After losing to the Georgia Southern Eagles last week by a final score of 43-17, the Western Michigan Broncos football team finds itself at a crossroads a few weeks earlier than it likely anticipated. The fan base is seemingly in a panic over the fact that somehow, the September 19th game against FCS Murray State has become less of a formality and more of a must win. WMU hasn't needed a first win of the season so desperately since the 2013 season that featured just one. The Broncos are hoping that Murray State is the perfect candidate for such a win.
The Racers enter Saturday night's contest at 1-1, with a win over Kentucky Wesleyan and a loss to the Northern Illinois Huskies. In that loss to the Huskies, Murray State managed 373 yards of total offense and 26 points, keeping the game within two scores until the middle of the third quarter. Quarterback KD Humphries leads the air raid offense for the Racers, and last week against NIU he completed 31 of 49 passing for 281 yards and two touchdowns, albeit with three interceptions.
Murray State is not known for running the football effectively, which should be welcome news for a Western Michigan run defense that is giving up 304.5 yards on the ground per game through two weeks of the season. The Racer's leading rusher last weekend against NIU, Roman Clay, averaged just four yards per carry for 64 yards on the day. Murray State's run defense could be just what the doctor ordered for Bronco star Jarvion Franklin, who has yet to get it going on the ground for WMU. Franklin, who's averaging just 40.5 yards per game on the ground, will look to break into the same form from his freshman campaign against a defense that gave up 254 yards rushing just a week ago.
The Racers also gave up 9.5 yards per attempt through the air last week, which should be music to the ears of WMU quarterback Zach Terrell. Terrell has struggled to reach his mid season form from last year, currently sporting a 127.8 passer rating compared to 164.4 a year ago to go along with five interceptions - half of his total from last year - through two weeks of play. Terrell had perhaps his worst game in two years last week against Georgia Southern, and WMU will need him to be better going forward in order to keep hopes of a MAC title alive.
Another huge concern for the Broncos is the case of the drops that seems to have afflicted the WMU receiving corps. Daniel Braverman looked great on the stat sheet on Saturday, but dropped passes in key situations, something he also did in the game against Michigan State a week before. Corey Davis, the Broncos' undisputed superstar, has not been immune to dropping the football as well thus far into the season. The two receivers will be open plenty this weekend, and need to make the most of their opportunities if the Bronco offense is to find its rhythm going into its trip to Ohio State next week.
Murray State may be an FCS opponent, but this is a gigantic game for the Broncos in their hopes at a bowl eligible season. WMU is fresh off a loss in a game that prior to kickoff they were expected to win. Letting Murray State stick around in this football game - much like NIU did for two and a half quarters on Saturday - could spell disaster for a season that began with so much hope. After all, it isn't that long ago that the Broncos dropped a heavily favored home game to an FCS opponent. Nichols State did the Broncos in in 2013, a game that ultimately spelled disaster for the remainder of the season, spare the single win at UMass. A loss this week would be devastating to the WMU football program, and could have many questioning what all the hype was about, if they aren't already.