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What We Learned from Western Michigan’s 44-7 win over New Hampshire

This game was just what the doctor ordered for WMU, as the Bronco defense was suffocating, and the offense got off to a hot start in a dominant effort.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Western Michigan Kimberly Moss-USA TODAY Sports

The New Hampshire Wildcats defense was the cure for the common offense when Western Michigan scored 44 points Saturday evening. The Broncos looked dangerous as they hit big play after big play in the 44-7 win.

The Broncos had more total yardage in the first half than they had averaged through the first four games of the season. They only averaged 288 yards a game coming into week five, so it’s an outstanding half, but not a great average.

Each playmaker got into the action in the first half, and the defense put the clamps on to close the game out. The defense was excellent and created four turnovers and 17 negative plays. That’s the defense that defensive coordinator Lou Esposito wants to see every game.

There are always things to learn or, in this case, nitpick from any game. The Broncos won a game by a large margin. Where did they leave meat on the bone?

Western Michigan jumped out to a big lead and coasted

The Broncos scored touchdowns on four of their first five drives while the defense recovered a fumble. WMU also turned the Wildcats over-on-downs and forced three punts. It was the hottest start the Broncos had gotten off to this year by a wide margin.

The Broncos let the auto-pilot take over from there and the win was in the bag. The Wildcats did not threaten to overcome the first quarter 21-point margin.

The skill position core of Corey Crooms, La’Darius Jefferson, Sean Tyler and Jelahni Galloway each had a drive where they provided the majority of the yards on the way to the touchdown. Galloway was the only one to not actually score the touchdown himself.

The opening play from the Broncos was a flea-flicker that the entire New Hampshire defense sold out on. Crooms scored on the 75-yard touchdown pass and was the most open I’ve ever seen a receiver in any level of football.

The next drive for the Broncos started on their own four-yard line and went the distance for a touchdown. There were 96 yards available on the drive and Jefferson moved the ball for 64 of those yards. He ran the ball three times for 26 yards and caught the ball downfield twice for 38-yards. The drive ended with a five-yard touchdown run.

Sean Tyler was up next, catching a wide-open third-and-eight screen pass. There were two defenders on that side of the field when he caught the ball with two blockers in front. Right tackle Addison West made a critical block to take care of the only Wildcat who could make a play, and he made it into the endzone easily on a 76-yard touchdown catch and run.

Jehlani Galloway had a 19-yard reception on a 14-yard drive. There was a holding penalty to allow that to happen. That catch turned a second-and-20 into a third-and-one that the Broncos converted. They scored on the next play.

The Broncos got the ball to their playmakers and it paid off.

Great day for the Bronco offense, consistency was the only flaw

After the great start for the Broncos, the offense stalled out for a while. They only scored one more offensive touchdown for the remainder of the game. The aggression was dialed down, and if they needed a score they probably could’ve gotten it, but there were four consecutive three-and-outs.

The Broncos had the defense to keep the Wildcats in check but getting the offense back in gear can be tricky. Western had no need to do that and they did score 37 points from their offense. No matter the opponent, that should be enough to win and it was.

There was a sequence when they settled for a field goal that could be problematic against the MAC teams the Broncos will face in November especially. After a false start penalty created a first and 15, they went to the air on three consecutive plays.

Salopek did not deliver one catchable throw. All three passes targeted Crooms and the first was an out route from the slot to the wide side of the field. It’s a long throw that can be difficult to deliver on time without a cannon for an arm. It was low and uncatchable for anyone.

The second pass was a 12-yard in-route and Crooms settled in the soft spot of the zone. He was open and the correct read. Again, Salopek bounced it in. An on target pass gets Crooms the ball on the six-yard line and a window of space. He could score on that play.

The last throw was an overthrow to the front corner of the endzone. Crooms ran a corner route and the pass bounced harmlessly out of bounds.

The 12-yard in-route is the drive killer. It’s an easily completed pass and at the minimum creates a third-and-three situation from the six-yard line. The silver lining is that no one had a shot at a catch on these throws. The throws were off target but not a turnover risk.

The Broncos will need to clean that up before it hurts them. It certainly wasn’t Saturday.

WMU defense suffocated the Wildcats

The Bronco defense finally had a day where they were able to get to the quarterback.

Sacks were rare coming into Week 5, but seven sacks will make up for that. When the offense takes off early and puts 28 points on the board before the ten-minute mark in the second quarter, the defense can get pretty deep into their rotation.

Seven different players recorded the seven sacks. For defensive linemen Kenny Givens and Elijah Hawk, their only tackle was the sack they recorded. Braden “TFL” Fiske recorded two more tackles for loss, one as a sack. He leads the Broncos in plays made behind the line of scrimmage and is tied for eighth overall in the MAC. To say he’s been a bright spot on the defensive line would be an understatement.

The Wildcats were perpetually behind the chains. Seventeen of their 73 plays went for negative yards, which is almost one in four.

The seven sacks really accelerated Wildcat quarterback Max Brosmer’s clock in the pocket. He fumbled the ball away twice while being sacked and threw two interceptions when he did get the ball away. Safety Delano Ware returned one of those interceptions 97 yards for a touchdown to steal a scoring opportunity for the Broncos.

For the first time this season, the wildly aggressive scheme the Broncos run worked as it’s drawn up.

The only criticism the defense could face are the penalties they inflicted on themselves.

On the only scoring drive the Wildcat’s had, the Broncos committed two personal foul penalties. The Broncos had four overall in the game and that will lead to points for the other team. It did Saturday.

The margins will be smaller the farther into the season the Broncos are and 60 free yards and four automatic first downs could be the difference.

The Broncos host Eastern Michigan in Week 6 and will have their hands full containing running back Samson Evans, who ran for more than 250 yards against Arizona State. The decision makers at Arizona State had seen enough of Herm Edwards after that game and decided a new direction is needed.

There’s no question that Eastern Michigan is in better place now than a handful of seasons ago, but their next goal is competing for the MAC West championship. Beating a relatively down WMU squad is priority number one to realizing that goal.