WMU fails to execute with early opportunities, looks to grow

NCAA Football

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — Tim Lester could do nothing but shrug his shoulders.

To the head coach of the Western Michigan football team, the mistakes were ones that you simply can’t make to keep up with a team like Michigan.

Today, his team made a few too many of those early on and could never recover as the Wolverines ran the Broncos out of the Big House with a 47-14 victory.

“I felt like we did do some good things by moving the ball, but we couldn’t finish drives,” Lester said. “This was a good opportunity to learn from it and it could be a good thing for us if we respond correctly. We just couldn’t finish a drive or stop the run.

“They got big on us and it made things difficult.”

With the way the game started, it was clear the Broncos felt they could keep up with the Wolverines.

Western Michigan head coach Tim Lester looks up at the scoreboard in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. Michigan won 47-14. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

Following a key unsportsmanlike conduct call against Michigan that turned a third and 10 into a first down, the Broncos went right through the Michigan defense.

Sophomore quarterback Kaleb Eleby three plays later made the Wolverines pay with a 29-yard pass completion to Jaylen Hall who reached over a defender to haul the pass in. Another first down put the Broncos in the red zone and La’Darius Jefferson finished the 10-play, 75-yard drive off with a three-yard touchdown run. The game was tied at seven.

After a field goal from Michigan, on following possession the Broncos were able to get the ball down to the Wolverine 39 yard line. However, that is where the drive would come to an end as Michigan forced a punt. 

The Broncos pinned Michigan deep and was able to get the ball right back after a Wolverine three and out. The Broncos had a key chance to tie the game or take the lead in the second quarter.

Instead, the Broncos went three and out. The next Michigan possession, they didn’t miss.

McNamara threw a 76-yard dart to Ronnie Bell who made the catch, shook the Bronco defenders and trotted into the end zone. It put Michigan ahead by 10, 17-7.

Michigan just kept pouring it on from there, and the Broncos had no answer on either side of the ball.

“It was disappointing,” Lester said. “We simply just didn’t tackle well enough. There were some positives, but we just couldn’t finish a tackle and Michigan is a good enough team to capitalize on those kinds of errors.”

While the Broncos were able to muster up 310 yards of total offense, only scoring twice isn’t enough to get it done against most teams, much less a Big Ten school. The final WMU score came on its last drive when Michigan plugged in bench players.

Eleby was 16-of-30 for 136 yards without a score until the final drive which was kept alive by a running into the punter penalty. He went 4-of-7 for 55 yards on the final drive with a touchdown pass to Corey Crooms, inflating his total stats to 20-of-37 for 191 yards and a score.

On the ground was where the real story was told, as the Wolverines rushed for 334 yards to WMU’s 126 yards. Michigan was finding holes not only up the middle between running backs Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins, but with different receivers on reverses. A.J. Henning had the biggest play with a 74-yard touchdown run on a reverse with missed Bronco tackles left and right.

“We need to just execute at a higher level,” Lester said. “No matter what the score is, we are grading how we execute. At all levels, and at all three levels I didn’t feel we were good enough. I told them I wasn’t happy with anyones execution because I had higher expectations for everybody.”

The Broncos have now lost three consecutive games dating back to the end of the 2020 season when they lost to Eastern Michigan and Ball State.

Next week, the Broncos will open the season at home against Illinois State at 5 p.m. on Sept. 11 at Waldo Stadium. 

Lester is excited for the chance to grow as a team and see what improvements this team can make in a week.

“If you want to win when we get to our league, you need to be prepared when you get there,” Lester said. “These are the best types of games to play, we really got to test ourselves. Whether we win or lose, we’re going to grow from it. It’s a great chance to figure out where we are at and move forward.”

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