It wasn’t pretty, but the Western Michigan has its first 10-win season in program history.
The Western Michigan Broncos (10-0, 6-0) had to overcome an early deficit against the Kent State Golden Flashes (3-7, 2-4), going down 14-0 midway through the first quarter. However, they kept their heads, hunkered down, and delivered a performance that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.
The game started with the Golden Flashes going three-and-out. On the very first play of the first Bronco drive, Jarvion Franklin took a hit and fumbled the ball just before he hit the ground. Najee Murray picked up the ball, and took it 47 yards for the first score of the game. It was just the fourth turnover of the season for Western Michigan, and Franklin’s first fumble of the season.
After the Broncos responded with a three-and-out, the Golden Flashes - led by Nick Holley at quarterback - ran the ball over and over again en route to an impressive 10 play, 60 yard drive. It would end when Holley punched in a three yard score to make it 14-0, and PJ Fleck’s team looked to be in hot water.
But, they didn’t fold. Instead, Bronco quarterback Zach Terrell led his team down the field on a long drive of their own. The 12 play, 65 yard drive would stall, but Butch Hampton’s 27-yard field goal put Western Michigan on the board. After getting the ball back, another long drive (13 plays, 83 yards) resulted in a Davon Tucker touchdown run to make it 14-10.
Holley, looking to get another score before the half, made a crucial mistake as he was picked off by Caleb Bailey late in the 2nd quarter. The turnover would not sting all that much, as the Broncos were stuffed at the goal line just before the half, but Hampton’s 23 yard field goal as time expired made it a one point game at the half.
After the break, the Broncos came out seeing red. Despite both teams punting to start the half, the third quarter was primarily one drive, with Terrell and Company going 90 yards on 20 plays en route to a Terrell touchdown sneak to make it 19-14. The drive ate up over 9 minutes of game time, and put a big squeeze on the Golden Flashes after WMU converted a big two-point conversion.
But Holley and Company would respond. The running back turned quarterback orchestrated a response to open the 4th quarter. He would get the ball to Justin Rankin, who scored on a 20 yard run around his line and down the sideline to tie the game up at 21-all just 8 seconds into the final stanza. A stop on the ensuing Bronco drive would get the Golden Flashes the ball back, but a great punt by James Coleman would pin them at their own one yard line to set up the turning point of the game.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Rankin got the ball up the middle. However, he was greeted by a hoard of Broncos, including Robert Spillane and Asantay Brown, who took him down for a safety. When they got the ball back, the Broncos quickly struck on a Franklin touchdown. A quick turnover on downs by Kent State would get WMU the ball back, and Fabian Johnson’s five yard touchdown run put the game away for good.
For the Broncos, Terrell had a dismal game. He went 6-for-13 for just 83 yards on a wet night. He did add 39 yards on the ground, but he never got the pass game going. Michael Henry was his leading receiver at 4 catches for 48 yards. Corey Davis had an 18 yard catch, and Franklin added 17 yards on a swing pass. Franklin led all WMU rushers with 134 yards on 31 carries. Johnson added 125 yards on 19 carries. Both had a score.
For the Golden Flashes, Holley was solid, but just not good enough. He went 9-for-21 passing for just 75 yards and had the interception near the end of the 2nd quarter. He did have 141 yards on 22 rushes and a score, but nobody really picked up after him. Rankin had 48 yards on 8 carries and a score, but was brought down for the safety. Raekwon James led all Kent State receivers with 4 catches for 26 yards.
The Broncos now have the longest break of the season, as they don’t play again until next Saturday. They’ll host the struggling Buffalo Bulls as they finish their road schedule a perfect 6-0 on the year. The Golden Flashes saw their bowl hopes all but die on Tuesday night with the loss, and will head to Bowling Green next Tuesday hoping to keep an APR bowl bid alive.