Western Michigan (2-3, 1-0 MAC West) capped an incredible day of #MACtion with a thoroughly dominating performance against New Hampshire on Saturday night, a 44-7 result which the hosting Broncos needed badly after a rough handful of weeks. This game was never in doubt, as the Broncos asserted themselves immediately and often throughout.
The Broncos received the opening kick and had the return taken back for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play. No matter, the flea-flicker pass on the first play went for 75 yards to Corey Crooms. There may not have been a more wide-open receiver since the invention of the forward pass.
The image above is the moment Crooms caught the pass. There is one other player in frame, covered by the scorebug. The endzone view, seen below, is just as absurd. The ball is at its apex and no one has a shot to stop this from scoring.
New Hampshire’s offensive line was overmatched the entire game. Their first drive moved the ball into Western Michigan territory but ended in a punt. The Wildcats had five drives end with negative yardage. The Broncos had 17 total tackles-for-loss and seven sacks. New Hampshire quarterback Max Brosmer had no time to operate and it showed.
The Wildcat coaching staff did their best to get Brosmer easy completions, and he ultimately did get some completions in, sitting at about 65 percent, but he was under five yards passing per attempt.
The Bronco front seven was stout against the run and held Wildcat star running back Dylan Laube to 73 yards on 22 rushes. If his 31-yard rush, his longest, is removed, his average rush becomes two yards per rush.
Laube was the receiver of the only touchdown pass the Wildcats scored. It’s certainly the highlight of the night for Laube when averaged more than ten yards a catch on six catches.
Ultimately, the Bronco defense won out on a flurry of negative plays that New Hampshire couldn’t overcome. It was the best defensive performance of the season for the Broncos and it should’ve been, given the opponent.
On offense, the Broncos scored on each of their first three possessions. After the opening score and a punt by New Hampshire stuck the Broncos on their own four-yard line, Western Michigan took nine plays to move the ball 96-yards for their second score. La’Darius Jefferson, the short-yardage running back, caught a 25-yard pass and a 13-yard pass on the drive. They weren’t typical running back passes to the flat, Jefferson caught the ball downfield along the sideline.
He finished the drive with a five-yard touchdown run on 2nd-and-goal. At the end of the drive, Jefferson had 64-yards of total offense on the 96-yard drive.
Sean Tyler flashed his speed and explosiveness on the next drive with a 76-yard reception on a screen play.
The touchdown party was interrupted briefly by an aggressive interception in the endzone from Salopek attempting to reach Crooms. New Hampshire had just fumbled the ball to the Bronco defense and the offense was trying to take the rare 28-0 first-quarter lead.
New Hampshire was forced to punt on their ensuing possession, but the snap was significantly over the punter's head. The punter eventually recovered it but had no way to get the punt off. He was tackled at his own 14 for a turnover on downs. Salopek found the tight end, Joshua Burgett, for his first touchdown catch of the season.
The Broncos dominated the first half of play and took a 28-7 lead into halftime. Both offenses stagnated and seven drives went by where they were trying to score but could not.
Bronco safety Bricen Garner intercepted a pass at the New Hampshire 38 which set up a field goal to extend the lead. Two plays later, defensive tackle Kenny Givens strip sacked Brosmer, forcing and recovering the fumble that lead to another Bronco touchdown.
New Hampshire’s punter, Sean Lehane, deserves a mention for his performance. He had more work to do than he would’ve liked, but he stuck the Broncos inside their own 20-yard line on four of seven punts. Lehane’s sixth punt was especially effective, sticking Western Michigan at their own three-yard line.
After a three-and-out, the Broncos punted from the back of their own endzone and allowed a free runner to partially block it. It went three yards past the line of scrimmage and gave the ball back to New Hampshire inside the ten. The game was too far out of hand for it to truly matter, but it’s still not good.
The Wildcats had a touchdown taken off the scoreboard by a holding penalty, and in an act of cruelty by the football Gods, Delano Ware intercepted a pass that was popped up by the receiver and returned it 96-yards for a touchdown.
That provided the final score and both teams saw fit to run the clock out the rest of the game.
The Broncos didn’t let this one slip away and took care of business. Their remaining seven games are all in conference.
Western Michigan stays home and plays an up-and-down Eastern Michigan Eagles squad next Saturday. Their head coach Chris Creighton will have them ready to play.