Western Michigan Too Talented To Overlook

The Fighting Illini football team can't afford to take Western Michigan for granted this week. Some say the Broncos have the best talent in the Mid-America Conference this year, and head coach Bill Cubit has them playing hard.

Western Michigan is 2-1 on the young season, having defeated Nicholls 38-7 and Central Michigan 44-14. Their loss was at Michigan 34-10 in a game called by lightning storms late in the third quarter. That game was closer than the score indicates as both teams had the same number of first downs and nearly the same total offense yards.

Head Coach Bill Cubit is in his 7th year with the Broncos. He is 40-33 overall and 29-18 in the MAC. He took WMU to the 2008 Texas Bowl and has led them to bowl eligibility three of the past five seasons.

The leader of the offense is junior quarterback Alex Carder (6'-2", 224). He is a highly efficient passer, completing 62 of 86 passes for 5 touchdowns and three interceptions. He is averaging 227 yards per game through the air. He also is a capable runner when needed. His backup Tyler VanTubbergen (6'-3", 197) has seen action this year as well.

Senior Jordan White (6'-215") is Mr. Everything for the Broncos. The wide receiver had his second double-digit reception total of the season last week against Central Michigan, catching 13 balls for 177 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned a punt 64 yards. He has 195 receptions in his career and 13 100 yard + games to his credit. He is presently fifth on the Biletnikoff list for yards gained via receptions.

White is not their only pass-catching threat. Senior Robert Arnheim (5'-11", 207) caught the touchdown that upset Illinois in Ford Field in 2008. So far this season, he has 10 catches for 191 yards and a TD. Senior Chleb Ravenell (5'-11", 188) also starts.

Others who see playing time include junior Eric Monette (6'-4", 201), junior Ansel Ponder (6'-1", 183) and sophomore Josh Schaffer (6'-2", 224). Sophomore tight end Clark Mussman (6'-4", 237) is also a receiving threat. He is backed by junior Blake Hammond (6'-5", 248) and senior Dallas Walker (6'-6", 235).

The Broncos have nearly twice as much passing yardage as rushing yardage, but their running game is solid. Four backs may see time. Sophomore Tevin Drake (5'-11", 212) starts and is supported by soph Brian Fields (5'-9", 203), soph scatback Dareyon Chance (5'-5", 160) and soph Antoin Scriven (6'-0", 207). Fields also catches balls out of the backfield.

WMU has a huge offensive line. The tackles are senior Anthony Parker (6'-5", 325) and junior Dann O'Neill (6'-8", 307). The guards are junior Kasimili Uitalia (6'-2", 300) and soph Deon Cammock (6'-6", 342), and soph Terry Davisson (6'-6", 296) mans the center spot.

Western Michigan's defense has held opponents to an average of 278.3 yards per game. Sophomore defensive end Freddie Bishop (6'-4", 253) has 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss. Senior T.J. Lynch (6'-4", 253) mans the opposite end. Tackles Travonte Boles, a 5'-11", 303 sophomore, and senior Drew Nowak (6'-4", 292) have 2.5 and 3 tackles for loss respectively.

Rover Johnnie Simon, a 6'-0", 180 pound sophomore, leads the team in tackles and has an interception. He is followed by senior MIKE linebacker Mitch Zajac (6'-1", 229). The Will linebacker is soph Dezmond Bozeman (6'-0", 227).

Seniors Doug Wiggins (5'-10", 209), the free safety, and field cornerback Aaron Winchester (5'-6", 183) lead the secondary. They are joined by soph boundary corner Lewis Toler (5'-10", 172) and soph strong safety Demetrius Pettway (5'-10", 188). Wiggins and Toler are fourth and fifth on the team in tackles.

WMU's special teams are special. Senior placekicker John Potter was named MAC Special Teams Player Of The Week last week after hitting 3 field goals and five extra points. Two of his field goals were from 43 yards out. He has hit 83 consecutive extra points and is second all-time in Bronco history in points by kickers and fourth overall.

Senior punter Ben Armor averages an impressive 43 yards per punt. White averages an amazing 23 yards per punt return, and junior receiver Dervon Wallace (5'-11", 186) returns kickoffs at a rate of 32.8 yards per effort, with a long of 54 yards.

Western Michigan may not sound impressive on paper, but it is well coached and determined. The Broncos have numerous speedy Floridians on their roster, and 11 Illinoisans are certain to be fired up. They are accustomed to playing against Big 10 teams, so they will not be intimidated in Memorial Stadium.

They could pull an upset if Illinois tries to live off its press clippings.


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