KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Coming into the rivalry game between Central Michigan and Western Michigan this week, there were plenty of margins within the game to debate.
Does CMU have enough offense to win? Can the Broncos play better than the 55 points they allowed to Syracuse.
One thing was certain, though. WMU’s Tim Lester, Levante Bellamy and Jon Wassink have seen this rivalry game before.
First-year coach Jim McElwain, freshman David Moore and a young defense for the Chippewas had not.
One teams growing pains showed and the others played like veterans of college football. It was the script you expected.
In the end, WMU took down CMU 31-15 in a contest that WMU once led 24-0. The Chippewas scored all 15 points in the fourth quarter when the game was essentially out of reach.
“I feel really good for the guys in that locker room, I thought we did a lot of things great,” Lester said. “Between the lines and the whistles we did what we needed to win. Rivalry games are back and forth, physical and emotional.
“It’s the greatest feeling and this is why you do it, for the kids in that locker room.”
When looking deeper than the score, CMU had a chance to win this game and was moving the ball early.
The Chippewas were only out-gained by 87 yards (265-178) in the first half but trailed 17-0.
There were two instances where McElwain and company could’ve kicked field goals and elected go for a fourth and short, coming up empty.
“I’ve got belief in our team and we know what we are going to go for,” McElwain said. “In hindsight, take the points. But we knew what we would do and didn’t execute, it’s that simple. If you don’t get a yard, you don’t deserve to win a game.”
Moore, who finished the first half 10-of-16, looked good at times in the pocket with patience and throwing. However, he also threw an interception that led to a WMU score to open the game and only compiled 84 yards. Wassink on the other side had just one more completion, but threw for 192 yards and a score in the opening 30 minutes.
In the second half, the miscues kept coming for CMU and with it came more life for WMU.
After another CMU turnover, the Chippewas managed to stuff Bellamy in the backfield on a third and short. WMU would go to punt, only to get a rounging the kicker call and gain 15 yards and a fresh set of downs.
Then on a third and 12, CMU forced an incompletion but was called for targeting, keeping the WMU drive alive once again. The Broncos would score five plays later, leading 24-0 with just over 17 minutes of regulation left.
The Chippewas opened the quarter with a quick score and then field goal to trim the Bronco lead to 24-9 before WMU had its final touchdown drive that iced the game, leading 31-9 with just 5:34 remaining.
“When it got close, I was kind of happy,” Lester said. “They climbed back in the game and we need those situations. I need the defense in the game for fourth and one like that last possession with the game on the line, I know it wasn’t on the line, but I want them in those situations for when we play good teams later on.”
Each team had 15 penalties, which Lester said he and McElwain agreed were too many. However, CMU had seven offsides on defense, which made it easier for WMU to pick up first downs throughout the game.
“(WMU) saw us jumping offsides and did a good job of taking advantage of it,” McElwain said shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head. “Nothing that you didn’t do back in peewee ball, it’s pretty ridiculous to be honest with you. It goes back to discipline.”
Lester said his team watched the Chippewas film and there was evidence they had cadence problems, so the Broncos did everything they could to make CMU jump.
“We planned on going on multiple cadences and we didn’t know if it would work,” Lester said. “It was great discipline for our offensive line not to jump, especially the wideouts. The inside guys go on the call, the outside guys go on the ball.”
While those offsides accumulated to 35 penalty yards against CMU, WMU did much more in this game when the moments mattered most. Fourth down stops, finishing drives with points and setting the tone early with a turnover and scoring drive.
One team let its mistakes cost them the game early, the other took advantage and won. The result: the Victory Cannon Trophy will stay another year in Kalamazoo.