Bobcats and Broncos Renew Rivalry

With the start of the Mid-American Conference season just a week away, the Broncos are trying to put a 59-16 loss to Virginia behind them and focus on stopping the triple option attack the Ohio Bobcats run. The Bobcats (1-2, 0-0 MAC) host the Broncos (1-2, 0-0 MAC) on Saturday at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio.

Series History

This will mark the 55th meeting between two of the MAC's charter members and the oldest MAC rivalry. Both Ohio and WMU entered the MAC in 1946 but the Broncos did not compete for the MAC Championship until the 1947 season. Western Michigan University hold a 27-26-1 series record against the Bobcats winning the last meeting 23-10 at Waldo Stadium in the 2000 season. Ohio's last victory over the Broncos came in 1998 with a 37-35 victory at Waldo Stadium. Ohio won the first ever meeting in a non-conference game in 1939, 13-6. In the first meeting as members of the Mid-American Conference Ohio won 25-7 in 1946.


Coaching

Head Coach Gary Darnell is in his 7th year as the head coach for the Broncos. During is time at WMU Coach Darnell has amassed a 41-31 record and is currently ranked fourth on the all-time coaches list at WMU. In eight seasons as a head coach, Coach Darnell has a 44-35 record.

Head Coach Brian Knorr is in his 3rd season as the Bobcats head coach. He holds a 6-20 record as a head coach, all of which has been with Ohio University.


WMU vs. OU

WMU (Defense) vs. OU (Offense)

When Ohio has the ball, they will be led by quarterback Freddie Ray. Ray has completed just 29 of 47 passes for 279 yards, 1 interception and two sacks. However, with running the triple option he has rushed the ball 43 times for 227 yards and 5 touchdowns. Backing up Ray is former Miami RedHawk quarterback Ryan Hawk. Hawk has completed 7 out of 15 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns.

Lining up in the multiple I formation behind Ray will be senior Stafford Owens at set back, junior Ray Huston at half back and sophomore Brad Young at full back. Owens is currently second on the team in rushing, behind Ray. Owens has rushed 18 times for 108 yards and 1 touchdown. Huston has gained 68 yards on 20 carries, while Young has gained just 59 yards on 18 carries.

Using just two receivers and one tight end, the Bobcats line up with redshirt freshman Scott Mayle and sophomore Anthony Hackett as wide outs and junior Ryan Antle at the tight end position. Mayle leads the Bobcats with 168 yards on 8 catches and has recorded the Bobcats only two receiving touchdowns on the season. Hackett has caught 9 passes for 156 yards and Antle has recorded 34 yards on 5 catches.

Battling up front and opening up the holes for the Bobcats is what appears to be a relatively young, but experienced offensive line. The Bobcats however are currently without their two year letter winner at right guard, senior Brian Brown. Brown has been sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury. Filling in for Brown is redshirt freshman Matt Coppage (6'4", 290). Starting at left guard is Henry Valencia (6'2", 330) a junior college transfer from L.A. Harbor College in San Pedro, California. At left tackle and the leader of this group is junior Dennis Thompson (6'4", 307). Thompson is the only other two year letter winner for the Bobcats. Thompson's counterpart on the right side is sophomore Shane Yates (6'2", 285). Lining up over the ball is sophomore Mike Nelson (6-2, 286). Nelson is a one year letter winner.

The Broncos defense is going to face another strong test against a predominant running team. Through the first three games of the season, the Broncos have allowed 472 yards rushing for an average of 157.3 yards per game and have surrendered 2 rushing touchdowns. The Broncos have also given up 701 passing yards for an average of 233.7 per game and have allowed teams to score 10 passing touchdowns.

Leading the Broncos defensive attack up front is senior Jason Babin (6'4", 276) at left end. Babin, an All-American candidate and a candidate for numerous post season awards, is second on the team in tackles with 27 (20 solo, 7 assisted). Babin has recorded just two sacks this season compared to the 15 sacks he recorded in 2002. He has however recorded 7 tackles for a loss of 27 yards. With opponents double teaming Babin, right end junior Jack Gitler (6'2", 260) has stepped up this season to help keep opponents offenses honest. Gitler has recorded 20 tackles (13 solo, 7 assisted), 2 sacks and 5 tackles for a loss of 26 yards. Two new starters this season on the defensive line is senior Jonathan Jones (6'3", 290) at left tackle and sophomore Paul Moersch (6'4", 275) at nose guard. Jones has recorded just 7 tackles while Moersch has recorded 6 tackles including 1 sack for a loss of 2 yards.

The linebackers have been an area of concern all season for the Broncos. Returning with a young group that has also been hobbled with injuries to players like redshirt junior Willie Miller and redshirt sophomore Josh Behrens the linebackers have been a work in progress. Redshirt freshman Paul Tithof (6'1", 202) has become a strong leader on the field and is third on the team in tackles. Tithof has recorded 25 tackles (8 solo, 17 assisted) and 2 tackles for a loss of 4 yards. During the off season the Broncos went to the junior college ranks to try to shore up the depleting linebacker corps. They had to go out to West Valley College in San Jose, California to find junior Mike Giorgianni (6'1", 230). Giorgianni has recorded 16 tackles (8 solo, 8 assisted) this season. He has also recorded 3 tackles for a loss of four yards.

The Broncos secondary has also taken its share of losses and is a relatively young group of student athletes. At the cornerback positions the Broncos are starting two new players this season with redshirt freshman Jimmie Vincent (5'10", 172) on the left side and junior Willie Pope (6'2", 185) on the right side. Pope has recorded 18 tackles (11 solo, 7 assisted), he has forced a fumble and has intercepted one pass. Vincent has recorded 10 tackles (3 solo, 7 assisted).

The Broncos safeties however have continually been a strength for the Broncos defensively and this year season is no different. Led by senior Jason Feldpausch (5'10", 210) at weak safety the Broncos also start redshirt sophomore Kevin Ford (5'11", 200) at free safety and redshirt junior Scott Robinson (6'0", 179) at strong safety. Feldpausch, the 2002 team MVP, leads the team in tackles 31 (20 solo, 11 assisted). He has also recorded 4 tackles for a loss of 18 yards, one forced fumble and one blocked punt. Ford has recorded 24 tackles (14 solo, 10 assisted), 1 tackle for a loss of 3 yards and one interception. Robinson has recorded 20 tackles (14 solo, 6 assisted) and six tackles for a loss of 19 yards.

The main question that needs to be addressed for the Broncos defensively is can they make the initial tackle and not give up the long pass play or the game breaking run? With a week off in between games, the Broncos have been able to address that question and it should be answered on Saturday.


WMU (Offense) vs. OU (Defense)

So far this season the greatest strength for the Broncos has been its offense. Despite playing with a young offensive line that has so far allowed 12 sacks, the Broncos have been among the national leaders in terms of passing offense. However, the Broncos haven't had a single running back rush for over 100 yards in a game yet.

Led by senior quarterback Chad Munson (6'3", 210) the Broncos have amassed 1,139 yards in the air in their first three games. Munson has completed 75 out of 125 passes for 980 yards, 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Despite the Broncos being idle this week Munson still ranks 20th in the nation passing yards. The Broncos also are ranked 3rd in the nation, as a team in passing yards with their 379.7 yards per game. Backing up Munson is fifth year senior Jon Drach (6'4", 220). Drach has stepped up over the off season and over the last couple of seasons to improve his play and has become one of the team leaders despite spending most of his time on the sideline. Drach has completed 6 of 9 passes for 80 yards and has thrown 1 interception.

With Munson directing the offense out of the spread offense he has numerous weapons to choose from. His first choice could be handing to ball off to the iron workhorse of the team, senior running back Phil Reed. Reed has yet to gain 100 yards in a game but has put up some strong efforts so far this season. He has rushed 46 times for 212 yards and 3 touchdowns he has also caught 10 passes for 124 yards.

Munson's second and most used option is to air the ball out. The Broncos have 10 different receivers who have caught at least one pass this season and five who have caught at least one pass for a touchdown. Starting for the Broncos are wide receivers redshirt junior Tyrone Walker (6'3", 190), redshirt sophomore Greg Jennings (6'1", 190) and senior Kendrick Mosley (6'3", 205) and tight end senior Anthony Kiner (6'5", 280). Jennings has become the Broncos go to receiver in just his second season catching 18 passes for 294 yards and 5 touchdowns. Mosley is second behind Jennings with 16 receptions for 154 yards and 1 touchdown. Walker has caught just 7 passes for 86 yards and 1 touchdown. Kiner who has struggled a little bit this season with 3 catches for 20 yards is being challenged by freshman Tyson DeVree (6'6", 215). DeVree has caught 8 passes for 106 yards and 1 touchdown.

The Broncos offensive success depends a lot upon the success of the young offensive line. The line consists of one returning starter redshirt junior Kyle Ras (6'6", 290) at the left guard position. The right guard position is manned by one of the most dedicated and hardest working individuals the Broncos have seen in quite some time redshirt sophomore Mark Ottney (6'6", 287) has become a mainstay and an anchor on this young offensive line. The tackle positions have redshirt sophomore Walter Stith (6'8", 285) on the left side and senior Chad Wangerin (6'4", 298) on the right side. Lining up over the ball and one of the leaders of this group of men is senior center Charles Missant (6'3", 285). As long as these big men can give Munson enough time and open up the holes for Reed, the Broncos should have no problem with control of the time of possession.

Defensively, the Bobcats have given up 322 rushing yards and 489 passing yards. They have given up 6 touchdowns this season 4 through the air and 2 on the ground but have been outscored 51-37.

Leading the Bobcats attack in their 3-4 defensive formation is an experienced line with three returning starters. On the ends are senior Eli Kiener (6'0", 267) and senior Keith Adamson (6'3", 262) and at nose guard is senior Andre Parker (6'0", 286). Kiener has recorded 6 tackles (3 solo, 3 assisted) and 2 sacks for a loss of 11 yards. Parker has also recorded 6 tackles (4 solo, 2 assisted) and 1 tackle for a loss of 2 yards. Adamson has 4 tackles on the season all of which are solo.

The Bobcats have taken a hit this season with injuries to two of the key linebackers. The Bobcats lost inside linebacker sophomore Spencer Tatum to a season ending hip injury. Senior outside linebacker Charles Terry was lost indefinitely to a shoulder injury. Replacing Tatum is junior Pete Brately (6'0", 230) and replacing Terry is freshman Tyler Russ (6'1", 195). Russ started the season at the outside linebacker position. Junior Dennis Chukwuemeka (5'11", 239) returns as the other inside linebacker and senior Hugh Grant (6'3", 214) returns as a three year letter winner at the other outside linebacker position. Chukwuemeka leads the team in tackles with 17 (13 solo, 4 assisted) and he has recorded 3 tackles for a loss of 5 yards. Brately is second with 16 tackles (10 solo, 6 assisted) and he has forced two fumbles. Grant has pitched in with 12 tackles (4 solo, 8 assisted) and one fumble recovery. Russ has also added 11 tackles (5 solo, 6 assisted), 2 tackles for a loss of 6 yards, one interception, and one fumble recovered and one blocked kick.

The Bobcats also bring to the game an experienced secondary. All four starters are letter winners despite only returning only two starters at the beginning of the season. At the corners is junior Chip Cox (5'9", 185) on the left side and sophomore Dion Byrum (5'11", 177) on the right side. Junior Rashad Butler (6'0", 199) fills in at the free safety slot and junior Rob Stover (6'0", 201) handles the strong safety duties. Cox has recorded 6 tackles (5 solo, 1 assisted) and one forced fumble. Byrum has 8 tackles of his own (5 solo, 3 assisted) and one interception. Butler has contributed with 7 tackles (3 solo, 4 assisted) and Stover is third on the team with 14 tackles (13 solo, 1 assisted) and five tackles for a loss of nine yards.

With the height and speed of the Broncos receivers, if Munson can get the ball downfield it should put the Broncos in a good position to win the game. However, if the Bobcats are able to run through the Broncos defense breaking the first, second and even third tackles, this game could turn into a high scoring affair between to powerful offenses.


Special Teams

Perhaps one of the least talked about but one of the most important aspects of the game is the play of the special teams. The Bobcats have traditionally been strong in the punting game and this year is no different for them. Sophomore Matthew Miller (6'1", 191) has punted 12 times this season averaging 43.3 yards per punt. Miller has a season long punt of 63 yards.

The Broncos counter Ohio with a high caliber punter of their own. Redshirt junior Adam Anderson (6'0", 193) has worked hard the last two years to develop consistency and his work has finally started to pay off. Anderson has punted 20 times so far this season and has raised his average from 35.5 yards per punt in 2002 to 42.6 yards per punt so far this season. Anderson recorded a career long last week vs. Virginia when he launched a punt 72 yards.

Handling the kicking duties for the Bobcats is sophomore Greg DiMarino (6'4", 220). DiMarino has connected on one of two field goal attempts this season, a 23 yard field goal. He has also connected on 4 out of 6 PAT attempts.

The Broncos have used three separate kickers this season, but are led by redshirt junior Robert Menchinger (5'10", 165). Menchinger is 1-2 on field goal tries with the only one he successfully made being a 20 yard field goal. Menchinger has not missed a PAT try since connecting on 31 out of 33 attempts in the 2001 season, this season he is 12 for 12 in PAT tries.

Redshirt freshman Chris Jackson (6'1", 188) handles the kickoff returns for the Bobcats while teammate Stafford Owens handles the punt returns. Jackson has returned 3 kicks for 54 yards while Owens has returned 4 punts for 45 yards.

The Broncos have the edge in the returning game with Kendrick Mosley returning punts and Tyrone Walker returning kickoffs. Mosley has recorded 10 punt returns for 65 yards and Mosley has chipped in 223 yards on 10 kickoff returns.


Overall

The Broncos should be focused to open up the MAC portion of their season on the road, but with the tackling concerns heading into the game it's a reason to show concern and it provides the team with something extra to work on this weekend in practice. The Bobcats major strength is their running game, if the Broncos can go into Peden Stadium and disrupt the Bobcats running game the Broncos should be able to take control of the game early. However, Ohio has played teams tough and has come up on the short end of the stick more times than not because of costly turnovers and injuries to key positions.


Prediction

Western Michigan 35 Ohio 21

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