Western Michigan has won five straight games, and nine of its last 10 meetings against Eastern Michigan. During the Gary Darnell era, the WMU-EMU contests have been notoriously high-scoring: (2001 - 31-10; 2000 - 28-0; 1999 - 40-37 OT; 1998 - 45-35; 1997 - 41-38). EMU's last visit to Kalamazoo two years ago was significant in that WMU clinched its second straight MAC West Division title with a 28-0 win.
Sept. 29, 2001 * Ypsilanti, Mich.
Bolstered by a 21-point explosion in the first quarter, Western Michigan posted a 31-10 victory over Eastern Michigan in the MAC opener for both teams. The win proved costly to the Broncos who had six players treated for injuries, including four starters. QB Jeff Welsh led WMU to three scores before leaving the game late in the first quarter after taking a hard hit. Backup Jon Drach came in and saw the first extensive action of his career, completing 16-of-26 passes for 137 yards. WMU scored twice off EMU turnovers to build an early 14-0 advantage. A 30-yard pass from Welsh to receiver Marco Wolverton was followed by a 32-yard field goal from Robert Menchinger as the Broncos built a 24-0 cushion. EMU, which started true freshman QB Kainoa Akina (who has since tranferred to Hawaii) scored with 35 seconds left in the half, only to see WMU respond 13 seconds later with a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Ronald Rogers. The Bronco defense allowed just 93 yards passing and three points in the second half.
STEFFEN STEPS UP
P Matt Steffen turned in the best punting performance of the season for the Broncos in Saturday's 17-7 loss at Ball State. The senior from Wooster, Ohio averaged 44.4 yards over seven punts, including a career-long of 59 yards. Steffen connected on three punts over 50 yards and pinned another inside the 20-yard line. His efforts helped the Broncos hold Ball State to a 5.5 yard return average ¯ no small feat considering that the Cardinals ranked third in the MAC in punt return average (13.8) entering the game.
BABIN CHASES RECORD
DE Jason Babin did not record a sack at Ball State, but still remains on track to set a WMU record in the category. Babin is tied with Roy Swoape (1985) for the second-most sacks in a season (13), one behind Joel Smeenge's record set in 1989. The Mid-American Conference record, while not yet listed on the books, figures to be within reach based on an preliminary survey of league SID offices. Later today it will be known where Babin ranks nationally when the NCAA releases its Division I defensive leaders. For now, Babin's 13 sacks are equal to or greater than totals from six MAC schools: BG-13, OU-13, KSU-12, BSU-10, UA-7, EMU-6.
The WMU-Toledo game scheduled for Nov. 16 in Waldo Stadium has a new kickoff time of 3:30 p.m. to accommodate FOX Sports Net which will carry the contest as part of the MAC Game of the Week package.
Western Michigan's sack streak came to an end at Ball State, ending a 33-game run that began Nov. 20, 1999 at Toledo. WMU had little opportunity to apply pressure Saturday as BSU attempted just 18 passes, many of the three-step variety * WMU lost two starters to injury when RB Philip Reed and LB Jason Malloy went down in the first half and did not return. Reed compiled 68 yards before leaving the game and needs 133 more to reach 1,000 yards for the first time * RB Daniel Marks rushed for 49 yards on 12 carries in Reed's absence * WS Jason Feldpausch recorded WMU's fourth blocked kick of the season when he foiled Mike Lanford's 40-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter. A former walk on, Feldpausch leads the MAC in forced fumbles (4) and paces the Broncos in tackles (79). It was against Eastern Michigan last year that Feldpausch cracked the lineup for the first time and he started every game since * WR Greg Jennings returned to action Saturday after missing four games due to injury. He ranked first in MAC kickoff return average (33.7), and seventh nationally, before going down against Virginia Tech * FS Kevin Ford earned his second start in place of Carlos Smith and recorded a career-best 15 tackles against the Cardinals * OL coach Mike Cummings mentored EMU's defensive line and served as recruiting coordinator during the 2000 and 2001 seasons * Western Michigan plays host to Toledo next Saturday (Nov. 16) in the Broncos' home finale as 21 seniors make their final appearance in Waldo Stadium.
QUOTING DARNELL ON THE BSU GAME:
"We couldn't execute well * both interceptions were predictable. We felt okay at the half after the missed field goal, but couldn't come out strong to start the third quarter. Our blocking was a big factor today. You have to find a way to fix what you can't do right."
ON EASTERN MICHIGAN:
"Our games with them have always been very close, with a touchdown either way usually being the difference. It's a rival game so it should be hard fought and physical."
SCOUTING E. MICHIGAN
Eastern Michigan suffered a 47-21 defeat at Central Michigan last Saturday (Nov. 2) in a game that saw CMU's Robbie Mixon set a MAC single-game rushing record with 377 yards on 43 carries. The Eagles have a fine running back of their own in senior Ime Akpan (pronounced IMMY OCK-pon), a transfer from Youngstown State, who surpassed 1,000 yards on Saturday, becoming the fifth MAC back to accomplish the feat this season. Akpan, who did not play against WMU last year but had 24 rushing yards in 1999 while with YSU, also has 10 touchdowns this season. EMU features the league's top receiver in terms of receptions and yards with Kevin Edwards, who has snagged 67 passes for 992 yards and seven touchdowns. Opposing offenses have presented problems this year for EMU, which ranks 13th in MAC scoring defense (46.8) and total defense (530.4). One of the bright spots has been the play of LB David Lusky, who stands third in MAC tackles (12.3 average-108 total).