A Tale of Two Teams

<i>Greg Jennings</i>

A quick look at the Western Michigan football team's offensive stats reveals a team averaging 26.4 points per game. Nothing stellar but it is good enough to be a respectable middle of the pack team. However a look at the defense reveals the other half of the equation. An average of 41.0 points against on the season is good enough for near last in the NCAA. Broncos Illustrated takes a look at the good, the bad and the different.

The Broncos are the 19th best passing team in the nation so far this season and a respectable middle road team in total offense. Junior quarterback Ryan Cubit has completed 59.1% of his passes the past two weeks and has an efficiency rating of 125.51 with 12 touchdowns in six games.

Junior receiver Greg Jennings amassed his third straight 100-yard receiving game and scored his ninth touchdown on the season (7 receiving, 2 punt returns). Tight end Tony Scheffler is second on the team in receiving with 41.3 yards per game with Tyrone Walker is just behind with 39.1 yards per game.

WMU has scored over 30 points in four of their seven games this season. In one of the other three games the team fell only three points shy of 30 against a Big Ten opponent.

The Broncos have had nine different players enter the end zone for a touchdown this season, ten if you count Mike Giorgianni's interception for a touchdown in the first game. WMU has a total of 24 touchdowns on the season, good enough for 3.43 per game and over 20 points per game before you add in extra points and field goals.

The rushing game is averaging 107.4 yards per game this season. That may not seem to be significant or even good until one looks at how much of an improvement that is over last season's 5-7 Bronco team that finish almost dead last nationally in rushing.

Mike Giorgianni

Then you have the other side of the coin… defense. A defense with bright spots to be sure but still a defense which ranks second to last in Division 1A in terms of scoring and almost as bad in yardage given up.

First a quick look at the bright spots. Mike Giorgianni's 63 tackles, which is far and away the best on the team ahead of Jack Gitler's second place of 39 tackles comes to mind first. Then there's back-up defensive end Ernest Osborn with 3.5 sacks on the season edging out Paul Tithof and Josh Behrens who are the only other Broncos with multiple sacks this season. And lastly there is the fact that nine players for Western Michigan have four or more tackles for a loss (TFL) this season.

Now for the areas of concern on defense. Remember that the Broncos have scored 30 or more points four times this season. The Broncos have also given up at least 30 points six times this season; all loses. The lone game that saw fewer then 30 points on defense was a shutout against Tennessee-Martin, a Division 1AA foe, who now holds a 2-6 record.

Rushing defense is a big area of concern for the Broncos with an average of 198.5 yards per game. That was never more apparent then the first play from scrimmage last Saturday against NIU. One play, 17 seconds and 78 yards later the Huskies were on their way to a 265-yard running day with a touchdown already on the board.

"Northern Illinois is a good running team and they were able to take advantage of the match-ups," said Gary Darnell. "We tried to attack their strengths and were unsuccessful."

While on the subject of yardage the Broncos broke a record Saturday allowing 652 yards of offense, the most ever given up by a Bronco team. That broke a record set just two weeks earlier when Toledo accumulated 649 yards at Waldo Stadium. "We have got to try and stop the bleeding in terms of big plays," said Darnell.

"The onus is on us guys on defense," said senior safety Mark Hardy. "We have to find a way to stop offenses or at least slow them down so our offense can come on the field and do what they do well."

College coaches are always working on their team's ability to build off of what they do well and correct what they do poorly. As the Broncos prepare to take on their archrivals to the north it is plainly obvious what needs improvement and also what good can be built on. "Heading into Central Michigan we need to keep depending on our offense to do well and finding a way for our defense to be contributing to this thing," said Darnell.

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