Tag Archives: wmu football

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!

Syracuse vs WMU Review

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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.

Position group notables and who I’m watching for on WMU

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QB Jon Wassink. Photo via WMU Broncos.

Before the college football season starts I want to go over some of the position groups and players I’m going to be watching for WMU. First, let’s talk about the offense.

Wideouts

This unit underperformed/disappeared at times last year. Without Corey Davis WMU’s passing game was basically nonexistent. (They also were paired with a QB who was starting for the first time in Jon Wassink and a true freshman who was thrust into action after Wassink got injured, but more on that later.) Dee Eskridge is really fast but he’s small. The other wideouts don’t have much to their names. One guy to look for is Jaylen Hall (h/t Andy Pepper on Twitter).

Insert Drake Harris. The Michigan transfer and Grand Rapids Christian product should be well known on the west side of the state – he was a freak two sport recruit in high school. Drake steps into a position group that’s begging for someone with his prototypical WR frame. His size alone will help the group, and he could be dynamic in shaping the offense’s passing game.

Jon Wassink

I’m very excited to watch Jon play this year. He got steadily better each game before his season ending injury. A second year in the offense and a second year with coach Lester should result in growth for Jon’s game. Keep in mind Lester is taking over play calling duties, so the overall direction/play of the offense could look different. The o-line and running game will still be strong which will help, and I expect Lester to let Jon be more aggressive. Now, on to the defense.

Front Seven

Notable returners to the front seven include Eric Assoua and Antonio Balabani. The Bronoco defense will feature new starting linebackers after losing guys like Robert Spillane and Asantay Brown to the NFL. I’ll be looking to see how new guys like Rutgers transfer Najee Clayton step into their roles. There might be some growing pains but it’ll be great to watch the next wave of guys step in.

Secondary

Just as the front seven lost guys to the NFL, so did the secondary. Obviously, Darius Phillips has moved on and the Broncos will miss his impact on defense and special teams. Additionally, Sam Beal – who was entering his senior year and was going to be ‘the guy’ back there – left the team during the summer and entered the NFL’s Supplemental Draft. Thankfully, safety Justin Tranquill is back after an injury last year and will provide experience and leadership.

Overall Thoughts

I trust in the coaching staff and this team to improve on last year’s record and performances.  I love the mantra put forth by coach Lester of being the toughest team in America. If the Broncos can be tougher, they will be better. I think the team has great talent again and an opportunity to win the conference. I’m really looking forward to watching them play this year.