A rainy start to the day delayed the contest between the Western Michigan Broncos (4-2, 2-0 MAC) and the Akron Zips (3-3, 2-0 MAC). Western Michigan’s Homecoming football game was delayed about a full day to clear up a flooded Waldo Stadium.
The flooding into Waldo is.....severe pic.twitter.com/6uWxi7vbKi— Brandon Fitz (@broncofitz) October 14, 2017
A quick-moving Western Michigan facilities crew managed to clear about two feet of standing water from the stadium. CBS Sports Network left the night before, so the Bronco production team set up a live feed for the fans missing out on the network coverage.
In the end, Akron ended up on top, beating Western Michigan 14-13. We knew going into the game that this would be a fist-fight between two strong teams, but this game was a testament to how much more potential each team really has.
Tim Lester’s Broncos tried to keep the ball out of the air during the slippery affair until it was needed at the end. Jon Wassink went 17-for-29 and 182 passing yards. He preferred shorter routes where he could throw the ball more gently in the rain. Wassink had one long passing touchdown and one interception. D’Wayne Eskridge led the Broncos in receiving with 93 yards on seven completions with the only receiving touchdown.
Jarvion Franklin led the rushing attack with 130 yards on 31 attempts. Jamauri Bogan and LeVante Bellamy also saw action in the game. Combined, the Broncos achieved 244 rushing yards on 53 attempts. LeVante Bellamy saw only a handful of snaps before leaving the field, favoring his leg. It appeared as if his previous ankle injury had been aggravated.
Derrick Mitchell was brought in to punt for the Broncos three times, pinning the Zips within their own 20-yard line twice. Josh Grant attempted four field goals. Grant missed from 25 and 49 yards, but made field goals from 35 and 49 yards. Grant also made the sole extra point for the Broncos.
Thomas Woodson showed the Broncos why his Zips are so dangerous on offense. Woodson’s reliable arm took advantage of the Bronco’s mistakes and penalties. He finished 13-for-24 and 127 passing yards. Woodson threw one touchdown pass and had one interception. A.J. Coney led the Zips in receiving with 38 yards on three completions. Kobie Booker scored the lone receiving touchdown.
Akron decided to begin the game with the safer option of running the ball, but gave up quickly when the passing game started clicking. Manny Morgan led the Zips’ rushing efforts with 53 yards on 12 carries. Akron struggled to get many big gains on the ground against the watchful Bronco linebacker crew. The Zips finished with 88 total rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.
Nick Gasser performed punting duties for Akron seven times. Gasser tried to avoid Darius Phillips with his punts, actually giving the Broncos better field position. Akron place-kicker Tom O’Leary converted both extra points for the Zips.
Western Michigan’s opening drive was cut short when Akron’s Kyron Brown intercepted a Jon Wassink pass. Akron used his huge return to set up a 13-yard touchdown pass from Thomas Woodson to Kobie Booker. A missed Josh Grant field goal from 25 yards away gave the ball back to Akron. Manny Morgan capped off the Zips’ drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Western Michigan’s Josh Grant then put a long 49-yard field goal on the board to cut the Akron lead to 14-3. The Broncos attempted a field goal just before halftime, but the 49-yard attempt fell short.
The third quarter saw an exchange of several punts leading to no points from either team. Western Michigan’s defense showed some life in the fourth quarter with an Asantay Brown interception. Jon Wassink capitalized with a deep pass to D’Wayne Eskridge for a 50-yard touchdown. After a quick three-and-out, the Broncos got the ball back. Josh Grant capped off the Bronco drive with a 35-yard field goal to make the score 14-13, with Akron in front.
Western Michigan got the ball back from Akron with 45 seconds left to try to score again. Jon Wassink led a charge nearly into field goal range, but a Ulysees Gilbert III sack on Jon Wassink ended all hopes of a Bronco victory.
Next week will be another tough test for both teams. Akron (4-3, 3-0 MAC) will travel to take on the Toledo Rockets (5-1, 2-0 MAC). Western Michigan (4-3, 2-1 MAC) will take on in-state rival Eastern Michigan (2-4, 0-2 MAC) in Ypsilanti.