GAME NOTES: The Western Michigan Broncos continue their late season push for
the postseason with a trip to UB Stadium for Mid-American Conference action
with the Buffalo Bulls this weekend.
WMU improved to 4-6 its last time out with a 42-31 victory over Central
Michigan on the road. The Broncos have to win both of their final two games to
finish the regular season with the six wins necessary for bowl eligibility.
Bill Cubit has led the program to at least five wins in each of his previous
seven seasons as the team's head coach.
Buffalo is a much better team than its 2-7 record indicates. Four of the
Bulls' losses have been by one touchdown or less. Coach Jeff Quinn's team
finally edged an FBS opponent and snapped a six-game losing slide its last
time out with a 27-24 win over Miami-Ohio at UB Stadium. The Bulls edged the
RedHawks as Patrick Clarke drilled a 47-yard field goal as time expired, which
earned him MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week.
This will be just the sixth meeting in history between these MAC foes. WMU has
won all five previous encounters, including in 2009 when it escaped the last
meeting with a 34-31 victory in an overtime thriller.
The WMU offense has been effective overall this season and ranks in the middle
of the conference with averages of 30.5 ppg (sixth) and 445.2 ypg (fifth). The
Broncos managed to rack up 512 yards of total offense against CMU their last
Tyler Van Tubbergen has been sporadic as the team's quarterback since taking
over the job for the injured Alex Carder earlier in the season. Van Tubbergen
set a new career-high with 362 yards on 32-of-51 passing his last time out. He
also produced five total TDs and threw just one interception. Van Tubbergen
has thrown at least one scoring pass and one interception in every game he has
started to arrive at totals of 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the
Carder is steadily progressing towards a return. The senior was considered one
of the best passers in the league coming into the season. He is questionable
for Saturday. Freshman Jaime Wilson has been one of the MAC's busiest
receivers this season with 60 catches. He is also among the conference leaders
in yards (718) and touchdowns (six), despite struggling over the past few
weeks with a groin injury. He and Josh Schaffer (21 catches, 564 yards, three
TDs), who is recovering with a toe injury, are both questionable to play on
Saturday. With Wilson and Schaffer limited, senior Eric Monette has stepped up
to fill the void. Monette has recorded 19 receptions for 338 yards and three
TDs in his past two games.
Dareyon Chance (153 carries, 830 yards, four TDs) has provided a 100-yard
rushing performance in four different games after tallying 111 yards and three
TDs on 19 carries in last week's win over CMU. Brian Fields offers a change of
pace in the backfield and has amassed 359 rushing yards and two scores on 69
The WMU defense was torched for 31 points and 506 yards of total offense by
CMU its last time out. The Broncos still have the fifth best total defense
(392.9) in the MAC, but they need to apply more pressure on opposing QBs after
recording just one total sack in the past three games.
Johnnie Simon is the heart and soul of the defense with a team-high 88 tackles
and one interception. Justin Currie, Terry Easmon, and Desmond Bozeman are all
vital role players and each have 63 tackles or more. Although not lately, the
unit has shown the ability to pressure opposing passers, with Bozeman (four
sacks), Deauntay Legrier (4.5 sacks) and Paul Hazel (four sacks) all charging
off the line. Lewis Toler is a playmaker in the secondary with three
interceptions and seven pass breakups.
Buffalo's offense has struggled this season due to injuries and turnover
issues, but it managed to escape last week's bout with Miami-Ohio victorious
despite being without starting QB Alex Zordich. Joe Licata filled in to go 13-
of-24 for 127 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Zordich's return
this week is questionable as he recovers from a rib injury.
Buffalo is ranked only sixth in the MAC in rushing (193.2 ypg), but it has not
had its star tailback Branden Oliver healthy all season. The junior tailback
earned the East Division Offensive Player of the Week award for gaining 199
yards and rushing for a score. He also reeled in a touchdown reception.
Freshman running back Devin Campbell carried the load when Oliver was
sidelined and could be subbed in if the offense needs a spark. The rookie
halfback became the first true freshman with two 100-rushing yard performances
in school history by terrorizing Ohio (160 yards) and Pittsburgh (104 yards).
He took over the kick returning duties last week while Oliver played the a
bigger role in the run game.
Alex Neutz is clearly the favorite target when a Buffalo QB drops back in the
pocket. Neutz increased his season totals to 41 receptions, 709 yards, and
nine touchdowns (First in MAC) last week versus Miami. Devon Hughes is second
to Neutz in each of those categories with 22 catches, 221 yards, and one
Buffalo's defense is limiting opponents to 379.3 yards per game, which is the
third lowest average in the MAC. However, the Bulls are surrendering 30.9 ppg,
which ranks 85th among the 120 teams in the FBS.
Khalil Mack has been a force up front for Buffalo thus far with 14 tackles for
loss and 4.5 sacks, which lead the team and rank second and seventh on the
conference leaderboard, respectively. Mack has also tallied a team-leading 65
total tackles. Colby Way (4.5 sacks) has also been impressive in the pass
Although WMU has much more to play for, Buffalo has been more consistent all
season in terms of production. The Bulls are very good at defending against
the pass, which could be problematic for Van Tubbergen. Oliver should continue
to thrive as the Bulls play for pride.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Buffalo 30, Western Michigan 28