After a ruthless thrashing in East Lansing, Western Michigan could not have asked for a better response. The resilient bunch dominated an undefeated Georgia State team, posting 57 points on the Panthers in three quarters.
An offensive resurgence guided the Broncos to a 47-point win in their return to Waldo, improving Tim Lester’s team to 2-1 on the season. Here is what we learned from Western Michigan’s domination in Kalamazoo:
LeVante Bellamy is back and means business
The senior halfback struggled out of the gate in 2019 with two games of averaging under three yards per attempt. But Bellamy left those performances in the dust re-wrote the narrative of his season with a dominant 192-yard showing against the Panthers defense. Bellamy broke free for three touchdown runs, and he averaged nearly 13 yards per carry.
His touchdowns struck from long range — 60, 36, and 73 yards. Bellamy’s first touchdown set the tone for the night and summoned Western Michigan’s near-flawless offense to be on display in Kalamazoo. Bellamy’s speed bursts past the line of scrimmage are challenging for defenses to stop. When he gets a sliver of open field, the burners turn on and the result is often a long sprint to the end zone.
Knock. Knock.— #MACtion (@MACSports) September 15, 2019
Yep. @wmu____2 at it once again. This time a 73-yard TD.
Bellamy now with 181 yards & 3 TD's! @WMU_Football | #MACtion pic.twitter.com/9GESNpAxDF
The Broncos have a rising star freshman back, too
It wasn’t just Bellamy dominating on the ground for the Broncos. Western Michigan rushed for 450 yards on 44 carries as a unit — averaging a first down per attempt. The offense registered seven rushing touchdowns on Georgia State, and a breakout star contributed two of those.
Meet true freshman running back Sean Tyler. The Richton Park, IL, native earned 10 total touches through the first two games, most notably breaking loose for a 26-yard run against Michigan State. But Tyler’s outing against the Panthers was his entrance to the scene and a night to remember. He only carried the ball just six times, but the freshman cashed those opportunities in for 138 yards and two touchdowns — averaging 23 yards per touch. Tyler scored from 61 in the first quarter and from 30 in the second, utilizing an impressive degree of speed to fly past the Georgia State defense.
— WMU Football (@WMU_Football) September 14, 2019
Woah Sean Tyler with his first career TD
ESPN+| https://t.co/UGCYVzsGFm#LetsRide pic.twitter.com/ZoOvkIrGSD
With Jamauri Bogan finally graduated from the program, there were questions about who Bellamy’s secondary back would be, and it looks like Tyler might be the answer.
Western Michigan’s defense is a random number generator
This article is called ‘five things learned,’ but what we really learned is that Western Michigan’s defense provides no clear answers to our questions. The Broncos defense exhibits high variability in the ability at which they execute. Against an often-dormant Michigan State offense, Western Michigan nearly allowed a 200-yard rusher AND a 200-yard receiver, allowing over 500 yards and over 50 points on the scoreboard.
But when pitted up against a Georgia State team that dropped 38 at an SEC stadium and scored 48 the following week, Western Michigan looked like the ‘85 Bears. Outside linebacker Treshaun Hayward impressed with 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks in the best individual defensive performance of the day. But as a team, the Broncos were even stronger. They held Georgia State to 25% on third down conversions and forced two timely turnovers in the second quarter to augment the separation between the teams.
Defense was a major concern for the Broncos last season after the team allowed 42 or more points in all six of their losses in 2018. It’s still unclear if Lou Esposito is operating a better unit this year, but the high-execution defense that took the field in Waldo Stadium hardly looked like the same sluggish team that was run out of East Lansing in Week 2.
This is the best game Western Michigan has played since 2016
In terms of the caliber of opponent and how Western Michigan handled its foe, this is the best we’ve seen out of the Broncos in the Tim Lester era. Although it’s too soon to crown Georgia State bowl contenders, the Panthers brutalized Tennessee at the line of scrimmage Week 1 and looked to be the superior team in Neyland Stadium.
For Western Michigan to have a 2-0 team enter with high energy and momentum and leave as a shell of itself speaks volumes about the Broncos’ talent and preparation ability. The play-calling was top notch, the execution was somehow even better, and no weak points were identified on the Western Michigan side the entire night. Passing game? Jon Wassink completed 75% of passes for 246 yards. Rushing game? Bellamy and Tyler led the unit to 450 rushing yards and a program-record seven rushing touchdowns. Defense? Won turnover battle 3-0, recorded four sacks and nine tackles for loss while holding Georgia State (entered with 43.0 scoring average) to 10 points.
The Broncos haven’t performed at this high of a level since they were rowing the boat to the Cotton Bowl back in 2016. To see the immense amount of talent on Lester’s team deliver 60 minutes of excellence is a promising omen for the remainder of the year.
Michigan State game was a fluke
No, I’m not saying Western Michigan is better than Michigan State or that it would defeat the Spartans in a rematch. But a 51-17 result is probably far from the result the Broncos would face if the teams squared off again. Michigan State suffered its first loss of the season, 10-7 to Arizona State, and looked lifeless on offense in the same venue it dominated Western Michigan.
The game that transpired in East Lansing featured the Spartans at their summit of their offense and Broncos at the nadir of theirs. Both teams overly compensated in their regression to the mean in Week 3 in terms of offensive production. There are no redos in football (unless you’re 2011 Alabama), but Western Michigan would certainly like to have its Week 2 back because the Broncos are on a mission to prove they’re to be taken seriously in 2019. They’ll have another shot to make noise in Syracuse next Saturday morning.