The next team scheduled to take on defending national champion Ohio State is the Western Michigan Broncos.
The Broncos, who are members of the Mid-American Conference, head into Saturday’s game at Ohio Stadium with one win in three tries.
Here is a look at the 2015 Bronco squad:
Up and down
In its first three games, the Broncos have looked like a different team each week.
WMU opened its season against then-No. 5 Michigan State, and surprisingly, the heavy-underdog Broncos put up a fight against their in-state foe in a 37-24 loss.
WMU’s redshirt junior quarterback Zach Terrell threw the ball 50 times, completing 33 attempts for 365 yards — the highest regular-season passing total against MSU since Sept. 18, 2010.
Even though it was a loss, there were enough positives to draw from the game to give WMU confidence moving forward.
However, that would not last long as the following week the Broncos played Georgia Southern and got blown out 43-17. In that game, Terrell threw three interceptions, and the Eagles beat up the Bronco run defense for 413 yards.
WMU bounced back in its next game, as it cruised through Murray State of the Football Championship Subdivision by way of a 52-20 victory.
Terrell was much improved, throwing just one more incompletion (five) than he did touchdowns (four). The Broncos also hit their stride in the running game, as they totaled 237 yards after just having 43 yards combined in the first two games.
It’s been a night-and-day difference for WMU in each of its games so far. Who knows which Bronco team will show up at the ‘Shoe on Saturday.
Although WMU has been inconsistent overall thus far in 2015, there has been one overarching theme for the Broncos. Unfortunately, it is probably one that coach P.J. Fleck and his players wish didn’t exist: turnovers.
The Broncos have had multiple of them in every game they’ve played, and it’s certainly holding them back.
Against the Spartans in the season opener, Terrell threw two interceptions.
The first one happened early in the game when the Broncos were still deep in their own territory. It turned out to be costly, as it took Michigan State just two plays to go 27 yards for the game’s first score.
The turnover total ballooned to four in Week 2 against Georgia Southern.
Terrell threw three picks — which on two of them, the Eagles scored on the ensuing possession — and freshman wide receiver LeVante Bellamy fumbled on a kickoff.
Last week, WMU coughed up the ball on two fumbles — albeit both were late in the game when the Broncos had all but sealed up the win over Murray State.
The eight Bronco turnovers have allowed opponents to score a total 27 points on the possessions directly following them.
The Broncos will have to clean up the sloppy play against OSU because as the underdog they can’t afford to give the heavily favorited Buckeyes extra chances with the ball.
Brief Bronco bios
- The backup quarterback for the Broncos is freshman Tom Flacco, whose older brother, Joe, is the starting quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens.
- Starting right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor has only lived in the United States for five years. The 18-year-old true sophomore moved to the U.S. from Botswana in 2010. Okorafor, who measures 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, had not played football prior to his immigration. He learned the game quickly, receiving many collegiate scholarship offers from Power 5 schools, including OSU, before settling on going to WMU.
- There are four Ohio natives who currently suit up for the Broncos. Redshirt freshman cornerback Antione Stone went to Bedford High School, the same school OSU’s junior safety Tyvis Powell attended. Senior punter J. Schroeder is a Columbus native who attended St. Charles Preparatory School. Sophomore long snapper Wyatt Pfeifer is from Delaware, Ohio, and freshman wide receiver Giovanni Ricci is from the Cincinnati suburb of Loveland.
Beyond the Buckeyes
After Saturday’s game, WMU will have a week off to rest and prepare for conference play.
The Broncos are set to open their MAC slate on Oct. 10 against the Central Michigan Chippewas in the “Battle for the Cannon” at home in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The time of kickoff has yet to be announced.