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Getting to know Michigan’s opponent: Western Michigan

The Broncos showed some heart against Syracuse after trailing big at the half.

Syracuse v Western Michigan Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It’s time for some home-cooking for the Michigan Wolverines after their loss to Notre Dame in South Bend.

The first game in Ann Arbor this season will come against the Western Michigan Broncos.

State of the Program

It’s crazy how fast things can change in life and in the world of college football. Merely two years ago P.J. Fleck was the coach at Western Michigan, leading his team to a 13-0 start to this season before falling to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl 24-16.

Fleck jetted to become the head coach at Minnesota, and last season the Broncos went right back to being mediocre and irrelevant on the national stage, going 6-6 in 2017.

Head coach Tim Lester is back for his second season, he was a quarterbacks coach at Purdue and Syracuse before being hired at WM.

The 2018 season did not get off to a good start for the Broncos, falling to Syracuse 55-42. The silver lining of that game is Western trailed 34-7 at halftime and almost made a comeback, narrowing it to 34-28 before Syracuse finally pulled away in the game.

2017 Team Statistics

  • Total Offense- 78th
  • Total Defense- 55th
  • Scoring Offense- 25th (33.9 ppg)
  • 3rd Down Conversion Pct- 70th
  • Rushing Offense- 21st
  • Passing Offense- 114th
  • Passes Intercepted- 67th
  • Sacks- 95th
  • Rush Defense- 53rd
  • Pass Defense- 62nd
  • Fumbles Recovered- 2nd
  • Defensive TD’s- 4th
  • Blocked Punts Allowed- 1st

Players to Watch

It’s all about the offense this week.

- Quarterback Jon Wassink threw for 379 yards and 3 touchdowns against Syracuse, but he also tossed 2 interceptions.

- Wassink’s favorite target was the 5’9 speedster, wideout D’Wayne Eskridge. Racking up 240 yards, two touchdowns on 8 catches, it will come as no surprise if they try to throw the ball deep often to Eskridge and see how things shake out.

- Running back Levante Bellamy was formidable on the ground versus Syracuse, while only touching the ball 10 times, Bellamy rushed for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Final Thoughts

Jim Harbaugh said in his conference call this week that Western Michigan looks good on tape and is a formidable foe. The Broncos may not be flashy, but they are scrappy on offense. Michigan should win this game but Western Michigan will test U-M on both sides of the football.

The Broncos have speed on offense that should test edge containment on runs and the secondaries coverage on deep pass plays. While this isn’t the P.J. Fleck led Western squad of 2016, remnants of the team remain, as well as the mantra he instilled in them.

Western Michigan and Michigan play at The Big House on Saturday at 12 PM E.T.