WMU Drops Final Home Game

On Saturday, the Broncos fell to the Toledo Rockets 42-41 in front of the 9,844 people who braved the 32-degree weather and the 10mph winds. The Broncos fell in a hole early on and was not able to dig themselves out of it despite a furious 3rd quarter comeback.

The Broncos started the game by receiving the opening kickoff but on the first play of the game Antonio Thomas fumbled the ball after catching a pass from Chad Munson. The Rockets David Gardner recovered the fumble and returned it to the Broncos 20-yardline. However the Rockets were unable to move the ball and settle for 3-points off a Jason Robbins field goal.

The Broncos were able to able to move the ball on their next drive, but like so many other times this season their drive stalled in the redzone and had to settle on the 27-yard field goal attempt by Robert Menchinger. Unfortunately for the Broncos Menchinger's field goal sailed wide left.

On the Rockets next drive they had to settle for a punt that was downed at the Broncos 20-yard line. Three plays later the Rockets had the ball back on the WMU 40-yardline after Brandon Hefflin intercepted a Munson pass.

It took just four plays for Toledo to turn the interception into points when Carl Ford hauled in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Brian Jones. The Rockets were pushed back on the PAT try after receiving an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for excessive celebration, but Robbins wasn't fazed as he connected to make the score 10-0.

After a Broncos punt by Matt Steffen put the Rockets at their own 14-yarline. The Rockets drove down the field in 9 plays, aided by a 52-yard run by Brian Jones, the 2nd longest of his career, to score their 2nd touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Jones to Andrew Clark.

Both teams then exchanged 3 and outs before Toledo was able to get a WMU punt and return it for a touchdown. Fielding a Matt Steffen 35-yard punt at the Rockets 27-yard line, Donta Greene was able to find a seam and returned it 73-yards for the touchdown and a 24-0 lead. "He came up with a big punt return," said Toledo's Head Coach Tom Amstutz of Greene.

Again both teams exchanged punts before Robbins added a late 30-yard field goal to give the Rockets a 27-0 halftime lead. "It's human nature to let go and you don't do that to a team that has a winning tradition like Western Michigan that will fight back," said Coach Amstutz. "We talked about it at halftime. Sometimes the more you talk about it, the more it happens."

"Coach (Darnell) told us anything could happen (at halftime) just go out there and believe," Jason Babin said. "That's what we did. Spirits were high and for awhile there the crowd was into it, everybody was into it."

For half of the fans that left at halftime, they missed the best quarter the Broncos had played all season. The Broncos came out in the 3rd quarter and shut down the Rockets. After going three and out, a Jason Cox punt and a kick catching interference call gave the Broncos the ball at their own 48-yardline.

Munson orchestrated an 8-play drive before connecting with Mobolaji Afariogun for a 19-yard touchdown off a screen pass. "I was able to get our drive going," said Afariogun. Get the momentum started and we tried to drive off that." At that point the Broncos were still trailing the Rockets 27-7.

Toledo than was stopped by the Broncos defense on their next drive before Babin broke through and blocked a Cox punt, his 2nd blocked punt of the season. "I was just trying to knock the ball back behind him." Babin said after the game. "We just had a designed block because their center likes to block to the shaded. It was almost zero technique; you're almost a zero shade they'll block to you and then the guy blocks out. So I was just wide open for it. We never ran it before so they never saw it on film. So it worked just like we drew it on paper."

It took the Broncos just 7 plays to pull within two touchdowns after Phil Reed capped off the 40-yard scoring drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. The Broncos dodged a bullet on the drive when Patrick Body intercepted a Munson pass at the UT 2-yardline, but because of a roughing the passer penalty; the Broncos got the ball at the Rockets 8-yardline.

The Rockets were able to get to the Broncos 48-yardline before having to punt the ball away again, but after their 2nd kick catching interference call, this time on a fair catch, the Broncos started with good field position at their own 34-yardline. But the Broncos couldn't do anything and went three and out.

After Greene returned a 35-yard Steffen punt 25-yards to the Broncos 42-yardline, the Broncos defense then took over. Quinton Broussard ran into a brick wall when he hit the Broncos defensive line. The Broncos defense stood him up and Jason Feldpausch stripped the ball from him and ran 59 yards for the touchdown and to pull the Broncos to within 6 of the Rockets. "We needed a big play and I was just trying to strip the ball," said Feldpausch. "I ended up stripping right to myself and I turned around and ran. I remember Jo Jo Mesa was right there and just "RUN"." The fumble was his MAC leading 5th forced fumble of the season.

After that the Rockets did all the scoring. Scoring on a 13-yard run by Trinity Dawson and a 36-yard run on 4th and 3 by Jones. Coach Amstutz said in regards to Jones' 36-yard touchdown run, "It was a scramble. He tried to pump it out there and he scrambled."

The loss to the Rockets marks the 12th time in the last 14 meetings the Broncos have lost to Toledo. Next up for Western Michigan is long time rival Central Michigan on Saturday, November 23. At stake is a 29-year winless streak in Mt. Pleasant for the Broncos. "Central's always a big game, especially since we haven't won up there since 1973," said Feldpausch. Afariogun added, "It's going to be pretty. This is my last game as a Bronco, so it's going to be pretty high intense." Babin concurred with his teammates, "I remember two years ago. We were up there, we were like ranked 26th in the country and we had come with an attitude like oh we are going to beat them. We ran a good solid week of practice and went up there and they had fire in their eyes."

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