Saturday afternoon the Broncos will be playing at Rynearson Stadium at Eastern Michigan University. WMU is currently 3-5 on the season, and 2-2 in Mac play, with only have one loss in the MAC west. The Broncos own a 24-14-2 record against Eastern, and have only lost once to the Eagles in the last ten years.
The Broncos lost last weekend to Ball State 27-23, spoiling the WMU homecoming celebration. Quarterback Tim Hiller finished with 21 completions out of 38 attempts for 237 yards, but was picked off three times. Brandon West rushed for a career-high 171 yards on 21 carries.
The Broncos are led on offense by junior wide receiver Jamarko Simmons. Simmons is 3rd in the nation in receptions with 69, and also is 7th in the nation in total yards receiving with 806. The Broncos have a solid running game, led by senior Mark Bonds and sophomore Brandon West. Western Michigan would like to control the ball, and keep the defense off the field, something they've had off and on success with. Bonds is questionable for Saturdays game.
Eastern Michigan is coming off a hard fought loss against Northwestern. Eastern was guilty of four turnovers, losing three on interceptions, and one on a fumble. The Eagles are currently 2-6 over all, and 1-2 in MAC play.
Don't let the Eagles record fool you, EMU has talent. Eastern Michigan's offense has been led by sophomore quarterback Andy Schmitt, but Schmitt was unable to play against Northwestern because of a sprained throwing shoulder. Reports out of Ypsilanti say that Schmitt will not play in this game. That means freshman Kyle McMahon will likely start. McMahon hit on an impressive 28 of 43 passes for 282 yards against Northwestern, although he was picked off 3 times.
While the EMU passing game has flourished, the Eagles have had a hard time running the football, as they currently rank 98th in the nation in rushing, with 115.4 yards per game. Putting points on the board has been a problem as well as EMU currently stands at 104th nationally, at 20.4 ppg. Eastern's leading receiver is Jacory Stone. He leads the team with 285 yards on 32 catches. Running back Pierre Walker has 97 rushes for 291 yards and 3 touchdowns, and has been very good in pass protection.
The Bronco defense will be led by junior middle linebacker Dustin Duclo, and junior weak side linebacker Boston McCornell. McCornell has done a nice job taking over Paul Titofs spot. McCornell is second on the team in tackles with 59, and also has 6 tackles for loss. He also has one interception that he returned for a touchdown against CCSU. Duclo is third on the team in tackles with 58, along with 4.5 tackles for loss. The secondary is a solid group led by junior cornerback London Fryar. Fryary has had a solid season with 42 tackles and one interception. He has also has an impressive 13 pass break ups this year. Junior safety Louis Delmas is one of the top free safeties in the nation. Delmas currently has 33 tackles despite missing a couple of games, but is listed as healthy now.
The Eastern Michigan defense is a solid group. Junior Daniel Holtzclaw is a tackling machine. The Freshmen All American leads the team in tackles with 90. Holtzclaw is also very solid in coverage. Senior weak side linebacker Darren Matthews is second on the team in tackles with 74, to go along with 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Senior defensive tackle Jason Jones will be playing in the NFL according to Bill Cubit. Jones has 50 tackles, along with 16 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks. The secondary is led by red shirt freshman Ryan Downard who has 28 tackles to go along with 4 interceptions. Two of those picks were against Vanderbilt.
The Broncos special teams are solid, led by Brandon West with 28 returns for 27.1 average and a touchdown. Punt returner Spyda Julien has 16 returns for 167 yards with a long of 39. Kicker Mike Jones has converted 8 of 9 field goals and done well with his kickoffs. Jim Laney has been solid all year, having punted 39 times for an average of 46.3 yards, and has kicked seven inside the 20 yard line. Laney may have a chance to play at the next level.
The Eagles special teams are just as good. Dontayo Gage is a dangerous return man. Gage has 30 returns for a 26.1 average, to go along with one touchdown. Punt return man Nate Beard has 8 returns for 50 yards with a long of 16. The Eagles haven't been able to replace All MAC kicker Andrew Wellock, but Zach Johnson has be good enough. Johnson is both the kicker and punter, connecting on 3-4 field goals, along with a 47 yard punt average.
In spite of EMU's recent record against the Broncos, the Eagles always play Western Michigan tough. This game should be no different. While EMU's record is loaded with losses, this team believes in itself, and has a swagger to it. The question is, does Western still believe in itself?
Western should have an edge in talent at a lot of positions, and talent should be the deciding factor. But if the Broncos are in a close game, or a defensive battle, one has to wonder if they ghosts of MAC games past will toy with their confidence.
I think Western finally puts a complete game together. Offensively, the Broncos will have a hard time running on EMU until they can loosen up the Eagle defense with the passing game. Hiller rebounds from an awful performance last Saturday, and puts up solid numbers on Eastern.
A good pass rush flusters the freshmen QB, and the WMU rushing attack wears the Eagles down in the final quarter.
Western 31 EMU 21
Cubit talking about senior leadership in critical late game situations: You need some seniors in that huddle that say, "We're going to get that thing done."
Cubit on last years EMU game: "We were horrible offensively in that game. But when it really mattered in the critical situations, we got it done and won the game."
Cubit on the playing atmosphere at EMU: "It's a big stadium, and they don't draw many people. I told the guys, you are going to have to motivate yourself, because there's no energy that's going to come from the stands. I think it does work in Eastern's favor, because they're used to it. "
Cubit on Mark Bonds injury: "He's got an upper leg type of deal, and it's hard for him to run on it. He ran okay yesterday, nothing special."
Because of recent verbals we have had to put the Chad Hounshell interview on the backburner. Look for that in the next few days along with an update on WMU Basketballs 2009 recruiting targets. Also, John Potter's (Kicker) video will be up soon, along with a brief interview.