In what was perhaps the most anticipated game of the MAC this weekend, Kent State traveled to Western Michigan to take on the Broncos in an intriguing cross division match up. Western Michigan entered this game with some questions to answer after last week’s disappointing 45-20 loss to Ball State. They answered those questions emphatically, coming away with a dominant 64-31 victory.
The Broncos didn’t waste any time opening up the scoring, marching 73 yards in eight plays on their first drive. Kaleb Eleby capped off the drive with a 24-yard TD pass to Skyy Moore, and the Broncos had a 7-0 lead four minutes into the game. Western Michigan emphasized the run early in the drive, with six of the Broncos eight plays being designed runs. La’Darius Jefferson and Sean Tyler both got three carries on the drive.
Kent State’s offense promptly responded on their first drive. Nyheim Johnson picked up 19 yards on an end around to open the drive, and the Flashes ground game was off and running. Marquez Cooper had 12 yards on two carries, and Crum finished the drive with a 12 yard TD run on a read option. With not even six minutes gone, we were already tied up 7-7. It certainly seemed like the stage was set for a shootout.
Western Michigan started the ensuing drive at their own 26, and once again marched down the field in an efficient manner. On third and eight from the Kent State 13, Kaleb Eleby was dangerously close to being picked off, and the Broncos settled for a 30 yard field goal to make it 10-7.
The Broncos defense made the first stop of the drive on Kent State’s next drive, with Ralph Holley sacking Dustin Crum on third and 13 and forcing the punt.
Western Michigan made the Flashes pay for puntin on the very next play from scrimmage, as Eleby found the speedster Jaylen Hall down the left sideline for a 68-yard score to put the tally at 17-7 Broncos. Kent State seemed to be reeling, and Western had all of the momentum.
In desperate need of a response, the Golden Flashes offense faltered once again. One false start and one sack later, Kent State was punting the ball back to the Broncos without picking up so much as a single first down. The Broncos game plan was clearly to be aggressive with the blitz, and the Golden Flashes offensive line did not appear equipped to answer the challenge.
The Broncos next drive started at their own 43, and once again proved to be too much for the Kent State defense. Even two penalties by the WMU offense couldn’t get the Flashes off the field, and La’Darius Jefferson picked up a crucial first down when the Broncos went for it on fourth and one at the Kent State 15. The Flashes defense was able to hold at that point, and punter Nick Mihalich came on for his second field goal of the day. To this point, the Broncos had scored on all four of their possessions and held a 20-7 lead.
The Flashes offense took the field needing to stop the bleeding. WR Keshunn Abram saw a sure TD go through his hands on the second play of the drive. Initially, it looked like that may kill the drive, but Crum found Nykeim Johnson for eight yards on fourth-and-two at midfield to keep the drive alive. Three plays later, Crum found his new favorite target Dante Cephas for a 16-yard score, and the Flashes were right back in it.
Western took over at their own 30 with 9:58 to go before the half. Aided by three pass interference calls, the Broncos found themselves inside the Kent 10 yard line yet again. For the third time, the Golden Flashes held when it mattered, and Nick Mihalich came on for his third field goal of the first half. At this point, the Broncos had amassed 291 yards of offense. The Kent defense was struggling mightily, but to their credit, they forced the Broncos to kick field goals on all three red zone trips. With their potent offense liable to score at any moment, they were giving themselves a chance.
After a 46-yard return by Ja’Shaun Poke on the ensuing kickoff, Dustin Crum and company took over at the Broncos 45 yard line. After picking up one first down, Kent failed to convert on a fourth and 10 from the Broncos 35.
Western took over at the Kent 49 yard line after a personal foul penalty, but was unable to take advantage. Facing a fourth and two, the Broncos lined up to attempt to extend their drive but had to change plans after a false start penalty. It was the first drive of the day where the Western offense was not able to produce points.
Starting at their own 20 yard line with 1:46 to go, the Flashes marched to the Broncos two yard line on the back of a 50 yard completion from Crum to Dante Cephas. Facing fourth and goal with only two seconds left to go in the first half, Sean Lewis opted for the field goal. Andrew Glass made the 20 yard attempt, and we had ourselves a 23-17 ball game heading into the break.
The Broncos won the first half yardage battle 299-220, but they allowed Kent State back into the game after taking a commanding 20-7 lead. With Kent State set to receive the ball first after the break, the Flashes were well within striking distance.
The first drive of the second half started out very promising for KSU, with Xavier Williams picking up 27 yards on the first play. Unfortunately, Williams fumbled on the next snap and the Broncos had their first takeaway of the contest. Western took over at midfield.
Eleby and company quickly went back to work, and six plays later La’Darius Jefferson gave the Broncos a 30-17 lead courtesy of a 13-yard TD run. Western was firmly back in the driver’s seat.
Kent State was unable to produce anything on their next drive, with Corvin Moment sacking Dustin Crum on third and three. The Broncos front seven was relentless all game, never allowing the Golden Flashes run game to get going and pressuring Dustin Crum seemingly ever time he dropped back to throw.
After the Kent State punt, the Western Michigan offense kept right on rolling. After yet another pass interference penalty against the Flashes secondary (the fourth of the game), Eleby connected with Skyy Moore for their second score of the day, this one from 26 yards out. Nick Mihalich missed the extra point, but at 36-17, the Broncos were in control nonetheless.
The Western defense continued their stellar performance on the ensuing drive, sacking Crum two times to force yet another three and out. Corvin Moment, Ralph Holley and Ali Fayad lived in the Kent State backfield all game, and the Broncos sacked Crum three times in the third quarter alone.
Starting their next drive at the Kent State 40-yard line, it took the Broncos only four plays to find the end zone yet again. On second-and-10 from the Flashes 26, Jaxson Kincaide went around the left end and found the end zone to put the Broncos up 43-17.
The Flashes offense had no answer on the ensuing possession, failing to pick up a first down for their third straight drive, and the WMU offense started to pour it on.
On the second play of the ensuing drive, Sean Tyler went up the middle and was basically untouched. 64 yards later, he was in the end zone and the Broncos were up 50-17. At this point, the Broncos had scored 27 points in the first 10 minutes of the third quarter, and the Flashes were in a total free fall.
The Flashes offense finally regained their rhythm on their next drive, needing only five plays to go 75 yards. The drive was capped off by Crum’s 16 yard TD pass to Keshunn Abram, though Andrew Glass’s extra point was blocked. Kent State found themselves down 50-23 with 3:08 left in the third.
Unfortunately for the Flashes, their defense was unable to maintain the momentum that their offense had created. Jaylen Hall made an incredible catch in traffic to move the Broncos inside the Kent State five yard line, and Jaxson Kincaide had his second TD of the day on the very next play. With 14:30 to go in the game, the Broncos were up 57-23.
By this point, Kent State was demoralized and defeated. Sean Lewis opted to get the backups some reps, and QB Collin Schlee replaced Dustin Crum in the first possession of the fourth quarter.
After an exchange of possessions, Schlee orchestrated a nine-play, 42-yard drive that was capped off by Bryan Bradford’s one-yard TD run. Schlee was impressive, and does appear ready to take over for Dustin Crum next season. That doesn’t change the outcome of this game though, and even after the score, the Flashes found themselves down 57-31 after a successful two point conversion.
Just for good measure, the Broncos added one more score on their next possession, going 73 yards in eight plays. Eleby capped the drive with a 25 yard TD run, and 64-31 would prove to be the final tally.
This game was a complete domination and an emphatic statement from Western Michigan that last week’s performance against Ball State was an aberration.
The Broncos outgained the Flashes 655-369 and scored on 10 of their first 12 drives of the game. Kent State seemed to have some momentum after cutting the lead to 23-17 at the end of the first half. The Broncos defense responded, forcing a turnover on the Flashes first drive of the second half and giving the offense the ball at midfield. Six plays later, the Broncos offense found the end zone, and WMU never looked back.
After an off week last week, Eleby was back to his usual self, completing 15-of-22 passes for 311 yards and three TDs. Two of those TD passes were to Skyy Moore, who finished with five catches for 144 yards and those two scores.
The Broncos ground game had a huge day as well, with the team amassing 341 yards on 51 carries. Sean Tyler had a career day, leading the team with 169 yards and a TD on 17 carries.
After last week, Western Michigan had to regroup after their worst performance of the season. This week, it’s the Golden Flashes who have some questions to answer.
The defense was not good by any stretch of the imagination in this one, and there are some concerns on the offensive side of the ball as well. Kent State came into this game averaging 239.5 yards per game on the ground, but were only able to manage 124 yards on 34 carries. Dustin Crum had a decent day, going 15-of-26 for 210 yards and two TDs, but was under constant pressure and was sacked five times. The Kent State offensive line did not appear prepared to handle the Broncos front seven, and Ralph Holley, Ali Fayad and Corvin Moment wreaked havoc in the Flashes backfield all day.
Western Michigan appears to be back on track. Kent State needs to regroup so they can do the same. Both of these teams have legitimate chances to get to Ford Field, though Kent State certainly has some issues to address on the defensive side of the ball.
Both teams are back in action next week. Kent State travels to Athens to take on Ohio at 1:00 EST, while Western Michigan travels to Toledo in what will be a huge match up in the West division. Kickoff is set for 3:30 at the Glass Bowl.