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Western Michigan (0-8) at Massachusetts (1-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 26, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gillette Stadium (68,756) -- Foxboro, Massachusetts. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: WMU 0-4, UMass 1-2. Away Record: WMU 0-4, UMass 0-4. Neutral Record: WMU 0-0, UMass 0-0. Conference Record: WMU 0-4, UMass 1-2. Series Record: WMU leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Two teams sitting in the basement of the Mid-American Conference will look to get a rare win when the Western Michigan Broncos visit the Massachusetts Minutemen at Gillette Stadium.
The Broncos have lost all eight games they have been a part of this season including all four in league play. The most recent setback was a 38-17 loss at home to Ball State. The Broncos have lost each of the last three contests by at least 21 points.
Things have not been going much better for UMass, though it has at least managed to collect a victory. Overall the Minutemen are 1-6, which actually matches their win total from a year ago, their first at the FBS level. UMass' lone win came in league play against Miami-Ohio (17-10) but the joy of victory was quickly snuffed out as Buffalo routed the Minutemen, 32-3, last time out.
Last year marked the first time these teams had ever been matched up. Western Michigan won that game easily, posting a 52-14 victory behind a five-touchdown effort from Tyler Van Tubbergen.
As might be expected of a team without a win on the campaign the Broncos have been unable to get much going offensively this season. Western Michigan is averaging just 312.3 yards of total offense per game and scoring less than 14 points a contest.
Van Tubbergen or recent starter Zach Terrell could certainly use a repeat performance of the effort against UMass last season. This year Van Tubbergen has been miserable, completing just 44.9 percent of his pass attempts for 906 yards and 10 interceptions to just four touchdowns. Terrell (59-of-115, 693 yards, three TDs, six INTs) has started in two games, including the loss to Ball State, but has not fared much better than Tubbergen. Van Tubbergen is questionable for Saturday's game so Terrell may be set to start again.
No matter who is under center it is a guarantee that Corey Davis will be the primary target. Davis has 45 receptions for 607 yards and three touchdowns this season. All of those marks are team-highs. In fact, no other player on the team has more than 20 catches for 250 yards.
The holes left by the passing game have at least been attempted to be filled by a solid rushing tandem for the Broncos. Dareyon Chance (457 yards, TD) and Brian Fields (398 yards, four TDs) are each averaging more than four yards per carry, while combining to put up more than 100 yards per game. Fields did not play against Ball State leading to a 100-yard effort from Chance.
Just like the offense, the WMU defense has been dismal. The Broncos are getting lit up for 37.5 points and 443.2 yards of total offense per game. If there has been a bright spot it has been in the secondary, with Donald Celiscar grabbing three interceptions. Meanwhile, Ronald Zamort is tied for second nationally with 13 passes defended.
Offensive struggles have also hounded UMass all year. The Minutemen are dead last in the nation in scoring (7.9 ppg) and just a few spots higher than that in terms of total offense (276.7 ypg).
A.J. Doyle and Mike Wegzyn have each gotten turns starting at quarterback but neither has had much luck. Doyle has completed 55.6 percent of his pass attempts for 851 yards and four touchdowns to go with five interceptions. Doyle made the start against Buffalo but had just 14 completions for 162 yards and an interception. Wegzyn has gone 32-of-62 for 304 yards, two scores and three interceptions, while making a pair of starts.
UMass has a counterpart for WMU's Davis in Tajae Sharpe. Sharpe has brought in 42 passes for 425 yards and three touchdowns this season and is comfortably leading the team in each category. Rob Blanchflower (15 receptions, 156 yards, TD) is the only other player with more than 100 yards.
For the Minutemen running the ball hasn't provided much for the offense. Stacey Bedell (268 yards, TD) and Jamal Wilson (257 yards) have shared time as the starter but both players are averaging less than four yards per carry. Bedell's score is the only rushing touchdown by UMass this season.
UMass has been slightly better defensively than the Broncos but certainly hasn't been impressive either. The Minutemen are allowing fewer points per game (28.6), while sitting in eighth in the MAC in total defense (442 ypg). The biggest weakness of the unit has been getting upfield, as the Minutemen are last in the MAC in tackles for loss (22) and second to last in sacks (seven).
It is difficult to determine whether the lack of defense will allow the struggling offenses to perform better, or if things will turn out the other way around. WMU has a bit more talent on the offensive side of the ball and that could be the difference.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Michigan 23, Massachusetts 17
10/23 10:40:24 ET
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