fA deflating loss at the Big House in Ann Arbor sets Western Michigan’s record to 0-2 for the second-straight year. The Michigan Wolverines decimated their opponent from Kalamazoo, scoring 49 unanswered points to start the game, playing a perfect game on both sides of the ball. Had Western Michigan not converted on a 35-yard field goal with 2:34 left in the afternoon, Michigan would have finished with an elusive shutout.
Instead, Western Michigan only lost 49-3. If a line can be learned from a victory and a book from defeat, the Broncos are consuming an entire encyclopedia after Saturday’s showing.
Syracuse was no fluke, Broncos’ defense is concerning
Yielding 55 points to the Orange was followed up by allowing 49 to a Wolverines offense that struggled mightily in Week 1.
So far, there’s been no particular strength in Western Michigan’s defense. Both Syracuse and Michigan exposed the unit through the air and the ground. Michigan registered over 300 yards on the ground and remained fairly accurate through the air. All seven of the touchdowns scored by Jim Harbaugh’s team were courtesy of the offense.
Through two weeks, Western Michigan’s defensive points per game average stands at a ghastly 52. Each week, the defense makes opposing players like Eric Dungey and Karan Higdon fit the role of Heisman candidates.
Luckily for the Broncos, they’ll have a week to regroup against Delaware State of the FCS. The Hornets are 5-42 since 2014, so the defense shouldn’t have the glaring issues linger into Week 3. But against of the remainder of Western Michigan’s FBS schedule, adjusts must go into effect immediately, or else the Broncos could be headed back down the road they traveled during the Bill Cubit-P.J. Fleck transitional years.
Western Michigan still can’t gain early offensive rhythm
Heading into the locker room has not been a lovely sight for Tim Lester’s team this season. During losses to Syracuse and Michigan, the Broncos trailed by a combined score of 69-7 at halftime.
The offense was shut out through over 57 minutes of clock yesterday. The unit has yet to enter a first half rhythm, and when combined with a struggling defense, this sets Western Michigan up for disaster each game.
Western Michigan punted four times, threw one interception, and failed to convert on fourth-and-short in the opening half. This inability to score will continue to hamper the Broncos throughout the year, so it’s time to start with new play-calling. Michigan sports the best defense the Broncos will face all season, so scoring should only ease up from here on out. Western Michigan has yet to hold a lead this year, so the points must arrive in the first and second quarters.
Western Michigan’s MVP was LeVante Bellamy
It’s hard to select a single bright spot in a 49-3 demolition, but Bellamy followed up his 120-yard, 2-touchdown performance versus Syracuse with a solid performance against one of the nation’s most relentless run defenses.
With linebackers Devin Bush and Chase Winovich accompanying star defensive tackle Rashan Gary on the run-stopping corps, it’s impressive Bellamy was able to average nearly six yards per carry.
The junior’s first touch of the afternoon resulted in a 25-yard first down run. The speedy back ended with 65 yards on 11 carries in Ann Arbor — probably the best outing of any Bronco in the Big House.
Forcing turnovers is how this team turns around
For the second-consecutive week, Western Michigan lost the turnover battle by one takeaway. The Broncos were unable to force any in Saturday’s 46-point loss but Wassink threw an interception in the first half when penetrating into Michigan territory.
When this Western Michigan team forces a turnover (which it has done once this season), a new aura seems to surround it. If the Broncos turn this ship around, the second half against Syracuse could be a microcosm of the season. That second half began with a Syracuse fumble, and Western Michigan gained precious momentum as a result and scored 21-straight points.
For a defense that struggles getting stops, forcing fumbles and picking off passes could be the saving force of the season. Western Michigan just needs to apply necessary pressure in order to cause these mistakes.
Western Michigan might have to win six-straight
If the Broncos want to qualify for bowl season, they’ll have to win often immediately. The Broncos’ schedule features Toledo, Ohio, an improved Ball State team, and Northern Illinois in the final four weeks, so it is imperative the team starts rattling off the Ws.
Eastern Michigan is Western Michigan’s only challenging opponent until October 25, so the Broncos should have some winnable games coming soon. They showed the nation that their offense is capable of creating explosive plays and scoring quickly in the Syracuse game, so the Broncos shouldn’t have too many issues offensively against upcoming opponents such as Georgia State, Bowling Green, and Central Michigan. Brighter days may be ahead.