Author Archives: jacksonvidaurri

Checking in with WMU Football

Jason McMillan BC Enquirer

Photo via Jason McMillan, Battle Creek Enquirer. 

That Ohio game was ugly. It’s the worst game I can remember going back to the 1-11 season in 2013. And at this point in Tim Lester’s tenure, it was an unacceptable effort by the Broncos. It was painful to watch.

Going into the game, I had two questions:

How will Kaleb Eleby play/respond to his first start?

How will the defense look after getting roughed up by Toledo?

They did not answer those questions well. The lack of discipline and passion showed Thursday, and, if we’re being honest, the last few weeks of the season, are signs of serious concern. The team has too much talent to be turning in games like that.

Let’s go over some themes from the game and look ahead to the rest of the season.

Special Teams

Where should I start?

Following a solid first drive of the game, Gavin Peddie stepped up for a 39 yard field goal and he missed it. Field goal kicking has been a letdown for WMU the last two years. While the game got out of hand, missed kicks can contribute to overall morale. Ohio was able to respond with a touchdown, taking any momentum WMU might have had after a good opening drive.

Then of course is the blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown, making it 21-0 Ohio in the first quarter.

And then you had two fumbles on consecutive kickoffs, resulting in 10 points for Ohio.

It’s unacceptable. It points to lack of discipline, lack of motivation or will to compete and coaching.

Kaleb Eleby

Everyone was pretty impressed with the way Kaleb performed against Toledo. I was excited to see who his preferred targets would be, how the running game would help him out and what kind of game Tim Lester would call for him.

Unfortunately, the game was pretty much out of hand before Kaleb could even make an impact. While WMU was looking to make a push down 21-0, he did make a bad throw that was intercepted, ending a drive that could’ve got some momentum back.

In the next two games I want to see how he responds to pressure and what kind of games Coach Lester will call. Though he’s a freshman, WMU needs to be aggressive in throwing the ball, partly because opposing defenses will be even more committed to stopping the run.

The Defense

WMU’s defense had a rough go of it against Ohio. They also struggled against Toledo. The defense is struggling to get a push up front putting pressure on the DB’s who are struggling in coverage. Looking back at the BG, Miami and EMU games, this has been a reoccurring theme. Yes, there are some young players on that side of the ball, but it hasn’t been pretty.

The defense didn’t have any help in the Ohio game, with terrible field position and facing an offense that Lester said was one of the most efficient in the country (#30 in the country, #1 total offense in MAC as of 11/8).

Obviously, WMU needs to find some answers on the defensive side of the ball. While they’ve faced two of the better offenses in the conference the last two weeks, it doesn’t get any easier as next opponent Ball State has the fifth-best offense in the MAC.

I’ll be looking to see how the unit responds after a 12 day break between games. They need to scheme something up to stop Ball State since playing within the system hasn’t been working that well.

Looking Ahead

With a couple of bad losses the last two games, the season outlook looks pretty bleak. However, WMU STILL has a *chance* to win the MAC West. For that to happen, WMU needs to win their last two games (and get some help). First up is Ball State (11/13) and then NIU (11/20).

All things considered, has it been that terrible of a year for the team? The last few weeks were incredibly frustrating, but one solid goal is still in front of us: a bowl game.

Therefore, WMU needs to take care of business. Pick up one more win to secure a bowl game for the program. That’s very important after missing out last year at 6-6.

We can talk more about the season when it ends. For now, all I want is the team to show some fire, and be better than the last game. Beat Ball State, and get ready for a battle with NIU after that.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions for me or want me to write about anything, let me know here or on Twitter!

Georgia State Preview

jayden reed

Jayden Reed returning a punt against Delaware State. Photo via Jason McMillan, BC Enquirer.

Western Michigan took care of Delaware State last week, putting up 68 points en route to a shutout victory at Waldo Stadium. No need to really go into it further than saying it was a much needed confidence boost for the team heading into the rest of the season.

Next is a trip to Atlanta to face Georgia State. I know nothing about this team so I figure not many others outside of GSU do either. So, for myself and the other Bronco fans out there I wanted to do a little research to be prepared for this matchup. I say that because having to go on the road all the way to Georgia and face a team we don’t really know about seems a little daunting.

Here is a little about GSU’s style of play, guys to look for and how their season has shook out thus far.

Playing Style

This team is actually very similar in style to WMU. They run a spread offense, relying a lot on the quarterback to make reads and move the ball around to their talented playmakers on the outside. They will use the screen game to get the ball out quickly just like WMU does.

According to coach Lester, GSU plays a similar style of defense as WMU does. During his weekly presser he said GSU was ‘pretty good at getting to the QB and decent in coverage’.

GSU has struggled on this side of the ball though, partly because they have played some superior opponents the last few weeks (NC State and Memphis). They did not have a good game against Memphis, giving up 410 yards rushing in a 59-22 loss. One thing Lester attributed GSU’s struggles in the run game to was some new players in the secondary who have been a little slow to come up and support the front seven in the run game.

Big Names

Dan Ellington – QB #13. Ellington is a first year starter at GSU. He can run and throws a decent ball. What concerns me is his dual threat ability because WMU struggled against Eric Dungey and Syracuse. Ellington is one of GSU’s primary runners in read option and designed run plays. He can also get the ball out to some very versatile targets outside.

Penny Hart – WR #18. Hart is the lead target for Ellington and the Panthers’ offense. A first-team all conference player last year, Hart entered 2017 as the active FBS leader in receiving yards and touchdown receptions. He’s a dynamic threat and pairs well with GSU’s other receivers. Tim Lester said Hart “has the ‘it’ factor” and when you watch GSU’s highlights you can see that to be true.

Christian Owens – WR #85. The first thing you notice about Owens is how big he is. He’s very talented and really goes to get the ball. The 6’4″ receiver is a transfer from South Carolina. He was a four star recruit in high school according to Rivals and ESPN. If GSU isn’t throwing to Penny Hart, Owens is the guy they’re looking for.

Destin Coates – RB #17. Coates is the leading rusher from the RB spot for GSU. The freshman averages six yards a carry and has the ability to make plays if you don’t bring him down on first contact.

Marterious Allen – DE #95. Allen measures out at 6’2″ 270 lbs. He’s a playmaker on the edge. He led GSU in sacks last year and was named third-team all conference in 2017.

Other notables: Devin Gentry – WR #14 , Tra Barnett RB #5.

Season Rewind (with highlights!)

GSU opened the season against fifth ranked FCS opponent Kennesaw State and it was a close one. Georgia State ended up winning a back and forth game with a touchdown with under a minute remaining.

1-0 GSU then went on the road to play ACC opponent NC State. GSU scored on their first possession and played pretty decent in the first half before going on to lose 41-7.

Last week GSU played on ESPN vs Memphis and proceeded to really just get outclassed. They couldn’t stop Memphis and lost 59-22.

So…

So, I think that Georgia State has some athletes that can give the WMU defense a hard time. WMU needs to play sound assignment football to try and keep Dan Ellington under wraps. They also need to work together in the secondary to cover Hart and Owens. It doesn’t look to be an easy task for the WMU defense.

On the other side of the ball the WMU offense should be able to dictate the game. LeVante Bellamy and Jamauri Bogan should have a good day behind WMU’s offensive line. With WMU’s strong run game and new starters in the GSU secondary, Jon Wassink shouldn’t have trouble connecting with Dee Eskridge, Drake Harris and Jayden Reed.

Hopefully, WMU can take care of business in the ATL and be 2-2 heading into the MAC season. It’s about to get real for the Broncos as we see what they’ve really got in conference play.

Thanks for reading, and Go Broncos!

 

 

Week Two at San Francisco

Week Two saw the Lions lose again and in a familiar way. Still, there were some bright spots to be encouraged about and obviously some areas where improvement is needed. I think it was a better performance and a step forward for the team in some ways.

Some of my questions heading into the game:

How would the team respond, overall?

How would the offense look in Week Two?

Would the defense be able to step up and make some plays?

Would special teams not be a disaster?

Let’s go over some of the things I saw after watching the game.

Big Play Defense

Yes! We have a big play defense. Unfortunately, what I mean is that they give up some big plays over the course of the game while making their share of big plays. One of the alarming things a lot of fans have noticed is the lack of tackling. It’s been a trend in the league in recent years and has definitely been a problem for the Lions so far, specifically for guys like Jarrad Davis, unfortunately. This is something that needs to get better and hopefully will as the year goes on and everyone gets more comfortable in the defense. Then maybe we won’t get gashed for some huge runs that really break a defense.

On the positive end, the defense stepped up when their number was called. On the first drive of the game, they got two sacks that forced SF into a field goal after they marched down the field. The Lions defense ended up with four sacks in the first half, benefitting from pretty good coverage and some blitzes/stunts that freed up defenders. Otherwise, there wasn’t a whole lot of pressure on Jimmy G.

After Matthew Stafford fumbled in the second quarter to give the 49ers great field position the defense again came up with a stop to force a field goal.

In the fourth quarter with the Lions down 10, the defense came up with another stop to give the Lions a chance. Guys like Quandre Diggs and Jamal Agnew stepped up in coverage on that possession and that is very encouraging going forward.

And, you’ll remember, down three, the Lions came up with a couple more stops. One being the interception by Tracy Walker that got called back; and then later in that drive to give the Lions one last shot with about a minute left.

I know they got gashed on some run plays and struggled getting a push and pass rush. I know some guys like Jarrad Davis and Teez Tabor struggled in coverage. They’re going to learn and get better. The defense can’t be to blame when they come up with enough stops and give the ball to the offense to give the team a chance. This is something we’ve seen the last few years, and it’s really quite frustrating. The unit that we thought to be our strength – our offense – continues to struggle even after our weaker unit delivers. Now, about that offense.

“O” No…not again.

Sunday was just another chapter in a sad story we’ve seen for the last few years. As I said on Twitter, it was the type of game that we fired Caldwell for, and that doesn’t bode well for Jim Bob Cooter.

Now it wasn’t all bad. We actually got a push up front and had some success running the ball! Which is great, and to me, means that we need to commit to the run. Keep working with it, add some wrinkles here and there and keep the running backs rotating. The run game paid off on the first touchdown to Kenny, who was wide open after coming down into the slot or wing position and faking a block.

An area of concern for me is third down. Notably, third and short/manageable. Somewhat like the red zone, when the field gets shorter the Lions fall into some trouble and look like they have their hands tied a little bit. It’s not an easy place to call plays but the idea I think should be to be aggressive. This falls on Matthew too. See what the defense is giving us and attack instead of just trying to get the three or four needed yards. Golden, Theo, and the tight ends are all guys to look for in these sort of situations. Michael Roberts showed up late in the game with a TD and could really come into his own on third down. And, Wilson had at least one catch and a nice run after, so bring them into the fold more and let’s see what they can do.

Another area of concern is the play of Matthew Stafford. I am slow to criticize him because he is our best player and one of the reasons this team has been mediocre the last couple years. But, we all saw that he missed some throws in Sunday’s game that he probably shouldn’t have. So what gives? Obviously, he’s been under pressure. He didn’t get hit too much on Sunday which is good, but he was forced to move around a little bit.

Lions beat writer Justin Rogers pointed to Stafford’s mechanics on Twitter.

Matthew has to be better and he knows that. The thing is everyone else needs to be better to. A lot of guys are dropping passes, the protection varies and our run game isn’t where we want it yet. Continued improvement is the goal and is what we’ll all be watching for.

SPECIAL Teams

All caps just ’cause. To be a great team you have to win in all phases. Anyways, just from watching the game you would say Sam Martin had a better day punting the ball. Still, he has one of the worst net averages in the league according to the aforementioned Logan Lamorandier.

The opening kickoff of the second half was not good. You can’t come out and allow the other team to take the momentum like that. It resulted in a quick score and gave the Lions a bigger hill to climb.

Positively, Jamal Agnew was HUGE. On the ensuing kickoff after that Niners score to open the third he returned it out near midfield. Then, of course he had the punt return for a touchdown called back. He’s a bright spot and playmaker back there, and the Lions need to eliminate mistakes like penalties in the return game so it can be a catalyst for the offense.

Last, and certainly, not least: Discipline

Penalties were a huge factor in Sunday’s game and for both teams actually. The Lions racked up 10 penalties for 106 yards, which is pretty much inexcusable. A couple of them were drive killers: the Lions’ first play in the red zone in the third quarter was a holding penalty. The next play after that was another holding penalty. They ended up having to kick a field goal.

Another big one was on Jamal Agnew’s punt return for a touchdown. After looking at it, I didn’t really see an illegal block. Jamal didn’t make it easy on the return team but still. Just don’t block a guy if you’re not in position to.

And lastly, the holding penalty on Quandre on Tracy Walker’s pick near the end of the game. It didn’t look like a penalty at all but the NFL says it was the right call.

For me, yes it’s very frustrating to end up on the wrong end of some of these judgement calls. But, if you don’t want the officials to have an impact, don’t let them be in a position to affect the outcome. Also, the Lions have never ‘earned’ any sort of calls from the refs and they never will until they become a top team that gets the benefit of the doubt. So, just beat the other team and don’t give the refs a chance to have a say.

Last Word

So, this game left a lot to be desired on both sides of the ball. It looked like an improvement over Week One, though. For me, all eyes are on the offense. They have to do a better job. JBC is officially on the very warm seat. How long will they give him to figure things out? He needs to work with the team’s strengths and shape the offense’s direction around that.

Obviously a huge challenge coming up this week. SNF, against the Pats. Most anyone would say the Lions have no chance. It’s a very intriguing matchup between Patricia and Belichick, and no matter what happens I’m really looking forward to the game.

That’s where I’m at with this team. Obviously, you want to win, but the bigger thing to me right now is how the Lions look. Are they improving? If the Lions would’ve won on Sunday it would’ve covered up the issues the team has like in year’s past. Now let’s see what we’ve got against one of the best teams in the league.

What’d you think of Sunday’s game? Do the Lions have any chance against New England? Let me know! Thanks for reading.

 

Week One vs Jets

Well, the Lions got off to a not so hot start to the season with a bad loss against the Jets. On first glance it looked really bad, but after watching the game again I’m cautiously optimistic. Here’s some of the trends I picked up on and my thoughts. (Note: the following game recap blogs will be up much earlier than this one).

Cohesiveness

To start the game the offense just didn’t look on the same page. Thinking back to last year, this is kind of an annoying reoccurring theme. The offense can’t get anything going, they fall into tendencies, they end up trying to come back after playing less than well.

In the first quarter Matthew couldn’t connect with the receivers, the offensive line wasn’t getting a push and the offense ended up in too many third down situations where they were forced into trying to make a play, which ended up in some mistakes happening.

And again, at the end of the first half the issue of scoring in the red zone popped up.

In the end, I’m not overly concerned with the offense. There are too many weapons for the unit to fail. I would say that I think JBC needs to be more aggressive to start the game. We’ve got some playmakers, let’s just go for it. And also, the offensive line needs to get better at some things…

Offensive Line

A lot of what the offense struggled with falls on the offensive line. We have to remember that this was the first game all these guys were together. We also have to remember we have a rookie starting. That being said, the performance wasn’t acceptable.

If this team is going to be able to run the ball better than the past (and being better than the worst team in the league shouldn’t be hard to do) then the offensive line needs to push some people around. They didn’t get off the ball well at all and New York was able to beat them at the line, causing pressure in both the run and pass game.

Communication has to be better. It will get better with time, but when Matthew Stafford is getting hit like he did last week, there isn’t much time to waste.

As I said, I’m confident in the offense and the players we have, and that includes the lineman. They just need to get better as a group. If they don’t get better quickly though, we could be in for some trouble. If they can’t patch things up, there are some scheme things the Lions can do, but we will have to wait and see about that.

Defense

I think the defense played pretty decent Monday. A couple things they need to do better, and it’s no surprise: pressure up front and tackling.

Most of the time Sam Darnold had all day to throw. I think the defense will get better in the new system every week, but we need Ziggy to be huge. Other guys like Kennard, Kerry Hyder, and Jean-Ricky Francois need to get a push up front. I think the LBs did a fine job of filling gaps. I feel like everyone did a good enough job of getting to the ball, but we need to hit better and wrap up at the point of contact.

I think the defense played well in zone. I’m not really worried about our defensive backs at all. That being said, guys like Glover Quin, Quandre Diggs and Tavon Wilson may have to step up in coverage to help against tight ends.

Another thing I saw was a lot of communication going on, sometimes it looked like guys might be a little out of place or unsure of what exact assignments were.

I may be overly optimistic, but I honestly think we can be okay on defense. We just have to remember what we’re working with: a not great pass rush and a brand new defense with a lot of new faces.

Just overall, this team is a work in progress. Things have to change if we don’t want to go 9-7 again.

Stars

Kenny Golladay was amazing. He was Matthew’s favored target and security blanket in that first half. And the forced fumble was huge. Kenny will keep getting better, and that’s a scary thought for opposing defenses. Look for him to keep getting increased targets. Depending on matchups each week, he could be the go-to guy as he was on Monday.

Kerryon Johnson provided some energy when he came into the game. His first drive he touched the ball a lot, and he showed why. He really should be getting more touches each week as he adjusts to the game because he looked good in limited action. He gives us a legit running backs core, and embodies the best out of Blount and Theo. He’s really the running back we’ve always wanted, so if we can give him some space to run into, we will be much better off.

Obviously Quandre Diggs had a great game. The pick on the first play was a huge spark. If you watch him each play, it’s clear he is a leader and everyone is looking to him. He always makes the tackle and covers well.

Golden Tate: Unfortunately, it seemed like Golden got lost in the shuffle a little bit at points early. He still was able to show why he’s special when he got the ball. If the Lions were to script their plays to open a game, I would make sure Golden had a few touches mixed in because he can be very pivotal to the offense’s success.

Low Points

Marvin Jones: He didn’t have a bad game. He just didn’t have the great game with big catches we’re accustomed to (not that the ones he missed were easy by any means).  With the spoil of riches at WR it can be hard for the ball to get spread around, but I think Marvin will get his next week. I know he’ll bounce back.

Special Teams: The special teams were not good, obviously. Matt Prater missed a 56 yarder and Sam Martin and the punt unit gave up a touchdown. The Lions released one special teamer and worked out more punters so the writing is on the wall: if you don’t do your job better, you’ll get replaced.

Matthew Stafford: This was the worst game I can remember Matthew playing. He had no passing yards in the first quarter for the first time in his career. He threw picks, a couple of which he forced, a couple of which he just had to get rid of the ball. He got banged up. It looked like he and the other skill players weren’t on the same page. It wasn’t a good night for him, but I’m confident he will be much better this week, especially if the offensive line plays a little better.

I may be too much of a fan, but I’m still optimistic for the season. I feel like there are little things that each position group has to get better at, and we can be fine. As I said earlier though, this is all a work in progress. We’re gonna have to go through some things and be tested to get better.

What did you think of Week One? Do you expect the Lions to play better against the 49ers? Do you expect a win or loss? Let me know!

 

My trip to Kansas City

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Kansas City, Missouri for the day. I enjoyed my trip and wanted to share a few of the highlights.

First, the reason I was able to go is that my Mom is a flight attendant for Delta. Thanks Mom! She had told me I should fly more earlier this summer, so I looked at the Detroit Tigers’ schedule to see what teams they were playing on the road. When I figured out I didn’t have to work and the Tigers were playing a day game against the Royals in KC, I figured I should go.

I got into town a few hours before the game. I got settled in at my Airbnb and took a walk through the Waldo Neighborhood to grab some lunch quick at McLain’s. From there I got a ride to Kauffman Stadium.

The park is not downtown at all (the old Royals’ stadium was I guess) but it was about 20 minutes from where I was staying. It’s very much built on/at a stadium complex with Arrowhead Stadium located right next door. The K (as they call it) is an older park, being built in 1968. It’s a sprawling stadium but it seemed pretty intimate as I walked around.

I visited the Royals’ Hall of Fame in left field which was very cool. There was a lot of baseball and Royals’ memorabilia including the Royals’ World Series trophies which is exciting for a sports nerd like me. It was a great way to learn a little more about the franchise’s history.

IMG_2050.JPG

Looking out over the fountains from center field. 

The fountains are an obvious highlight of the park and walking around the outfield you get a sense of how big they are. According to the Royals, when the stadium opened the fountains at Kauffman were the largest privately owned fountains in the world.

The game wasn’t so great for the Tigers. Michael Fulmer pitched but did not have his best day. He gave up a few home runs and the Royals cruised to an easy win. It was still entertaining though!

After the game I figured out where I should eat. I tried to ask people I met and use apps like Yelp to find a good spot. I settled on Q39, a place that lauds its competition style barbecue. I know as a Michigander I might not be the most credible BBQ critic, but it was really good. I went for the burnt ends and brisket combo and it didn’t disappoint.

IMG_2070

My dinner at Q39. It was amazing. 

After dinner I headed to Boulevard Brewing Company’s Beer Hall which is located right next to their brewery. It was a very cool space with multiple levels, the first floor being a gift shop/store area and the second floor being the taproom. I grabbed a flight and a seat outside and enjoyed the atmosphere looking out at the city.

IMG_2077

My flight from Boulevard with downtown KC in the background.

Next, I walked over to the World War I Memorial. The memorial provides a great view of Kansas City as you can see from the featured picture at the top. I wish I would’ve had more time so I could’ve went to the museum but I’ll have to do that next time.

IMG_2086

The memorial monument.

Then I walked into town to a jazz bar for a cocktail and to enjoy the music. I never seek out live music but I figured I should since jazz is a Kansas City thing. The place seemed straight out of a scene from La-La Land and I really enjoyed the three piece band.

Last but not least I stopped in at Casual Animal Brewing Company for a last call beer. Shoutout to them, and thanks for the stickers guys!

Well, that’s about it for my trip to KC. In my opinion it felt like a nice Midwestern town. I would definitely go back to see another game (maybe the Chiefs this time) and check out the city some more.

If you like this kind of blog let me know! I plan on doing some more of these, if and when I take another trip. Thanks for reading.

About Me

file.jpeg

Hi, I’m Jackson Vidaurri. Welcome to my blog. I’m here because I really care too much about sports and want to share my ideas and experiences. Thanks so much if you’re here reading, I appreciate it. Reach out to me if you have any questions or want to see me write about something. Also, follow me on social media so we can continue the discussion there!

Syracuse vs WMU Review

40753940_836031026520517_7861504243063062528_o

Dee Eskridge had a career game for WMU. He now leads the FBS in receiving yards. Photo via WMU.

The Broncos suffered a disappointing 55-42 loss at home to Syracuse to open the 2018 season. From the beginning Syracuse was in control and didn’t really look back, even after allowing WMU to come back within seven points. Here are my brief takeaways from the game. All stats via WMU.

Discipline

One of the things that stood out to me was the lack of discipline for WMU. Eric Dungey and the Syracuse offense picked WMU apart with read option runs to gain chunks of yards. While it’s not easy to stop a dynamic dual threat like Dungey, you’ve got to play to your assignments to try and limit big plays. This is something that can improve as the season goes on, and we have to be patient with the front seven as there are new starters and young players playing big minutes.

Quick Starts

Syracuse came out right away and scored on their first possession with ease. They were very physical up front and did whatever they wanted, jumping out to a 24-7 lead.

On the other side, WMU struggled in their first three drives on offense. They didn’t have the ball for very long, they turned the ball over on the second possession, and they just didn’t look very sharp in the first half. That has to change because getting into a hole and coming back isn’t sustainable.

In the second half, WMU had a much better start. Down 34-7, the defense forced and recovered a fumble. WMU’s offense then scored in 40 seconds to start the comeback. They ended up scoring 28 points in the third quarter to make it a seven point game heading to the fourth. That kind of start and energy is what WMU needs to bring to their game against Michigan, and for the rest of the season.

Big Plays

This game was chalk full of big plays. Dungey was unstoppable for Syracuse. When he wasn’t running for a big gain, he was throwing it to Justin Custis who had a big day (6 rec for 168 yds and 2 TDs).

WMU also showed they’ve got some big guns on offense, which is very encouraging for the rest of the season. Dee Eskridge hauled in a touchdown catch for 84 yards and another reception of 59 yards. Levante Bellamy had a big game including a 64 yard touchdown run. Jamauri Bogan had a 59 yard run.

Each team grabbed multiple plays of 20 yards or more, with both teams benefitting from strong offensive line play.

My point here is it’s great that WMU’s offense seems to have taken a step in finding big plays through the passing game. It’s just not as good that they gave up big plays as well.

When the bright lights are on…

This game had a lot of star power. Eric Dungey was incredible. He’s definitely someone to watch for, a possible Heisman Trophy candidate. He had over 200 yards rushing and went 7-17 for 184 and 2 TDs passing.

Along with Dungey 6’6″ receiver Justin Custis was a problem for WMU. He easily caught a TD over Justin Tranquill on Syracuse’s first drive and was a difficult matchup throughout.

Jon Wassink played well in his return to the starting role. Jon went 19-36 for 379 yards (career high) with three TDs and two interceptions, one of which wasn’t the best pass (but still catchable) and the other caused by being hit as he threw. He looked comfortable, threw some very nice balls and lead the team back in the second half.

Dee Eskridge had a career day with 8 receptions for 240 yards and two touchdowns. Dee stepped up like many Bronco fans wanted him to last year. He used his speed to get behind the defense for big plays and now leads the FBS in receiving yards. He was named MAC West Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

LeVante Bellamy had some big runs and was the feature back for WMU. I look forward to seeing how he’ll be used throughout the year. I think he could split out to the slot and cause matchup problems. There’s a lot of talent at the skill positions, which is a great problem for WMU to have.

Jayden Reed showed up for his first college game, grabbing seven catches for 121 yards and a TD.

And last but certainly not least, both teams’ offensive lines played very well. Syracuse moved the ball well and at will when Dungey was in. WMU used their ground game effectively and gave Wassink time to throw down the field.

Last Word

While this was a disappointing loss for WMU, the upsides were very good. Obviously, they need to avoid being down big early. I think with one game under their belt they will have gained confidence because they’ve seen they can score points and threaten opponents through the air.

The offensive line was great as they have been and running backs Bellamy and Bogan both played well and were able to run for big gains. Even freshman Chase Brown got snaps and carries, so keep an eye on him.

The defense had guys like Najee Clayton, Ali Fayad, AJ Thomas and Alex Grace show as big contributors. This is a unit that will collectively get better as the season progresses. They face a big test and opportunity against Michigan.

Special teams weren’t that special. Josh Grant missed a 24 yard field goal before halftime which could have changed the game. I don’t think new punter Nick Mihalic had his best day, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt as he was trying to keep the ball away from Syracuse’s return man. Speaking of keep away, WMU opted to squib kick most or all kickoffs. I didn’t love the strategy because it gave Syracuse too good of field position.

I think that little things held the team back in this opening game. Those are good coaching opportunities, and while the game against Michigan may not be the best barometer for how the team is progressing, we will see over the next few weeks if the team can tighten up and execute on all levels like we as fans know they can.

So…

Did you watch the game? Do you plan on watching WMU play Michigan or are you going to be in Ann Arbor this week? Let me know, and let me know what you thought of the game, this article, etc. Thanks for reading.