There’s no place like home, and Tim Lester’s Broncos will back that statement.
Western Michigan (4-3, 2-1 MAC) continued its undefeated record at home this year, besting Miami (OH) (2-4, 1-1 MAC) 38-16 in Kalamazoo.
It was a slow start for the Broncos’ offense, which was limited to six yards and two 3-and-outs by Doug Costin and the RedHawk defense to start the afternoon. Miami won the early field position battle and converted those stops into points. Kicker Sam Sloman (3-for-4 on the day) nailed two impressive field goals from 51 and 49 yards out to provide the RedHawks a 6-0 lead on the road.
Western Michigan’s offense finally moved the sticks shortly after, thanks to the tough running of quarterback Jon Wassink. But the Broncos were stopped dead in their tracks deep in Miami territory.
With the Broncos’ usually-explosive offense stalling, the defense needed to provide the spark. They responded by stopping a Brett Gabbert QB sneak while backed up in their own red zone. And finally, outside linebacker Drake Spears got the Broncos on the scoreboard by snatching a screen pass in the backfield and returning it 74 yards for a touchdown.
With a 7-6 lead, the offense finally gained its rhythm, and Mississippi State transfer Keith Mixon Jr. extended the lead with a pair of highlight finishes. He burned past the entire RedHawk defense for a 46-yard seam route down the center of the field. One drive later and one minute before the half, he ran a perfect crossing route and caught Wassink’s bullet. The result was a 37-yard untouched sprint to the end zone and a 21-6 lead.
But the second half of the game was controlled by Western Michigan’s defense. A unit which has shown inconsistencies throughout the year, missed tackles were a rarity and the secondary routinely blanketed the RedHawk receivers. The Broncos allowed just three points in the third quarter.
Miami struck again to start the fourth, inching within a possession on a short Jaylon Bester rushing touchdown. But Western Michigan finally got its running game going by feeding LeVante Bellamy. The star senior progressed a fourth quarter drive with a 35-yard run and then finished by sprinting 17 to the end zone to increase the lead to 28-16. He put the closing efforts on the game with a 47-yard touchdown burst in the final minutes.
Bellamy produced 135 yards on the ground, adding to an already impressive 2019 campaign. Gabbert outdueled Wassink in the QB battle, throwing for 260 yards compared to 137, but Wassink finished with two touchdown passes and the win.
The win is Western Michigan’s second in MAC play this season, while the RedHawks fail to move to .500 by dropping their first conference matchup and first game of the season to an unranked team.