It's easy to walk away from Saturday's game and believe that the Broncos are on the road to contending in the MAC West. Heck, in the first half the Broncos put up more points on Miami than both Kentucky and 12th ranked Boise State.
Fact is Miami is an awful team, that at the moment is not very well coached either. Miami was 2-10 last year and will likely have a worse record this year. On numerous occasions throughout the game the Redhawks were late getting players in, and late getting them out. They were called for 12 men on the field on one occasion. To say the least the players weren't the only ones confused on the Miami sidelines.
That begs the question, did the Broncos improve that much, or did Miami throw in the towel on the first play fumble that went for a Bronco touchdown. The fact is we just don't know, and we won't know until the Broncos travel to Northern Illinois on October 3rd.
For the first time in forever the Broncos got on the board quickly----about as quickly as you can. Furthermore they didn't let up, scoring 21 more points in the half.
While some may gasp when I say this, the Bronco secondary looks better than last years. They have yet to make any huge mistakes, and they've created some havoc. For the most part last years secondary struggled against good spread offenses with mobile QB's, which this year's group hasn't seen yet. So far this year the Bronco pass rush has been Cody Cielinski. Not sure if the lack of QB pressure is because of the schemes, or because Western's DE's haven't been able to get pressure on the quarterback. If the Bronco secondary is to continue getting better, the front line will need to get some pressure on opposing QB's.
The Bronco running game began to emerge as Brandon West and Glennis Thompson averaged 5.1 and 6.1 yards respectively. Thompson showed some speed to the outside that I didn't know he had.
It looks like a steady group of receivers is starting to emerging. No surprise that Juan Nunez is becoming the go to guy, with an ability to beat people deep. And while I'm not surprised that Jordan White is becoming a big time target, the injury concern is still there. White has the strength and talent to be a Jamarko Simmons type receiver who can get 15 yards out of a 5 yard catch. Robert Arnheim has solid hands and will be a good possession receiver. Ansel Ponder showed that burst after the catch, but is not yet an every down kind of guy.
RS freshmen Blake Hammond scored his first touchdown as a Bronco. While it was only a 1 yard grab, it was the most impressive production we've seen out of the tight end position. Cubit may be at a crossroads with Matt Stevens. If the senior tight end does not become a fixture in the offense, he may have to go with a youth movement.
While I believe this group of defensive ends is the best we've seen in a long time, they have yet to put pressure on opposing QB's. No one has emerged as that guy who can beat the tackle off the edge---yet.
Late in the game freshmen Paul Hazel was inserted in at DE. Hazel is only 215 pounds, but has a DE's frame, and BLAZING speed. He showed it on two occasions getting to Miami back up Zac Dysert. Hazel is the future at defensive end, and Cubit may end up making him the present, regardless of his frail frame.
Nothing like a blowout to get a look at your back ups. Both Drew Burdi and Alex Carder got significant PT in the final quarter. Burdi did a better job of staying in the pocket, and took some shots to the end zone. Drew likes to roll out when he passes. While that does give him more time to read the field and for receivers to get open, it also forces him to make awkward throws. Burdi was 1-3 with one pick.
Alex Carder was 3-3 for 17 yards, he was much more conservative in his passes. Both Carder and Burdi have legs, but I'd hazard to guess which one will take over after Hiller departs. For Miami Zac Dysert was 3-7 for 74 yards, with a long of 50. Dysert had offers from nearly every MAC school, and will eventually be another solid Miami QB.
Tim Hiller appears to be back in form, throwing 4 touchdown passes, some of which threaded the needle. Anyway you slice it, Tim Hiller getting into mid season form is a must if the Broncos are to contend for the MAC West. Hiller also needs 112 yards to pass Brad Tayles for second in school history in passing yards.
There were several missed opportunities in this game. As Bill Cubit said after the game, "we should have scored three more times in the first half." Scoring in the redzone has got to improve. Moreover, the Bronco offensive line has got to get a push in the redzone. For too long the Broncos have relied on the the pass to get the TD inside the twenty.
The tight end position used to be a concern for opposing teams. Not so much now. Bronco fans have to wonder what things might be like if Anthony Middleton had not been dismissed from the team. There's simply no one with that combination of size and speed, that Bronco fans have become used to at tight end. The question now for Cubit is does he stick with experience, or does he begin to develop youth.
In practice Ben Armer and John Potter look like Ray Guy and Jason Hanson. Armer booms his punts and turns the bulk of them over, and Potter doesn't miss much at all. On Saturday Armer punted fine, but never showed much hang time or turned one over. Potter's kickoffs were excellent, with a few going deep into the endzone. He missed one extra point and missed badly on a 45 yarder.
Both of these players have the ability to be game changers. Potter has the ability to win games on his own. The only thing missing is consistency. It will come---the sooner the better.
The Bronco secondary is very good. They are deep and talented, and they have shown themselves to be play makers. But like all secondaries they can only cover for so long. The Bronco defensive line must start getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Cody Ceilinski has done his part, but others have to get involved. Not since the days of Amir Ismail and DC Scott Schafer have the Broncos had an abusive pass rush.
How others saw it
BroncoPhilly- Still not putting much heat on opposing QB's. Miami moved the ball well when they held onto it-over 400 yards of offense.
Kimbosucks- Jordan White looks GREAT. Other than the dropped TD pass. Nice to see him running around.
BCBronco- Quoting Rivals.com. The Mighty MAC: First, Toledo whips Colorado. Then, Central Michigan dumps Michigan State. This week, Northern Illinois tops Purdue. This is further proof of what we always knew: The top-tier MAC teams are as good - or better - than the middle of the pack and lower-level Big Ten teams.
The Broncos face off against Hofstra on Saturday, game time 7 PM.