MAC Season Begins Saturday

Western Michigan opens Mid-American Conference action this Saturday (Sept. 27), traveling to Ohio for a 4:00 p.m. kickoff at Peden Stadium. The contest is the first of two MAC divisional crossover games for WMU (the other being Oct. 25 vs. Marshall). The Broncos and Bobcats are both coming off bye weeks. WMU lost to Virginia, 59-16, two weeks ago while Ohio dropped a 42-20 decision to Minnesota.

RADIO: Bronco Radio Network (WFAT-96.5 FM)
Ohio Sports Network (WXTQ-105.5 FM)
WEBCASTS: wmubroncos.com *ohiobobcats.com

SERIES HISTORY
WMU and OU will clash for the 57th time in the closest series WMU has had against any opponent with more than 10 meetings. The Broncos hold a slim 28-27-1 edge all-time, but trail 14-12-1 in the 27 games held at Peden Stadium. Saturday's encounter will mark six years to the day (Sept. 27, 1997) the last time the teams met in Athens, with OU producing a 31-7 victory. The Bobcats have won three of the last four meetings; WMU has captured 11 of the last 14 dating to 1986. WMU's last win in Athens occurred on Oct. 14, 1995 (34-17).

LAST MEETING
Sept. 30, 2000 *WMU 23, OU 10
Western Michigan overcame five turnovers to post a 23-10 victory at Waldo Stadium. The Broncos used three Brad Selent field goals (including two over 40 yards) to create breathing room in a tightly contested game that was tied 3-3 at the half. After falling behind 10-6 midway through the third quarter, WMU rallied behind a 13-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Welsh to Josh Bush. Robert Sanford sealed the win with an eight-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. WMU's defense held the MAC's leading rushing attack (313 ypg) to 177 yards. LB Mario Evans recorded a team-best 14 tackles for the Brown & Gold. The game was carried on the Ohio Sports Network (OSN).

THE COACHES
OHIO ? Brian Knorr (Air Force, 1986)
OU Record: 6-20, three seasons
Career Record: same
Knorr was named the Bobcats' 27th head coach on Dec. 12, 2000. Last year, OU stayed in contention for the MAC East Division title until the last week of the season. Knorr previously served six years on the OU staff, including two seasons as defensive coordinator. Prior to arriving in Athens, Knorr coached two years on the Air Force staff.

W. MICHIGAN ? Gary Darnell (Oklahoma St., '70)
WMU Record: 41-31, seven seasons
Career Record: 44-35, eight seasons
Darnell has guided WMU to a pair of MAC West Division titles (1999, 2000) and back-to-back appearances in the MAC Championship Game. He was named 2000 MAC Coach of the Year and is a two-time finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of Distinction Award. Darnell ranks 14th all-time in MAC career winning percentage (.569).

STORYLINES
BABIN EARNS INVITE
Preseason All-American Jason Babin has accepted an invitation to play in the 79th Annual Shrine East-West Game, to be held Jan. 10, 2004 in Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco. "It's a great honor to represent the Broncos," says the 6-4, 276-pound end. "I'm really looking forward to playing against the best players in the country." Babin will be the sixth Bronco to play in the Shrine East-West Game, the first since Tom N*tten's appearance in 1995.

AERIAL ASSAULT
Heading into its fourth week of the season, Western Michigan owns the second-best passing attack in the NCAA. The Broncos have surpassed 300 yards passing in all three games behind the arm of Chad Munson, who stands eighth in NCAA total offense (316.0). The Broncos have traditionally excelled through the air, finishing ninth and 11th in NCAA passing during the 1998 and 1999 campaigns respectively.

STRONG STARTS
Western Michigan is 6-0 in Mid-American Conference openers under Gary Darnell having defeated Northern Illinois three times, in addition to Toledo, Eastern Michigan and Buffalo in past years.

BRONCO NOTEBOOK
WMU's "stampede" special teams unit leads the MAC in kickoff coverage, allowing just 16.6 yards per return * the Broncos were off last week, but still managed to earn two honors off the field. TE Anthony Kiner was named to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division I "Good Works" Team for community service. Senior Jason Feldpausch earned MAC Scholar-Athlete honors for his performance against Virginia and in the classroom. Feldpausch is one tackle shy of 200 for his career, trailing only WMU's active leader in Jason Babin (211) * WR Antonio Thomas needs 28 yards to reach the 1,000 plateau for his career * OT Chad Wangerin was credited with three knockdown blocks against Virginia following a weekly review of game tape * junior Adam Anderson is averaging 42.6 yards per punt, well above his two-year norm of 37.1 entering the season. Anderson's season average was aided by a career-long boot of 72 yards against the Cavaliers * true freshman TE Tyson DeVree led Bronco receivers with 77 yards on five receptions in the UVa contest * former Bronco great Joel Smeenge (1986-89), who played 10 seasons in the NFL, was recently chosen for induction into the WMU Athletic Hall of Fame. Smeenge will become the 36th football player to enter the Hall * the Brown & Gold will be looking for its first win in the Buckeye State since a 42-0 triumph over Kent State in 2000. Since then WMU has dropped games at Miami, Toledo and Bowling Green * WMU resumes its Interstate-131 rivalry with Eastern Michigan next Saturday. Kickoff is 2:00 p.m. from Rynearson Stadium.

QUOTING DARNELL
ON OHIO:
"Everytime we have played them, we've had to fight for our lives. They incorporate the triple option, which has been successful for them and with other teams around the country. They bring a tough-guy attitude to all aspects of their team, which makes them difficult to play against."

COPING WITH THE VIRGINIA LOSS:
"We are going to move forward. We head on the road for back-to-back games and I am confident the 60 players who make the travel roster will be ready to step up."

SCOUTING OHIO
The Bobcats are coming off back-to-back losses to schools (Iowa State, Minnesota) from Bowl Championship Series conferences. OU has started all three of its games strong, scoring 45 of its 57 points this year in the first half. The Bobcats rank second in MAC rushing (197.7) behind Fred Ray's 227 yards rushing ? he leads MAC quarterbacks in that category. Known for its option offense, OU has rushed the ball on 70 percent of the time from scrimmage. The Bobcats run a 3-4 defensive scheme and are above average defending the pass, yielding 211.7 yards per game to rank fifth among MAC schools. ILB Dennis Chukwuemeka (CHOOK-wuh-meh-ka) is averaging double figures in tackles (31) while senior Eli Kiener leads the team in sacks (2) from the nose guard position. Coach Brian Knorr's team has a tough stretch ahead after Saturday, facing Northern Illinois, UCF and Kentucky in the coming weeks. OU is also on the road for three of its next four games.

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