Western High-Powered Offense To Test Herd

The Mid-American Conference leader in passing plays a big game at home against a former opponent in two of the MAC Championship games. Sounds like Marshall, right? Only this time, Western Michigan is the passing offense leader in the league, they are the home team and although the Broncos and Herd met in 1999 and 2000 for the title, WMU is out of the hunt and can have the Herd join them on the sidelines in December if they beat MU.

Gary Darnell, the head coach of the Broncos and of whom Bob Pruett says, "He is my best friend in coaching," has lost three of four meetings with the Herd, including two heartbreaking comebacks by Marshall in those title games. Overall, he is 43-33 in seven seasons at WMU and the natives are getting restless for the type of football the Broncos played in 1997-2000 (31-15 and two West Division titles) instead of the losing seasons over the last two and one-half seasons (12-18, including 3-4 in 2003).

The high-powered offense may be missing a key cog this weekend. Senior QB Chad Munson (6-3, 210) hurt his throwing hand or the thumb on his throwing hand-no one will say for sure-last week against Northern Illinois (a 37-10 loss to the #12 Huskies). Through seven games, Munson is the number two passing QB in the MAC (150-for-263, 57 percent completions; 18 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 2,121 yards and an average of 303 yards per game). If Munson cannot go, the Broncos will call on senior Jon Drach (6-4, 220), who started the first four games of 2002. Last season, he hit 80-of-151 for 892 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.

At running back for the Broncos, senior Phil Reed (5-10, 210), is eighth in the MAC in rushing, just behind MU Earl Charles. Reed has rushed 121 times for 492 yards, 4.1 yards per carry, and seven touchdowns. "There is no question (about) Phil Reed…we know what he can do," said Darnell. Reed has 23 career touchdowns. Behind Reed is senior Trovon Riley (5-11, 212), who had 109 yards and two scored in Western's first win in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, against Central Michigan since 1973.

In the WMU passing attack, three wide outs and a tight end start although you may see four and five receiver sets during the game. The leader in receptions is senior Kendrick Mosley (6-3, 205), who has 41 catches for 542 yards and three scores. He has a 37-game catch streak. Sophomore Greg Jennings (6-1, 190) is not listed as a starter but has 33 catches for 562 yards and nine touchdowns, two short of the WMU season record of 11(held by Steve Neal, whose MAC career records MU's Darius Watts has broken this season for catches and yards). Jennings is second in the MAC in scoring with 7.7 points per game.

Other receivers include junior Tyrone Walker (6-3, 190) and seniors Antonio Thomas (6-4, 225), Chris Chestnut (6-0, 191) and Brandon Johnson (6-3, 2010. Tight end is another senior, Anthony Kiner (6-5, 280), replacing 2002 All-MAC tight end Mobolaji Afariogun.

Only one starter came back for Western, junior left guard Kyle Ras (6-6, 290). The Broncos lacked quality, so the coaches went to the long snapper in 2002, senior Charles Missant (6-3, 285), a tight end at left tackle, Walter Stith (6-8, 285) and to the defensive line for a right tackle, senior Chad Wangerin (6-4, 298) The right guard is sophomore Mark Ottney (6-6, 287), who played in every game as a backup last year and started the Central Michigan game with a grade of 87 of 100 for his first start. "They are as athletically talented as any since I've been here," said Darnell in August, "(but) there is a degree of experience that you need to have." Seven games has seen no changes on this starting unit.

"Offensively, we have to re-establish a personality (on offense)," said Darnell in the pre-season. Obviously, they have done that with Munson at the helm. Now, we'll see Saturday if the person who put the personality into the Broncos will be on the field against the Herd at 2:30 p.m. for the MAC Game of the Week on Fox Regional (and WSAZ TV-3 in the Charleston-Huntington area).

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