The game started just how the Western Michigan Broncos (8-5) wanted. The Air Force Falcons (10-3) bobbled a pitch on their famed triple-option, with WMU falling on it. The Broncos would only get a field goal out of it, but they appeared hungry to end the 0-5 program record in bowl games.
However, after forcing punt on the next drive, there would be little to celebrate in their 38-24 loss to the Air Force Academy, as the Falcons would score on three of their next four drives to start putting the upstart Broncos away.
After Shayne Davern scored to give Air Force a 6-3 lead (a bobbled snap on the PAT led to the Falcons' first failed attempt of the season), Bronco quarterback Zach Terrell found Corey Davis for a 47-yard touchdown to give WMU the lead at 10-6. However, that would be their last lead of the game as just three plays later, Davern went 55 yards for a score to make it 13-10.
Drive after drive over the next two quarters, Western Michigan struggled to move the ball. Over five drives, they netted just 26 yards of offense, including a -16 yard drive to open the 2nd half after starting at midfield.
On the other hand, the Falcons were rolling. They picked up multiple first downs, but really took wind out of Western Michigan's sails with a fake punt for a first down late in the 2nd quarter. Air Force would drive down the field, and would convert another 4th down from the one-yard line a few plays later to make it 20-10, a score that would remain through the half.
Air Force would move the ball most of the 3rd quarter, but would only produce a single 35-yard field goal to make it 23-10 at the end of the period, but that's when the Broncos apparently woke up.
Terrell would find Davis on another big play, this time for 35-yards (through a pass interference) to make it 23-17. After the Bronco defense shut down the Falcons for -13 yards on the ensuing drive, it appeared that PJ Fleck's crew had woken up and were about to take over the game. Daniel Braverman took the ensuing punt to the house, but a block in the back call nullified the apparent lead changing score. Still, the morale was high and everything was clicking.
However, those thoughts would be quickly smashed to pieces as Terrell was caught from behind trying to escape the pocket, losing control of the ball in slippery conditions. Dexter Walker took the ball and went 60 yards untouched to completely flip the game back in the Falcons' favor, and knocked the Bronco sideline fresh out of gas. A two-point conversion would make it 31-17.
Air Force would score again after WMU turned the ball over on downs, getting just eight yards on the ensuing drive. D.J. Johnson finished a solid game for himself with a 9-yard rush into the end zone. Davis would catch another touchdown pass late, but it would be for naught in the 38-24 final.
All things considered, it wasn't a terrible game for the Broncos in less than ideal conditions. Terrell went 19-for-38 in a downpour. He finished with 297 yards and a trio of scores without throwing an interception. He also ran for 61 yards on 11 attempts. Davis set a new Western Michigan record with his three touchdown catches, and finished with 176 yards. MAC Freshman and Offensive Player of the Year Jarvion Franklin was still banged up, and held in check with just 26 yards on 12 carries. It was also the first game of his career that he did not score a touchdown.
For the Falcons, Davern finished with 101 yards on 12 carries and the pair of touchdowns to lead all rushers. Johnson led the team in carries with 20, going for 83 yards and his score. Kale Pearson had 41 yards rushing on 14 carries and went 5-for-9 passing for 77 yards as well to keep the Broncos on their toes.
One additional note: J Schroeder's 53-yard punt in the 1st quarter is a Western Michigan bowl record as well.
For the Broncos, they lose most of their defensive secondary and defensive tackle Richard Ash to graduation. However, they return a large portion of their offense and defensive box heading into next season. They will have to play at NIU and Toledo in conference play, but should still compete for the MAC West. In non-conference play, they have a brutal schedule:
-Friday, September 4th: vs Michigan State (10-2, losses to Oregon and Ohio State [both in FBS playoff])
-Saturday, September 12th: at Georgia Southern (9-3, Sun Belt Champions in 1st season in FBS)
-Saturday, September 19th: OPEN (presumably an FCS team to be named later)
-Saturday, September 26th: at Ohio State (12-1, FBS playoff participant, B1G Champs, loss to Virginia Tech in first game without Braxton Miller)
PJ Fleck should bring in another solid recruiting class, and if this season is any indication, he will have his young guns ready to roll come August, but getting back to bowl eligibility will be no easy task at the Western Michigan looks to end the 2nd worst active bowl record in the FBS at 0-6 (Ball State is 0-7).