In WMU's 109-year football history, there has never been a winless season. Not in the first year, and not in any of the 100+ season since. On Saturday, the Broncos avoided marking 2015 down as their first one with a 52-20 victory over Murray State at Waldo Stadium. Granted, many people thought that Western Michigan was going to win this one handily, but as 2013 showed us, anything can happen.
The Broncos looked to establish the run early on, with Jarvion Franklin being the center of their attack. On their second offensive play, Franklin gained 21-yards, then his longest on the season after being held in check against Michigan State and Georgia Southern. He would slow a bit, but would finish the first quarter with 59 yards on 10 carries. His rushing helped setup a Corey Davis screen play that Davis would sprint down the field for a 56-yard touchdown to end the quarter at 10-0.
The Racers would answer back on their first drive of the second quarter, with a four minute drive led by KD Humphries. The junior quarter back would find Janawski Davis for a big play of 38 yards early on, then again for the two-yard score to make it 10-6. Murray State would elect to go for two, which failed after an errant throw.
However, the Broncos would continue to pound the ground game. Franklin would get 9 carries for a total of 32 yards on a drive that would eat up over six-and-a-half minutes, one that would again culminate in a Davis touchdown. The sophomore wide-out would move into a tie for 5th place on Western Michigan's All-Time Receiving Touchdown list on his 24th career catch, tying Juan Nunez.
Western Michigan would score again before the half as Terrell orchestrated an 85-yard touchdown drive in just under three minutes. The junior quarterback would find Daniel Braverman for a 17-yard score just before the half to make it 24-6. With the offense seemingly clicking, PJ Fleck's squad seemed to have their usual swagger back heading into the half.
And on the very first play of the second half, that was all confirmed as Franklin broke free for a 54-yard run to switch the field. A few plays later, he would cap off the short drive with a 2-yard touchdown rush, his first as reigning MAC Offensive Player of the Year. On the next drive, Braverman would get the spotlight on a 20-yard catch and run touchdown to make it 38-6. The starters would only play another series as Terrell would fumble a snap in the red zone early in the 4th quarter.
However, the Broncos would return the favor as Darius Phillips would take a tipped Humphries pass 10 yards for a pick six, Western Michigan's first interception of the year. The defense would continue to hold and that's when it was time for Tom Flacco to enter the game.
Flacco, the younger brother of NFL quarterback Joe Flacco, was a hidden gem for Fleck. As a greyshirt, he was named back-up quarterback for the Broncos in the pre-season. This was his first action of his career and he came out strong. On his first snap, he rushed from deep in WMU territory for 14 yards. With breathing space, Flacco was able to hit a pass to Carrington Thompson, but the junior fumbled the ball after a 28 yard gain.
With back-ups playing the teams traded scores as Humphries looked to show his deep ball accuracy. He would hit a 43-yard pass to setup one touchdown, and a 23 yard pass mixed with runs on another score. Meanwhile, Flacco would get a boost from a big return by Levante Bellamy (along with an illegal block by Murray State), and would orchestrate a scoring drive of his own, culminating in his first career touchdown.
In all, the Broncos did well offensively. They had 628 yards of offense on 75 plays, with a very balanced attack. Terrell finished 25-for-30 with 355 yards and 4 touchdowns (tying his career high). His main targets were Braverman - who finished with 14 catches (career high) for 167 yards and 2 touchdowns - and Davis - who finished a fairly quiet game at 5 catches for 139 yards and two scores. Franklin had 161 yards on 27 carries (19 in the first half), with a score.
Humphries did it all for the Racers, going 25-for-41 for 304 yards and a touchdown. His only blemish in terms of turnovers came on the tipped pick six, but was otherwise solid. He also ran the ball 11 times for a net of 24 yards (including sacks), but would have led the team in rushing had Nick Taylor not had a 29-yard rush late in the fourth quarter. His primary target was Jeremy Harness, who finished with 7 catches for 114 yards.
Tom Flacco finished 3-for-3 for 36 yards passing. He also had 3 rushes for 33 yards, including his 9-yard touchdown rush.
Up next for the Broncos, the #1 team in the nation as Western Michigan heads to Ohio State.