The Falcons are ranked 23rd in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and 25th by Associated Press. Western Michigan is coming off a 31-27 loss to UCF at Waldo Stadium (Oct. 12).
Western Michigan has won five straight and is unbeaten in its last six games (5-0-1) versus Bowling Green. BG's last victory in the series occurred in 1992. The Falcons own a 28-14-3 advantage in the all-time series, which began in 1954. The teams did not play each other in 2000, 1999 or 1994.
Oct. 13, 2001 * Kalamazoo, Mich.
Western Michigan fought off a determined Bowling Green team to post a 37-28 victory before a soggy Homecoming crowd of 21,874. The Broncos scored on just the second play from scrimmage, when Jeff Welsh hit Charles Woods on a 45-yard touchdown pass. BG drew even on their first possession with an Andy Sahm 17-yard run.
After a Robert Menchinger field goal late in the first quarter, BGSU claimed its first and only lead of the afternoon on Robert Redd's 22-yard touchdown reception from Sahm. The Broncos countered four minutes later on a Welsh to Brandon Johnson touchdown play from 18 yards out to take a 16-14 advantage into halftime.
The second half would prove big for the Bronco defense, which produced two scores, the first on a 21-yard fumble return by Bryan Pinder to give WMU a 30-14 lead. After BG rallied for two scores to cut the lead to two, 30-28, cornerback Ronald Rogers helped put the game away with a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter.
TOP UNITS BATTLE
Something will have to give this weekend when the second-best offense in the MAC (Bowling Green ¯ 500.8) collides with the league's top-rated defense (Western Michigan ¯ 325.7). The game will also feature the MAC's top-two defenses. The Falcons are averaging a league-best 49.6 points per game, while WMU is allowing just 26.3 points per game ¯ fourth-best among MAC teams. While Saturday's game could turn into a defensive battle, it's worth noting that BGSU and WMU have combined to average 67.6 points over their last three meetings.
Western Michigan's defense has recorded interceptions in five of six games this season (the exception being Purdue) and has eight swipes on the year ¯ already matching last year's total. Four of WMU's five starting defensive backs have intercepted passes: CB Tony Carr, SS Scott Robinson, FS Carlos Smith and WS Jason Feldpausch. LB Jason Malloy's 46-yard interception return for a touchdown last week was the team's first score off a pick this year. With such proficiency in the secondary, it's little wonder the Broncos rank second in MAC pass defense (195.5).
While campus Greeks take part in rush parties, WMU opponents have been less fortunate. The Brown & Gold have kept teams to under 100 yards rushing in back-to-back weeks, becoming the MAC's second-stingiest run defense (130.2) in the process.
An argument could be made that the MAC is the nation's top passing conference as four teams rank among the NCAA's top 15 in passing offense ¯ Marshall (1st), UCF (11th), Akron (13th) and WMU (15th) ¯ that's more than any other conference * Chad Munson's second start of the season last Saturday resulted in his first 300-yard passing game * Kendrick Mosley is fourth among NCAA punt return leaders with a 17.7 yard average * when Scott Robinson sacked UCF's Ryan Schneider on a safety blitz, it extended WMU's sack streak to 31 games * DE Chris Browning missed the UCF game with injury, ending his consecutive games played streak at 40. Sophomore Nic Melcher earned his first career start in place of Browning, and promptly forced a fumble on UCF's second snap from scrimmage. Sam Reynolds advanced the fumble 37 yards which led to WMU's first score two plays later * after sitting out most of last year as a medical redshirt, fifth-year senior Carlos Smith has made up for lost time. Smith paces the Bronco defense in tackles (54) and logged his first career interception last week * LG Chris Montgomery has allowed just two sacks in 430 snaps this season. LT Kyle Ras leads the team in pancakes (4) and RT Fred McCants in knockdown blocks (4) * WMU ranks 115th out of 117 teams in NCAA rushing (71.5), just ahead of Louisiana-Lafayette (68.5) and San Diego State (66.0) * Western Michigan plays host to West Division leader Northern Illinois next Saturday (Oct. 26) in a 1:00 p.m. kickoff at Waldo Stadium on Education Day.
ON THE UCF GAME:
"This is a loss that hurts, but we still control our own destiny. We are alive in this race and if we win the rest of our games, we will be in the championship. We have to make sure this loss isn't fatal."
"UCF played a final football game and made one more play than we did. It's hard to win on the road and they found a way to do it."
"We have to find a way to be two plays better than our opponent, a play that pulls us even and a play that puts us over the top."
SCOUTING BOWLING GREEN
In a span of a year-and-a-half, coach Urban Meyer has elevated a 2-9 team into the Top 25. Last week's 10-point decision over Central Michigan (45-35) was the closest game of the season for BG, which has won four games by 23 or more points. The undefeated Falcons stand either first or second in virtually every MAC category (see tale of the tape). Much like WMU, BG has used two quarterbacks this season with junior Josh Harris ranking fourth in total offense (289.0) among MAC players. WR Robert Redd is a returning All-MAC First Teamer, holding down the sixth spot in MAC receptions (5.8 avg.). It's interesting to note that while BG's 3-3 defense rates second overall, second against the run and fourth against the pass in the MAC, the Falcons don't have a player included among the league's top 40 tacklers. K Shaun Suisham is a perfect 8-for-8 in field goals (a long of 43 yards) and 29-for-30 in extra point attempts.