Western Michigan Survives Late UMass Score, Gets First Win

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Western Michigan Broncos finally got their first win of the season over the Massachusetts Minutemen in a drama-filled game.

It was ugly, it was mistake-filled, and it came down to the last seconds, but Western Michigan and P.J. Fleck finally got their first win.

In a game that saw no turnovers, but saw WMU fail on special teams 3 times (including 2 failed fourth-down trick plays) and UMass miss two field goals (including one from 22 yards out), the Broncos finally got over the hump and got that elusive first victory.

While that may be the story-line from Kalamazoo, in Amherst there is a completely different story.

Charlie Molnar may never escape the decision which might have cost his team the game.  After scoring with 22 seconds left, Molnar decided to go to for two points and the win instead of kicking the PAT and opting for overtime.  Minutemen quarterback A.J. Doyle overthrew his receiver in the endzone, and the Broncos recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the game.

"That was my decision," Molnar said after the game.  "It was something we were talking about, literally, from the beginning of the second half right down to the final moments of the game. We just felt like that if we went into an overtime situation, we would potentially get into a kicking battle. Our kicking game is not the best at this moment in time and I felt that we could put the ball in the hands of our best players."

Perhaps he had a point, especially with Blake Lucas missing a virtual gimme in most situations of 22 yards earlier in the fourth quarter.  Also, the Minutemen had just drove down the field on the Broncos and had a decent amount of momentum.

So who gets the blame?  Molnar for the decision?  Doyle for missing not only Elgin Long at the back of the endzone but Tajae Sharpe in the flat?  Lucas for missing such an easy field goal which would've given UMass a 34-31 lead after a PAT?  Or WMU for actually winning?

Back to the Broncos, they really have a quarterback situation brewing.  Not this season, but next.  Why's that (for both points)?  Zach Terrell seems to be coming into his own, with a solid 23-for-36/275/4/0 performance, even if it is against UMass.  Tyler Van Tubbergen is gone after this season anyways, so why play him?  He isn't good enough to go pro, and you have to plan for the future.  Terrell should start the remaining three games.

As for next season, Terrell will battle current redshirt Cam Thomas and incoming 4-star recruit Chance Stewart for the starting position.  Terrell doesn't have the arm like his two competitors, but will have the experience and familiarity with his teammates.  Thomas will have a season in the system, and has a solid arm.  Stewart is rumored to have the best arm and Fleck is high on him, but he would still be a true freshman.

Nevertheless, the Broncos don't have to worry about that now, as they get a bye week before playing both legs of the Michigan MAC Rivalry with a road trip to Eastern Michigan up first on November 9th.  Should they win that game, suddenly the Broncos could avoid double-digit losses on Senior Day in a rivalry match-up against Central Michigan.

As for the Minutemen, Rob Blanchflower was a monster in the first half, but was shut down in the second.  He finished with 7 catches for 131 yards and the lone receiving touchdown.  They couldn't run all day, and need to figure out the kicking game.  They did return the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and stopped both a fake field goal and fake punt, but the Bronco special teams has been awful all season.  They are now 1-7 and host NIU next weekend, so the road doesn't get any easier.

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