For the first time ever, the Western Michigan Bronco football team is 9-0.
The Broncos (9-0, 5-0) handled the Ball State Cardinals (4-5, 1-4) to open November weeknight games as they tied the program record for wins in a season. Corey Davis had a career game, and the Western Michigan defense held firm when they needed to in order to ensure the historic win.
The Cardinals came out in the first quarter with bravado. With usual starter Riley Neal out due to injury, Jack Milas stepped in and led the Cardinal offense down the field on the back of a strong rush offense. However, the junior quarterback made a costly error, missing his receiver badly and hitting Bronco cornerback Darius Phillips. The junior defender would do the rest, taking the interception all the way back for his third pick-six of the season.
Ball State would respond, though. Milas again relied on the rushing game, and with James Gilbert on the sideline to catch a breather, he handed the ball off to Malik Dunner who took the ball 50 yards to the house to tie the game up at 7 not even five minutes into the game. After forcing a WMU punt on the ensuing drive, it looked like the Cardinals would get a chance to take the lead.
However, that ensuing drive would end in a three-and-out. The Broncos would respond with a quick score on a Jarvion Franklin run. After Gilbert got the Cardinals into Bronco territory on the ensuing drive, Milas would miss his receivers on 3rd and 4th down to force a turnover on downs. The very next play would be a 57 yard deep ball to Davis to make it 21-7.
But the game was not over. The Cardinals would again drive the field, chewing up nearly 7 minutes on the ensuing drive. Gilbert would go over 100 yards by the end of the first quarter, and it appeared as if Ball State would run at will against Western Michigan. However, facing a 4th-and-1, Mike Neu went to his workhorse back in Gilbert, but the Broncos stuffed him to force another turnover on downs.
A three-and-out gave Ball State another chance, but the ensuing drive stalled, leading to a Morgan Hagee field goal to make it 21-10. But the next two drives pretty much ended the game, with the Broncos scoring on a great catch by Davis. On the very first play of the Cardinal drive, Justin Ferguson picked off Milas to end another possible scoring threat.
And while the Bronco offense stalled for a bit, the Cardinal offense sputtered. Their next three drives resulted in a blocked field goal, an interception, and a fumble to end the first half. At 28-10, it looked like the Cardinals could possibly get back in contention if they could only finish.
However, the Broncos quickly squashed that in the 2nd half.
On their first play of the second half, Terrell found Davis for a 62-yard touchdown. A Ball State punt would lead to another Bronco score - on a 96-yard drive - to make it 42-10 early in the 3rd. From there, Western Michigan would work the clock, scoring on a field goal to cap off a 9-minute, 18-second drive. They would get another touchdown via their second-stringers, and the Cardinals would score late to make it slightly more respectable at 52-20 final.
Davis’ game was incredible. He tied the MAC career receiving touchdowns record at 47. He broke the MAC single-game receiving yards record, finishing with 272 yards on 12 catches and three scores. He also passed Ryan Broyles for 2nd all-time in career receiving yards in the FBS. Franklin finished with 109 yards on 17 carries and two scores, moving him closer to the WMU record for career rushing touchdowns.
For the Cardinals, Milas went 20-for-38, getting 199 yards and a score (albeit, very late). He did throw two interceptions, though, including the pick-six on the opening drive. The strength of the Cardinal offense, the run game, was led by Gilbert. The sophomore had 155 yards on 29 carries, but was largely ineffective after the first quarter.
The Cardinals face Eastern Michigan at home next Tuesday. The Broncos look to continue their path towards the Cotton Bowl as they face Kent State that same night. Both kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 pm EST.