All MAC teams scheduled an FCS opponent in 2022, and the Western Michigan Broncos are the last team to play theirs. The Broncos get to stay in Kalamazoo and play at Waldo Stadium for the second time this season against the New Hampshire Wildcats.
The road has been a bumpy one on the way to Week 5. The Broncos won their most important game against Ball State in Week 2, but that is feeling like a distant memory now, as it was the last time they could feel good about their performance as a team.
Pitt came to Kalamazoo in a highly anticipated rematch, and the Panther defense squeezed the life out of the Bronco offense. Western was held to under 200 yards of offense and turned the ball over three times.
Quarterback Jack Salopek sat out of the next game against the San José State Spartans and the offense was never able to find a rhythm without him, managing just 201 total yards and zero points on offense, with the team’s lone score on a and six total points from a kick return.
An FCS opponent could be just what the doctor ordered if they can stay focused in the week leading into the game. Buffalo and Bowling Green lost to their FCS opponents, and New Hampshire is far from a pushover. They’re 3-1 so far this season behind a strong defense.
The Broncos should be able to get their offense on track, but they need to learn from Buffalo and BGSU’s performance and not underestimate their opponent. Get the early lead and don’t let New Hampshire hang around.
- Time and Date: Saturday, October 1, 2022, at 6:00 pm Eastern time
- Network: ESPN+ (A valid subscription is required.)
- Location: Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan
- All-time series: This is the first meeting between these two programs.
The Western Michigan Broncos through Week 4:
The offense has been a major disappointment for Bronco faithful, especially after looking competent against Michigan State in the season opener. The drop-off from 2021 isn’t unexpected but how steep is surprising.
In 2021, the Broncos finished the season with the 51st ranked offense per SP+. Currently, the Broncos sit at 114th and for stretches of the last two games, it has felt every bit of that ranking.
Salopek looked uncomfortable during the Pitt game, delivering passes which were too short, too long and to the defense all night, forcing WMU to get tricky to produce points. Mareyohn Hrabowski started for the first time in his college career against San José State, and the passing game failed to take off. Hrabowski attempted eight passes, but routinely tucked the ball and looked for space on the ground that wasn’t there.
The Bronco special teams have generally not helped, giving opponents great field position, allowing scores or failing to convert field goal opportunities. (Though, Sean Tyler’s kick return for a touchdown against SJSU was certainly a boon.) The Bronco offense has had the 126th average field position to start from, which will generally also restrict your ability to move the ball downfield.
Salopek returning to action this week restores confidence that the offense will move the ball this week and make use of a strong receiver room. Returning wide receiver Corey Crooms and newcomers Jelahni Galloway and AJ Abbott have shown that they can be weapons in the passing game, but they need the opportunity.
The Bronco defense hasn’t been better, unfortunately.
The relative statistical bright spots are misleading, like being relatively good at limiting the opponent's points in a scoring opportunity. Michigan State and Ball State scored a majority of their touchdowns on explosive plays and didn’t need a “scoring opportunity” to get in the endzone.
Their opponents haven’t been forced to throw, so they haven’t. The Bronco defense sees the run at a top-20 pace. They limit the big play on the ground, which is an improvement from last season, but they also allow 5.2 yards per rush, which effectively neutralizes the whole “preventing big plays” thing. Opponents have been able to push the Bronco front around and keep the chains moving.
The defense has only yielded a 35 percent third down conversion rate, but they’ve only forced 46 third down attempts through four games. By contrast, the offense has been in a third down situation 61 times. Good third-down defense doesn’t matter if there aren’t any third downs.
This is a major opportunity to build some confidence heading into seven MAC games, but the Broncos aren’t good enough right now to look past anyone.
The New Hampshire Wildcats through Week 4:
New Hampshire is coached by Ricky Santos, who is in his second year leading the team— and his first as a full-timer. Former head coach Sean McDonnell took the 2019 season off to deal with a health issue before retiring at the end of the 2021 season after 23 years of service.
The Wildcats are 3-1 with three Colonial Athletic Association wins under their belt. Not bad for a team that was picked to finish ninth in the CAA.
UNH scored twice in the fourth quarter against Monmouth to secure the win in a back-and-forth game and never trailed in a close game with Albany. Their game with Towson was never close and they rolled to the victory there as well, showing that once this team gets on a roll, they can be hard to stop.
The Wildcat offense is led by running back Dylan Laube. Through four games, he’s averaged more than 100 yards per game and five yards per rush. He’s also caught 13 passes for 134 yards.
Out wide, they get the ball to two receivers Joey Corcoran and Kyle Lepkowski. Corcoran has caught 18 passes and Lepkowski 11. Those two along with Laube drive the offense. The quarterback Max Brosmer completes a high percentage of his passes but has up-and-down performances in yards per attempt.
Defensive end Josiah Silver was a preseason All-CAA player and is showing why. He has five tackles-for-loss, 3.5 sacks and a blocked kick. His counterpart on the other end of the line is Dylan Ruiz who has 4.5 sacks to his name. The Bronco's offensive line may have their hands full dealing with those two players.
In the back end, cornerback Randall Harris has two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. He read a hitch route well and intercepted it in almost the same way Salopek was intercepted against Pitt.
Overall, the defense has been strong against FCS opponents, but Western Michigan will be their toughest test yet. If Western Michigan doesn’t turn the ball over they should be able to get points on the board.
The MAC schedule is up after this game and the Broncos better be focused on New Hampshire or they might not get this win.
The Western Michigan offense finally succeeds and gets over thirty points on the board. They should play their matchups smartly and get the ball to receivers in advantageous matchups and use running backs Sean Tyler and La’Darius Jefferson to great effect.
New Hampshire's offense scores more points than what defensive coordinator Lou Esposito would like to see but ultimately the Broncos get their much-needed second win.
New Hampshire 21
Western Michigan 35