Lightning can strike twice.
The game moved from Kalmazoo to Syracuse, but Western Michigan saw much of the same result in its rematch against the Orange. Led by sophomore quarterback Tommy DeVito in a career-best performance with four touchdown passes, Syracuse’s offense exploded for seven touchdowns in a 52-33 win over the Broncos.
The second play from scrimmage set a bad precedent for Western Michigan’s defense, which folded and allowed 545 yards just one week after suppressing Georgia State. DeVito, who entered the game with -40 rushing yards, unleashed his inner Eric Dungey on the Broncos. DeVito burst down the sideline for a 60-yard run run, setting up a 23-yard touchdown run by running back Moe Neal two plays later.
Western Michigan’s offense didn’t slow down in terms of production, but turnovers killed the team in the early going. The first drive halted after LeVante Bellamy was crushed in the flat on a 4th-and-1 attempt in the red zone. Then, the Broncos muffed a punt on their own 9 to allow Syracuse to create a 14-0 lead. Nonetheless, Western Michigan’s offense kept moving, and upon entering the red zone a second time, Bellamy fumbled at the 1 and Syracuse recovered for a touchback. The Orange took full advantage of the miscue as DeVito ran a 36-yard QB draw untouched into the end zone for a 21-0 lead.
Tim Lester’s team had been in this circumstance before, trailing 34-7 at the half against the Orange last August. Reminiscent of last year when the Broncos rattled off three unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter, the offense would quickly resurrect. LeVante Bellamy posted 165 yards on the afternoon and 47 of them would be dedicated to the Broncos’ first touchdown of the game with 9:09 remaining in the second. Bellamy would later leave with an injury but his presence helped bolster Western Michigan’s offense when it needed a spark.
The Broncos scored once more before halftime, succeeding on their next crucial 4th-and-short attempt. Two yards from the goal line, quarterback Jon Wassink threw an out route to Giovanni Ricci in the flat to cut the deficit to 21-13 — the extra point attempt failed. A quick field goal by Andre Szmyt lifted Syracuse back up to a two-possession game at the half.
In the second half, an influx of touchdowns invaded The Dome. In roughly the first nine minutes of the third quarter, Western Michigan and Syracuse traded four touchdowns — all on possessions of fewer than two minutes. Both of the Orange’s third quarter scores were via wide receiver Trishton Jackson. Jackson burned one-on-one coverage for a 59-yard score and then ran for a 46-yarder after a screen pass. The wideout led all receivers in the game with 141 yards.
Western Michigan scored on another Bellamy burst, where he shed several tacklers on a 43-yard sprint. Wassink also hit Jaylen Hall on a quick slant in press coverage for a 60-yard touchdown.
With the Broncos’ offense rolling, the defense got in on the action as well. Defensive end Ali Fayad forced a fumble on the ensuing possession. Taking over in Syracuse territory, Wassink navigated down the field with a 3rd-and-long connection to the tight end Ricci in the center of the field. Freshman halfback Sean Tyler, fulfilling Bellamy’s duties after an injury, ran around the left tackle for an 8-yard score. Suddenly, Western Michigan trailed 38-33.
The defense created a path to the lead, but Western Michigan’s offense couldn’t convert on 4th-and-1. Davon Tucker was stuffed up the middle just inches short of the sticks. DeVito took his troops straight down with a short field ahead of him, and Syracuse created a multi-possession lead to claim a 52-33 victory.
Western Michigan’s early struggles kept the Broncos from success early. Despite earning two Syracuse fumbles, they turned the ball over four times and finished 1-of-5 on fourth down tries. The offense was inconsistent, but when everything was in sync, the Broncos were unstoppable. Wassink only completed 50% of passes but threw for 356 yards. Bellamy presented a problem to Syracuse’s run defense, while Ricci often got open for eight receptions and 105 yards.
Western Michigan finishes its non-conference slate 2-2, falling to Michigan State and Syracuse by allowing a combined 106 points to their offenses. The Broncos have dropped all six Power Five games in the Lester era, but the team aims to rebound next Saturday. Central Michigan visits Kalamazoo for a heated rivalry game in Western Michigan’s MAC opener.