The infamous Battle for the Victory Cannon took place in its previous home in Kalamazoo, Mich. Leading up to the game, the Western Michigan Broncos (5-3, 3-1 MAC) enjoyed an 11-day bye week to prepare for the Central Michigan Chippewas (4-4, 2-2 MAC). The Chippewas also had an 11-day break.
Each school fights each year for the Victory Cannon and the Michigan MAC Trophy, the latter including the mutual rivalry with the Eastern Michigan Eagles. While every game between the Broncos and Chippewas places the Victory Cannon at stake, this game was critical for either team to earn the Michigan MAC Trophy. Previously, the Broncos defeated Eastern Michigan, potentially setting the Broncos up for another year with the trophy.
This year ended with a shocking Chippewa comeback victory in the rain. Central Michigan prevailed, and earned the first win against the Broncos since 2013, with a 35-28 score.
Again facing rainy conditions, the Broncos opted to keep the ball on the ground in the reliable hands of their running backs. Western Michigan employed Jarvion Franklin, Jamauri Bogan, and Davon Tucker in the rushing attack, missing LeVante Bellamy due to injury. As a team, the Broncos put up 315 yards and all four touchdowns from rushing. In fact, each of the three running backs scored at least one touchdown each. Jarvion Franklin was the workhorse (pun intended), accumulating 228 yards on 26 carries, including this one for 47 yards:
Ohhhh @JarvionFranklin went ALL. THE. WAY.— #MACtion (@MACSports) November 2, 2017
Touchdown, @WMU_Football! #MACtion. pic.twitter.com/ssXZISBmbA
Reece Goddard earned the starting spot at quarterback with Jon Wassink out for a broken collarbone. Goddard faced a relentless assault from the Central Michigan defensive front, being pressured about a dozen times and being sacked three times. When Goddard did get the ball away, he struggled to get a catch-able ball downfield. Reece Goddard finished 6-for-18 and 42 yards and an interception, but no touchdowns. Donnie Ernsberger led the Broncos in receiving, earning 35 yards on his four receptions.
Derrick Mitchell showed the accuracy of his feet while performing his punting duties. He placed four of his nine punts inside the Chippewa 20-yard line, despite being the oldest player on an active FBS roster. Western Michigan’s Alex Grace and Caleb Bailey each recovered a fumble as Central Michigan failed to secure their punt returns. One other punt was partially blocked Chippewas. Josh Grant made all four extra points, but did not come out for any other field goals.
Central Michigan’s normally potent passing attack was hampered by the weather. Despite the persistent precipitation, Morris finished with a surprising 243 passing yards. He completed 12 of his 30 passes without any interceptions. Corey Willis led the Chippewas in receiving with 148 yards and a score on just five receptions.
Since the standard Chippewa offense revolves around the passing attack, the rushing game was not as successful compared to the Broncos. Jonathan Ward led the Chippewas with 132 rushing yards on his 17 carries. Shane Morris picked up 27 more yards on his eight scrambles and draws, as well as two touchdowns. As a team, Central Michigan finished with ended with 166 rushing yards. Part of that was due to Western Michigan’s Robert Spillane pursuing the Chippewa ball carriers.
Punting nine times for the Chippewas was Jack Sheldon, who pinned the Broncos in their own 20-yard line three times. Starting place-kicker Michael Armstrong did not see any attempts at field goals, but made all five extra points. Mark Chapman fumbled two consecutive punt returns, giving the ball away both times. Kickoff specialist Kaden Keon kicked and recovered an onside kick in the fourth quarter.
Jarvion Franklin opened up the scoring quickly for the Broncos on a wide open 47-yard touchdown run. After a series of punts between each team, Western Michigan eventually put together another successful drive. Davon Tucker finished the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run, extending the Bronco lead to 14-0. Central Michigan responded with a bold drive that included going for it on fourth down. Shane Morris waltzed into the end zone untouched on a three-yard touchdown run to close out the first quarter.
Sneaky @ShaneMorris_7 puts @CMU_Football on the board! #MACtion pic.twitter.com/6fYOJmtKj4— #MACtion (@MACSports) November 2, 2017
Sean Bunting got the ball back for the Chippewas off a Reece Goddard interception, but Central Michigan was unable to capitalize on the turnover. Near the end of the second quarter, Jamauri Bogan was able to sneak in for a touchdown from two yards out.
Coming out of halftime, Central Michigan came out passing, down 21-7. Shane Morris ended the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run, cutting the Bronco lead to seven. Western Michigan’s ensuing drive stalled initially, but was revived when back-up punt returner Mark Chapman fumbled the punt. Alex Grace recovered for the Broncos. Jarvion Franklin capped the drive off with a nine-yard touchdown run. Another muffed punt through the hands of Mark Chapman was recovered by Western Michigan’s Caleb Bailey. Only two plays later, the ball slipped through Reece Goddard’s hands to be recovered by Central Michigan.
Entering the fourth quarter, Western Michigan still held the lead, 28-14. With about ten minutes left in the game, Jarvion Franklin fumbled the ball away to the Chippewas. Central Michigan took advantage of the turnover as Jonathan Ward rushed in for a 29-yard touchdown. A partially-blocked Derrick Mitchell punt gave the Chippewas excellent field position, which they used to score a game-tying touchdown. Shane Morris’ nine-yard pass was caught by Eric Cooper for the score to make it 28-28.
Kaden Keon kicked a surprise onside kick for the Chippewas, which they recovered. After a punt from each team, Shane Morris hit Corey Willis on a 77-yard passing touchdown. Western Michigan was unable to respond, and the Chippewas ran the clock out to win 35-28.
Western Michigan (5-4, 3-2 MAC) will play host again next week, this time against the Kent State Golden Flashes. Central Michigan (5-4, 3-2 MAC) will head back to Mount Pleasant to try to earn the Michigan MAC Trophy against the Eastern Michigan Eagles. The Chippewas and Broncos are now tied for third in the MAC West, with Central Michigan owning the tie-breaker.