Looking For a Big Win

Blayne Baggett in his first start as a Bronco.

This Saturday the Broncos will head to Lane Stadium and try to do two things they have never done before – score on the Virginia Tech Hokies and defeat a team from the ACC. On paper the Hokies don't appear to be quite as good as they have been in past meetings, but they still have that characteristic speed and they gave top ranked USC all they could handle in their season opener.

Western Michigan was outscored by a margin of 61-0 combined in the past two meetings with Virginia Tech but that isn't what the Broncos are looking at right now.

"We need to move forward, we need to concentrate on the task ahead of us," said head coach Gary Darnell.

That task ahead includes finding a way to slow down senior Hokie quarterback Bryan Randall, who has started 26 straight games. Randall not only had a solid passing performance against the Trojans of Southern California, but he also led his team in rushing with 82 yards on 17 carries versus USC.

"You don't contain a player like that," said Darnell. "You try to slow him down a bit but you can't contain him. If we put all our guys on one player they have so many weapons that they're going to beat us everywhere else."

Randall's opposite for the Broncos, Blayne Baggett, will be starting in just his second game at the college level. "Ready or not he's going to play," said Darnell. And to get ready Baggett completed 72% of his passes in the season opener against Tennessee-Martin staying in the game far longer then most fans expected.

"I think by him staying in there a little bit longer he got put in situations where he got into a little bit more pressure where he had to be creative," Darnell told the media following the opening game.

The big battle expected on Saturday will be the battle for field position. Being able to bury the other team deep in their own territory could very quickly turn a game around. Both teams feature strong special teams that can help win the field position game.

Vinnie burns, a two time Ray Guy Award semi-finalist, averaged 45.8 yards per punt in the Hokies' season opener. The Broncos have their own Ray Guy Award candidate in senior Adam Anderson who average 47.5 yards in the Broncos' season opener. "Both of those guys can change the course of a game with the way they kick," said Darnell.

Another big key to whether the Broncos are successful will be the running game. The WMU coaching staff made a point of getting the running game more involved this season for a more balanced attack than in past seasons. In the opening game Trovon Riley and Lawrence Cannon combined for 133 yards rushing for an average of 4.35 per carry.

The Broncos went so far as to overbalance the run to the point where WMU ran 38 times and only passed 23. "We'd like to see that be closer to 50-50," said Darnell. In seasons past those stats would likely have been reversed.

Defensively the Broncos are as ready as ever coming on the heels of their first shutout in four seasons. Leading the way were the linebackers Paul Tithof and Mike Giorgianni who combined for 18 tackles, 3 for a loss and the Giorgianni interception for a touchdown.

Also expected to play big rolls on defense are Jack Gitler, Darrell Copeland and Kevin Ford. All three played big rolls against Tennessee-Martin, all three were among the team leaders in tackles and all three will be starting against Virginia Tech.

Whatever happens Saturday the Broncos will have to take full advantage of Greg Jennings punt returning abilities, Adam Anderson's long punts, a stable of talented receivers and a defense that held Tennessee-Martin to just 222 yards of total offense.

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