ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 03: Alex Carder #14 of the Western Michigan Broncos hands of to Tevin Drake #29. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Western Michigan lost to Michigan this past weekend. Of course, that was the expected outcome for most people who know college football. But as a Bronco fan, there was an important point that can be taken from the game. And it doesn't involve an offense that is beginning to look coherent (although QB protection is still an issue). The big take-away was that Western didn't looked frightened to be out on the field against a bigger school in an opener.
I have to say, that first Western drive was a ton of fun. Moving right down the field on Michigan in 15 plays, going 74 yards in 7 minutes, 11 seconds and capping it off with a fourth down TD. Are you kidding me? I was going crazy in the stands. The rest of the game didn't exactly pan out, but when you're a MAC school playing a talented Big Ten program, you have to play nearly perfectly to win.
So despite a loss, which stings regardless of the opponent, Western players and fans can hang their hat on the fact that we never looked intimidated on the field. The team was completely unfazed by the Big House crowd on that first methodical drive. Play calling was effective and there were multiple third down conversions. And moving the ball successfully continued. Turnovers are what really killed the game for Western. If you have a -3 turnover differential against anybody it's pretty hard to win a football game.
I'm not trying to say that Western was the better team and should have won. It was clear that Michigan had more talented players and that talent differential was the force behind the turnovers. But it was also clear that Cubit's boys were not going to play easy-going cupcake for the Wolverines.
That confidence shown is a big deal for WMU. In the last two seasons, rarely has Western had a surprise win, taking down a more formidable opponent. And the team seemed to cower when facing the more powerful Big Ten schools. Perhaps this new self-assured team can take on the MAC and make a run for a conference title. The team definitely has talent, and emotional momentum certainly have a huge impact on college football.
I'm sure fans of Temple, Ohio, NIU, and Toledo will remind someone who thinks like me that you need more than confidence to get to Detroit for the championship. But for the under-achieving Broncos, it is simply good to see that they can hang with anybody. If you can hang tough in games, you can pull out the win. 11-1 is unrealistic, let's be honest, but if they can avoid turnovers and increase protection for Carder, WMU has a chance to win a lot of games this year and surprise a lot of people.