As you might've heard, or seen, or read, WMU lost to Georgia Southern last week after losing to Michigan State at home the week before. It was a bad game, but everyone has bad games, right?
OK everyone. Don't panic. We cannot hit the panic button on this season yet.
/spams panic button
YOU'RE TELLING ME THAT WMU COMPLETED MORE PASSES TO THE OTHER TEAM THAN THE EAGLES COMPLETED TO THEMSELVES? AND THEY RAN FOR 400 YARDS AT AN 8 YARDS PER CARRY CLIP? HAHAHA NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPE
Yes, it's two games into the season, and yes, we could've expected an 0-2 record at this point, but we have some serious issues here. It could be a bad week, sure. Everyone has them. But WMU is notorious for having letdown years and here's why you should be in your bomb shelter praying to the MAC Gods for mercy.
Lack Of Run Game
WE AVERAGED 1 YARD PER CARRY AGAINST GEORGIA SOUTHERN. If you're keeping track at home, the Broncos now have a paltry 43 yards rushing this year on 49 carries. THAT'S LESS THAN A YARD PER CARRY. ACROSS TWO GAMES! That's bad.
Now, Jarvion Franklin might get going, but for a team with notorious rushing issues (see every Bill Cubit year ever), this is a huge red flag. The reigning MAC Player of the Year has 81 yards on 25 carries (3.24 yards per rush) and has yet to find the end zone after leading the conference with 24 scores. He hasn't scored a TD since the NIU game, though, going scoreless in his last three games after scoring at least one (and usually more) in his first 12.
Zach Terrell, the usually fleet footed QB who can scramble to make plays, has a dismal -47 yards on 13 attempts (mostly sacks, but that equates out to -3.7 yards per attempt). That's not good. At all.
Two years ago, the murmurs started about "can he coach?". Last year silenced critics a bit, but the boo birds are out again after this lackluster start.
And why shouldn't they be? With an extra day to prepare for the GSU option offense, the Broncos did a lot worse than expected having received massive troubles in their bowl game with a similar attack. Additionally, Fleck has yet to beat a solid team (with a slight asterisk on the Bowling Green game. More on that in a minute). Seriously, here's the list of teams he has beaten:
2013 - UMass (finished 1-11), BY ONE FREAKING POINT!
2014 - Idaho (finished 1-10)
2014 - Murray State (FCS team)
2014 - Miami (2-10)
2014 - EMU (l2-10)
2014 - CMU (finished 8-5, won't complain about this win)
2014 - Bowling Green* (ok, that's a good team, kinda)
2014 - Ohio (finished 6-6....in the MAC East)
2014 - Ball State (finished 5-7). Needed a massive comeback to win
With the exception of CMU, which was coached by Dan Enos and all his turdness, WMU has only notched a solid victory against Bowling Green. However, BG went 0-4 against the MAC West and were playing with their back-up QB, so they just sucked last year anyways.
Conversely, WMU has lost to the following teams:
2013 - Nichols State. Never forget this embarrassment
2013 - EMU
2013 - CMU
2014 - Purdue
2014 - Air Force
2014 - Toledo
2014 - NIU
2015 - Georgia Southern
The first three are a reflection of the past horrors. The Purdue game was the "arrival", but one that could've been won (as shown by CMU going down and actually beating the Boilers a couple weeks later). The last four are games where WMU needed a win to show actual, tangible improvement and there was none (save, MAYBE, the Toledo game thanks to Andrew Haldeman's foot). The wins just aren't there yet. He's a career 9-18 coach and still learning the ropes.
Remember when Jordan Lynch ended his Huskie Stadium career with a 300+ yard rushing game in 2013 and we were all like "this is what death feels like"? Yeah, now that we're "good" the run defense is an issue again. What's worse, is this isn't Fleck's "maiden voyage". It's Year 3 and he returns pretty much everyone in that defensive box. So why can you look at these box scores and see the following:
vs MSU - 40 carries, 196 yards, 3 TDs, 4.9 yards/carry
@ GSU - 52 carries, 413 yards, 5 TDs, 7.9 yards/carry
Five yards per carry against the #5 team in the country, who is notorious for producing good runners, is acceptable. Eight yards per carry against a fellow mid-major who you're favored against isn't. We've seen this run defense before, and we ALL know where it leads.
Man, injuries can be a bitch, can't they?
So far, we've seen limited game action from Franklin, star linebacker Grant DePalma, and superstar wide-out Corey Davis thanks to injuries. While Franklin only ended up missing about a quarter of action, both DePalma and Davis have missed at least a half, with DePalma indefinitely out with a groin injury. It is unknown the extent of Davis' injury.
And injuries happen, yes. Next man up, right? But what if the next man doesn't do his job? DePalma and Davis are both big presences on the field and in the locker room. If they aren't there to help run the show, who will? Terrell looked lost without Davis in the 2nd half and the defense, well, we've been over that.
Injuries will happen, but this team has to learn to overcome them (as they did when Franklin went down). Right now, the defense looks lost.
I hate doing this, but panic because this schedule is set-up for an awful year. WMU has to win this week against Murray State because this is what the Broncos have coming up afterwards:
at No. 1 Ohio State
vs CMU (who has looked not terrible this year)
at Ohio (who has also looked not terrible this year)
vs Miami (another gimme win that has to be won)
at EMU (who has no run defense, but neither do we)
vs Ball State (see EMU, only with a better offense and a track record of upsetting us at Waldo)
vs Bowling Green (who look red-hot)
November comes a close 2nd to September for toughest month. And October, which looked like a cakewalk in the pre-season, suddenly looks like minefield in and of itself with back-to-back games against solid CMU and Ohio programs. The Broncos could easily be a 3-9 team by year's end. They could also rebound and finish 9-3 with a MAC West Championship. Right now? They have a long road ahead of them and are running dangerously low on gas. A win this week could be the perfectly timed pit stop you were looking for when you should've filled up a half hour ago when gas was 30 cents cheaper and you could've looked like a stud for going there. But, hey, you don't complain because you didn't run out and you're back on the road.
So what should I do?
Besides panic? Pray that the Broncos come out with reckless abandon against Murray State after getting a full game film on the Racers after their loss to NIU. There's also a clear benchmark of how to perform, with the Huskies hanging a half century on MSU. After that? It's 3 long weeks until the CMU game, when the real journey begins. The MAC Championship is still the only thing in play that matters, and the Broncos need a deep run to inspire confidence for next year. (do not mention bowl games, because they are pointless when over half of the FBS makes it to them).