Broncos and Falcons in Key MAC Match-up

The Broncos (3-1, 2-0 MAC) host the Bowling Green Falcons (4-1, 1-0 MAC) on Saturday at Waldo Stadium at 2pm. Not only is the game the Broncos homecoming game it is also a key game for both teams in the Mid-American Conference. Not only do both teams come in undefeated in Conference play, the winner will be in contention with upstart Northern Illinois and always tough Toledo.

Series History

This will mark the 47th meeting between these two schools. The Falcons own the series record with a 29-14-3 record over the Broncos. In the last game the Falcons came from behind to win a thrilling double overtime game 48-45 last season at Bowling Green. The Broncos last victory in this series came during the 2001 season when an injured Jeff Welsh led the Broncos to victory in another thrilling game. The Broncos pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 37-28.

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 43-31 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 46-35 record.

Head Coach Gregg Brandon is in his 1st year as the head coach for the Falcons. Brandon has led the Falcons to a 4-1 record with an impressive win over Purdue and almost pulled of the upset against the defending National Champions the Ohio State Buckeyes before losing by just a touchdown. As a head coach, Coach Brandon has a 4-1 record.


WMU vs. BGSU

WMU (Defense) vs. BGSU (Offense)

Bowling Green is led offensively by the talented Josh Harris. Harris was named CNNSI.com National Player of the Week and the MAC West Offensive Player of the Week following the Falcons win over Purdue. Purdue is currently ranked #20 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and #18 in the AP Poll. In 5 games Harris has completed 106 of 165 passes for 1,374 yards 8 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Harris has also rushed 58 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns.

Bowling Green runs mainly a one back spread type offense. Sophomore tailback P.J. Pope lines up in the backfield behind Harris. Pope provides a strong running option for Harris and the Falcons to compliment the passing game. Pope leads the Falcons in rushing with 396 yards on 74 attempts and 6 touchdowns. Pope has also caught 14 passes for 120 yards.

The Falcons have plenty of targets for Harris to hit downfield. Using three wide receivers and a tight end. Fourteen different receivers have caught passes for the Falcons this season and they are led by junior Cole Magner. Magner who joined the Falcons out of Colony High School in Palmer, Alaska has caught 35 passes for 491 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Charles Sharon is second on the team with 17 receptions for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns. Although he is not listed as a starter but is listed at the #1 position in the E-Slot, junior James Hawkins is third on the team with 16 catches for 308 yards and 1 touchdown. Senior Craig Jarrett starts at tight end for the Falcons but is used primarily as a blocking tight end having caught only 1 pass for 8 yards this season.

Harris is protected by an experienced front five. On the offensive line three of the five are seniors. Lining up in front of Harris is redshirt junior center Scott Mruczkowski (6'4", 315). Mruczkowski provides invaluable leadership on this line and is getting recognized nationally and is in the running for the Lombardi Award. At left guard is sophomore Rob Warren (6'6", 290). Jimmy Williams (6'5", 286) lines up at the left tackle position. Senior guard Vardan Mkhitarian (6'3", 292) and fifth year senior tackle Robert Haley (6'4", 300) line up on the right side of the ball to complete the starting offensive line.

Defensively the Broncos needed the first three games of the season before they started to regain their form of a year ago. The number one defense in the MAC last season was ranked sixth in the conference following their 59-16 loss to the Virginia Cavaliers, but after their first two MAC games of the season, including last weeks game against Eastern Michigan in which they allowed just 134 total yards the Broncos are ranked second in the MAC in total defense.

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, once again leads the team in tackles with 49 (33 solo, 16 assisted). Babin leads the team and the MAC in sacks with 6.5 sacks. His 12 tackles for 53 yards lost places him second in the MAC in that category. Right end junior Jack Gitler (6'2", 260) continues to provide added pressure to opponents to not put as much focus on Babin. With his 37 tackles (25 solo, 12 assisted), 3 sacks and 8 tackles for a loss of 39 yards he has forced opponents to respect the Broncos defensive line instead of just double teaming Babin. Gitler has also recorded an interception and a fumble recovery. The other two starters on the defensive line is senior Jonathan Jones (6'3", 290) at left tackle and sophomore Paul Moersch (6'4", 275) at nose guard. Both Jones and Moersch continue to shine as starters this season. Jones has recorded 20 tackles (8 solo, 12 assisted), 0.5 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss of 6 yards and one forced fumble. Moersch has 11 tackles (6 solo, 5 assisted) on the season. He also has 1 sack, 2 tackles for a loss of 3 yards and a forced fumble.

The Broncos started the season with a young and inexperienced group of linebackers and have became stronger every game. Redshirt freshman Paul Tithof (6'1", 202) continues to be a strong leader on the field. Tithof has recorded 37 tackles (16 solo, 21 assisted), 0.5 sacks, 8 tackles for a loss of 17 yards and one forced fumble. Continuing to shine for the Broncos and emerging as a fan favorite is junior Mike Giorgianni (6'1", 230). Giorgianni has recorded 24 tackles (13 solo, 11 assisted) this season. He has also recorded 4 tackles for a loss of 5 yards and recovered one fumble.

The Broncos secondary has also made tremendous strides this season. The Broncos started the season with starting new cornerbacks redshirt freshman Jimmie Vincent (5'10", 172) started on the left side before senior Eugene Childs (6'2", 197) was given the starting position and junior Willie Pope (6'2", 185) on the right side. Pope has recorded 27 tackles (20 solo, 7 assisted), 1 tackle for a 3 yard loss, he has forced a fumble and has intercepted one pass. Vincent has recorded 14 tackles (6 solo, 8 assisted). Childs has 7 tackles (5 solo, 2 assisted).

Despite losing senior Jason Feldpausch the last couple weeks due to a knee injury, the safeties for the Broncos have held their own this season. Before his injury Feldpausch, the 2002 team MVP, (5'10", 210) recorded 31 (21 solo, 10 assisted). He has also recorded 2 tackles for a loss of 12 yards, one forced fumble and one blocked punt. Filling in for Feldpausch at weak safety is junior Mark Hardy (6'2", 192). 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. Ford, who ranks third on the team, has recorded 38 tackles (20 solo, 18 assisted), 1 tackle for a loss of 3 yards, 0.5 sacks and three interceptions. As the second leading tackler on the team Robinson has recorded 39 tackles (27 solo, 12 assisted), 1.5 sacks, 8 tackles for a loss of 34 yards and 2 interceptions. In just two starts Hardy has 18 tackles (9 solo, 9 assisted) and one recovered fumble.


WMU (Offense) vs. BGSU (Defense)

Bowling Green isn't the only one of the two teams that sports a strong passing game. The Broncos currently are ranked fourth in the country with an average of 347.2 passing yards per game. The Broncos offense had trouble holding on to the football early on in the season which culminated with 6 turnovers in the game against Virginia have only turned the ball over 5 times in the last two games. Against Eastern Michigan the Broncos only turned the ball over once.

Led by senior quarterback Chad Munson (6'3", 210) the Broncos have thrown for 1,736 yards so far this season. Munson has completed 116 out of 196 passes for 1,577 yards, 14 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Munson ranks 9th in the nation in passing yards and sixth in the nation in touchdown passes.

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 (5'10", 210). Reed has one 100 yard game so far this season and has put up some strong efforts in the other games he has played in. He has rushed 99 times for 407 yards and 7 touchdowns he has also caught 19 passes for 186 yards. Reed has scored a touchdown in eight straight games.

Munson continues to use his second option which is also the most used in the Broncos offensive scheme, throwing the ball. The Broncos have 10 different receivers who have caught at least one pass this season but only 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) with redshirt sophomore Greg Jennings (6'1", 190) backing him up, senior Antonio Thomas (6'4", 225) and senior Kendrick Mosley (6'3", 205) and tight end senior Anthony Kiner (6'5", 280). Despite not starting Jennings continues to be the Broncos go to receiver. Jennings is the leading receiver in yards per game in the conference while having 4 games in which he has over 100 receiving yards. His 514 yards has him ranked in the top 25 of all receivers in the nation. Jennings has caught 26 passes for 514 yards and 8 touchdowns. Mosley is second behind Jennings with 28 receptions for 341 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mosley has also caught a pass in 35 consecutive games which is the seventh longest in the country. Walker has caught just 8 passes for 101 yards and 1 touchdown. Kiner has caught 6 passes for 53 yards but is still being challenged by freshman Tyson DeVree (6'6", 215). DeVree has now caught 10 passes for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns.

The Broncos offensive has come a long way this season. They started the season as a young and inexperienced line, but despite still being young they have gone through the fire early on and have come together to allow just 3 sacks in the last two weeks. Redshirt junior Kyle Ras (6'6", 290) starts at the left guard position and is the only starter who began the year with any lengthy playing experience. The right guard position is manned by one of the most dedicated and hardest working individuals the Broncos have, 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). The key to the Broncos success comes down to the five men up front. As long as they can hit their blocks while opening up the holes for Reed or giving Munson time in the pocket the Broncos will be in good position to be able to win any game.

As good as the Broncos are on defense, Bowling Green's defense is just as good. In fact in the conference the Falcons' defense is the number one defense in the MAC, just ahead of the number two Broncos defense. The Falcons have only allowed 13.8 points per game. The Falcons have suffered some injuries to key players but look to be getting everybody back to help them with their push through the MAC portion of their schedule.

Leading the Falcons in their 4-3 defensive formation is a relatively young group of down linemen. On the ends are redshirt sophomore Mitchell Crossley (6'3", 250) and freshman Devon Parks (6'3", 233) on the other side. At nose guard is redshirt sophomore Mike Thaler (6'1", 280) and sophomore Matt Leininger (6'3", 281) starts at the tackle position. Crossley has recorded 15 tackles (5 solo, 10 assisted), 2 sacks and 2 tackles for a loss of 5 yards. Parks has also recorded 19 tackles (6 solo, 13 assisted), 3.5 tackles for a loss of 10 yards and 2. On the season Thaler has 19 tackles (5 solo, 14 assisted), 2 tackles for a loss of 9 yards and one sack. Leininger has been tough to block for opposing offenses. Leininger has blocked a kick to go along with his 18 tackles (5 solo, 13 assisted), one tackle for a loss of two yards.

The Falcons bring into Kalamazoo on Saturday an experienced group of linebackers with all three starters among the team leaders in tackles. Sophomore middle linebacker Ted Piepkow (6'0", 220) is fifth on the team in tackles with 31 tackles (17 solo, 14 assisted), 2 tackles for a loss of 15 yards and 3 sacks. Fifth year senior Mitch Hewitt (6'1", 213) starts at the Will linebacker position and not only does he provide strong on field leadership but he also is second on the team in tackles. Hewitt has recorded 44 tackles (23 solo, 21 assisted), 2.5 tackles for a loss of 4 yards and 2 fumbles recovered. The Sam position is anchored by junior Daniel Sayles (5'11", 213). All Sayles has done this season is record 33 tackles (20 solo, 13 assisted), 8.5 tackles for a loss of 32 yards, 3 sacks, 1 fumble recovered and 1 blocked kick.

The Falcons feature an experienced secondary this season. At the corners are senior Janssen Patton (6'0", 180) and junior Keon Newson (6'0", 184). Junior T.J. Carswell (6'1", 205) fills in at strong safety and senior Jason Morton (6'0", 200) starts at the free safety position. Newson leads the team in tackles with 48 tackles (29 solo, 19 assisted), five tackles for a loss of 15 yards, one blocked kick and one recovered fumble. Morton is third on the team with 40 tackles (17 solo, 23 assisted) and 0.5 tackles for a loss of one yard. Carswell has added 28 tackles (8 solo, 20 assisted) and one fumble recovered. Patton has started all but one game and has recorded 18 tackles (10 solo, 8 assisted), one fumble recovered and one interception returned 38 yards.


Special Teams

When it comes down to the special teams the Broncos seem to have the edge in the punting game and the Falcons have the advantage in the place kicking/field goal game. Redshirt Sophomore Nate Fry (5'10", 205) has punted 19 times this season averaging 39.7 yards per punt. Miller has a season long punt of 61 yards.

The Broncos counter with redshirt junior Adam Anderson (6'0", 193). Anderson has developed consistency and his it's showing in the distance and hang time of his punts. Anderson has punted 31 times so far this season and has an average of 41.2 yards per punt so far this season. Anderson recorded a career long earlier this season vs. Virginia when he launched a punt 72 yards.

Handling the kicking duties for the Falcons is a redshirt junior in Shaun Suisham (6'0", 200). Suisham has made six of ten field goal attempts this season, including a season long 47 yard field goal. He has also connected on 24 out of 25 PAT attempts.

The Broncos have used three separate kickers this season, but are led by redshirt junior Robert Menchinger (5'10", 165). Menchinger is 3-6 on field goal tries with a season long 33 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 20 for 20 in PAT tries.

Patton and Magner handle the kickoff returns for the Falcons while Sharon handles the punt returns. Patton has returned 1 kick for 26 yards, Magner has returned 5 kicks for 82 yards and Sharon has returned 13 punts for 123 yards.

The Broncos are strong in the returning game with Mosley returning punts and having Jennings joining Walker in returning kickoffs. Mosley has recorded 17 punt returns for 122 yards, Walker has returned 14 kicks for 284 yards and Jennings has 2 kicks returned for 66 yards.


Overall

Saturday's contest pits the high flying Falcons against the resurging Broncos. The Broncos have been coming in under the radar this season with a 5 point loss to the Spartans, a crushing defeat at the hands of Virginia and winning two tough MAC games on the road. The Falcons have been business as usual posting their biggest win of the season against Purdue and their only loss a 7 point defeat at the hands of the Buckeyes of Ohio State. The outcome this game will have an effect on the race for the west division championship. The question is who wants it the most.

Prediction

Western Michigan 35 Bowling Green 34

Broncos Illustrated Top Stories