The Western Michigan Broncos had a tough road to hoe at the start of the season with back-to-back road games against solid Power 5 teams in the Syracuse Orange and the Michigan Wolverines. Tim Lester’s squad has a chance to get some things corrected on Saturday as the team hosts the Delaware State Hornets, who are also 0-2 on the season.
When DSU played the Buffalo Bulls to open the season, the team struggled mightily to move the ball against one of the better teams in the MAC. Sophomore Jack McDaniels managed to throw for 76 yards, 41 of which coming on a long completion to Kwannah Collie. However, the Hornets has a pair of backs rush 20+ times for 90+ yards apiece on UB, so stuffing the run will be critical this week for WMU.
The Hornets weren’t awful on defense against the Bulls; they managed to hold Buffalo to 2-13 on third down. However, UB made up for it by going 5-5 on fourth down and turning five red zone scoring opportunities into touchdowns. DSU is led on defense by Brian Cavicante and his 22 tackles, five TFLs, and fumble recovery this season.
The special teams for Delaware State can be interesting as it has one guy handling kickoff, field goal, and punting duties while have some explosiveness in the return game. Fidel Romo-Martinez averaged 46.5 yard per punt against UB while also adding a field goal and a touchback on kickoff as well. Meanwhile, the kickoff return team popped off returns of 26 and 27 yards, which can make things interesting if the Broncos aren’t as sound as they need to be on special teams.
For WMU to get back on track, the Broncos need to be effective in the running game early. DSU has allowed 143.5 rushing yards per game, so getting LeVante Bellamy and Jamauri Bogan going should be a focus. The Hornet defense has allowed eight passing touchdowns in two games (six against Buffalo) so Jon Wassink and company have an opportunity to work on the aerial attack for Western Michigan.
Defensively, the Broncos need to disrupt the running game of the Hornets in order to get them out of their comfort zone. The unit has had some success in this regard with nine TFLs and four sacks this season. Alex Grace leads the way with 19 tackles, four TFLs, and a sack, and will have to play well in order to force some stops.
This will be a great week to fine-tune some of WMU’s struggles on special teams. Units have yet to record a touchback on kickoff, average 36.3 yards per punt, missed a field goal from under 30 yards, and opponents have consistently out-returned the Broncos. It will be interesting to see which special teams unit can win the field position battle on Saturday.
I expect WMU to win convincingly, but I can see areas in which it can struggle. Special teams is obviously an issue and we need to see if the defense can step up this week after a lackluster start to the season. 34-10 with the Broncos pulling away late.