together fairly well for the Broncos this season. The first key to having a successful offense is having a successful offensive line. From there it’s like a domino affect. Once an offensive line is established it allows the quarterback time to step back and throw; it allows running backs to run through bigger holes and go for more yards.
Western Michigan’s offense has proven they are rowing together, averaging close to 33-points-per-game. WMU has thrown for 1,829-yards and rushed for 1,237-yards this season compiling 29-offensive touchdowns.
The Broncos run a no-huddle spread offense like many schools in the MAC. One of the biggest weapons WMU has on offense is the quarterback Zach Terrell.
“[Zach] Terrell has completed almost 70 percent of his passes, he’s got 20 touchdowns, and just a handful of interceptions,” said EMU defensive coordinator Brad McCaslin. “Those are the numbers that back-up the consistency in which he’s playing the game.”
Terrell is fortunate to have so many different weapons around him to choose from. The Broncos feature some of the best skill position players in the conference.
Wide Receivers Daniel Braverman and Cory Davis are the core of this Bronco offense. Braverman has recorded 75-receptions this season alone and has caught 11-touchdowns. Davis has caught 42-passes and five touchdowns. The two leading receivers combined go for 1,413 yards and 16-touchdowns.
There’s more than just the receiving corps WMU as well, they have a returning player of the year from a year ago in running back Jarvion Franklin. Franklin is a small yet a physical and aggressive running back, as he averages five-yards per-carry, at 114-carries on the season.
No Space Allowed: Defensively, WMU is coming off a couple of its best performances this season. The Broncos beat the University of Miami-Ohio last week, 35-13, and beat Ohio the week before, 49-14.
“They’re pretty aggressive in their style, they’re going to play some man-to-man,” said offensive coordinator at EMU, Kalen DeBoer. “On the outside they trust their guys in coverage which allows them to commit more guys in stopping the run.”
When playing a man-to-man coverage there is the risk of a cornerback getting beat, and that’s when big plays are given up. The WMU defense has given up multiple big plays this season, but limit opposing teams ability to run.
In the Broncos game against Central Michigan earlier in the season, Asantay Brown compiled a remarkable feat of forcing a fumble, recovering a fumble and catching an interception all in one game. Brown also leads the team with 32-solo tackles and is third on the team in assistants with 22.
Western Michigan has a scrappy defense and is going to try and force many turnovers against the Eagles. While one guy tackles the ball carrier, others are trying to rip the ball out. They have forced 9 fumbles this year, averaging more than one a game.