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2021 Mid-American Conference Football Game Recap: Western Michigan 28, Illinois State 0

The Broncos bounced back from their Week 1 loss at Michigan with a dominant performance at home in Kalamzaoo.

Tyler Carlton

Looking back at Western Michigan’s Week 1 loss to Michigan, one word comes to mind: disappointment.

The Broncos veteran squad felt like they missed an opportunity to make a statement and prove that they were one of the teams to beat in the MAC.

On the other side of the spectrum, only one word can properly describe the Bronco’s 28-0 victory over Illinois State on Saturday: domination. And honestly, domination might even be an understatement. The final score might not reflect it, but the Broncos performance on Saturday was historic. The Broncos tied a program record on Saturday for the least yards allowed in a single game: 57.

That’s not on one drive, or even one quarter. Nope. 57 yards for an entire 60 minute game of football. The final yardage total (407-57) more accurately reflects the true nature of this game than does the final score.

Corvin Moment led the defense, recording one of the Broncos’ four sacks, along with three tackles for loss. The Redbirds star dual threat QB, Bryce Jefferson, was limited to 29 yards passing on 8 of 19, and the ISU run game was limited to 28 yards on 26 carries. The Illinois State offense never had a chance to get going, as the Broncos forced four punts and an interception on the Redbirds’ first four drives. Illinois State couldn’t get an inch out of the Broncos, as eight of the Redbirds’ 12 possessions were three-and-outs.

Western Michigan didn’t waste any time asserting their dominance in this one, taking the opening kick and going 75 yards in 11 plays. La’Darius Jefferson capped the drive with a one-yard TD run, and the Broncos held a 7-0 lead.

While the WMU defense was dominant all game, there was a stretch in the first half where the Broncos offense couldn’t get out of their own way. After their game-opening TD drive, Western’s next three drives ended with zero points. A three-and-out led to a punt, which was followed by a failed fourth down conversion, where Kaleb Eleby failed to connect with Bryce Nunnelly deep in ISU territory. On the next drive, the Broncos went 88 yards in 12 plays before a La’Darius Jefferson fumble inside the Redbirds 10 yard line ended the WMU scoring chance.

Fortunately for Western, the defense didn’t allow the offenses first-half woes affect the outcome in this one. The Redbirds went three-and-out on their next three drives, and the Broncos offense finally found its footing in the third quarter. Eleby capped an eight-play, 49 yard drive with a 24 yard TD strike to Jaylen Hall.

After yet another ISU three and out, the Broncos next drive also ended in a TD, as La’Darius Jefferson found the end zone for the second time of the day to make it 28-0. That would be your final tally.

The offense still seems to be finding its rhythm, but the defensive improvement in this game was quite drastic. Illinois State is an FCS foe, but they are a solid FCS program with legitimate talent on offense. This WMU defense never allowed them to get going, and they were the story of this game.

Offensively, WR Skyy Moore did not play after injuring his leg last week in Ann Arbor. In his absence, Jaylen Hall led the receiving corps with seven catches for 75 yards and a TD. Kaleb Eleby turned in the standard efficient performance that we’ve come to expect from him, going 15-for-21 for 174 yards and a TD. La’Darius Jefferson led the ground game with 106 yards on 18 carries to go with two TD’s.

Overall, this was a nice bounce back performance from the Broncos. This was a team that needed some confidence after last week’s loss at Michigan, and this dominant victory will certainly provide that boost. WMU has a second chance at a power five victory next week, as they visit the Steel City to take on the Pitt Panthers. Kick at Heinz Field is set for 12:00.