Welp, if the MAC needed to find the way to shut down Jarvion Franklin, they need to look no further than Saturday's game tape between the Western Michigan Broncos and the Virginia Tech Hokies. Franklin only managed a meager 76 yards on 15 carries, scoring the lone touchdown in the Broncos' 35-17 loss.
It wasn't necessarily Franklin, however. The Broncos trailed 8-0 early on after Donald Celiscar fumbled the opening kickoff only to have the Hokies return it to the house. After missing the ensuing PAT, the Virginia Tech held the Broncos to a three-and-out, when Wyatt Pfeifer snapped the ball over punter J Schroeder's head and into the end zone for a safety.
The Broncos would respond well though. The defense would hold the Hokies to a field goal on their first drive. And despite failing to do anything on offense after a Franklin 17-yard run to open their next drive, Ronald Zamort would pick off a poor pass from Michael Brewer and return it all the way down to the 4-yard line to set up a Franklin touchdown to make it 11-7.
Unfortunately, the Broncos would not come any closer the rest of the game. On the ensuing drive, the Hokies would convert three 3rd downs, including a 25-yard strike to Bucky Hodges for a touchdown as WMU linebacker Trevor Ishmael fell down trying to guard the six-and-a-half foot wide-out.
Both teams would fail to do much in the second quarter, with the teams trading interceptions late in the quarter. First, Zach Terrell would throw an awful pass intended for Daniel Braverman that would land in the hands of Detrick Bonner. However, Brewer would one-up Terrell with a long pass that Celiscar would come up with in the Hokie end zone.
The ensuing drive would see Terrell put together a well drive to set up an Andrew Haldeman field goal to make it an 18-10 game at the half. The eight point deficit was surprising as Franklin only had 31 yards at the half, and the mistakes cost the Broncos early points. However, they would get a chance to tie the game early in the 3rd after holding Virginia Tech to a long field goal attempt to open the half (a kick that would be missed from 53 yards out).
Terrell would hit Kendrick Roberts on a deep ball to move the Broncos into the red zone. It appeared that WMU would score, but incompletions on 2nd and 3rd downs (the latter being a miscommunication between Terrell and Braverman on an easy score) would set up a 29-yard field goal attempt for Haldeman. However, the junior would miss wide left, seemingly killing any Bronco momentum.
And my did the Hokies pounce.
Virginia Tech would use a solid run game, with an occasional Brewer pass to march down the field on their next two drives, converting five 3rd downs along the way, en route to back-to-back touchdowns to make it a 32-10 game. And despite a Franklin touchdown run with 9 minutes left in the game, Western Michigan was unable to stop the Hokies early enough to get the ball back and close the gap further.
A VaTech field goal would make it 35-17, and the Broncos would fail to score on their next drive, electing to punt on 4th-and-34. Shortly after, the final gun sounded to end the rough game.
Franklin's pair of rushing touchdowns moved him to 11 on the season, which is more than the entire Bronco squad had all of last season. Terrell would finish 18-for-32 for 212 yards, and his only mistake was the lone interception. However, he was sacked five times, making his pass game unstable.
Braverman would finish with 8 catches for 100 yards, and was the primary target all game with Corey Davis sitting out due to a pre-game lower body injury. Western Michigan officials would not specify what the injury was, but it was severe enough to rule the reigning MAC Freshman of the Year out for the game.
In all, the defensive box did not play all that terribly. They held the Hokies to just 82 yards in the first half, and kept the Broncos in the game despite getting beat around by a bigger, more physical line in Virginia Tech. However, the defensive secondary allowed Brewer to go 14-for-32 for 178 yards, with a good chunk of those completions coming on 3rd down (the Hokies finished 10-for-18 on 3rd down including a 6-for-9 mark in the 2nd half).
The Broncos now will head back home next weekend to face MAC West foe Toledo to kick off their conference schedule. It is unknown if Davis will be able to go, but it appears the Broncos will be ready to hang with the best of the MAC after holding their own (mostly) against a much more physical and stronger Virginia Tech team on the road.