Broncos move to 4-0 for first time since 1994
KALAMAZOO — The Western Michigan football team kept its undefeated ways alive, defeating Georgia Southern, 49-31, in the Broncos’ final non-conference game, Saturday night at Waldo Stadium.
Western Michigan’s 4-0 start is its best since the program went 5-0 to open the season in 1994. The Broncos have a chance to match that record Saturday when they face rival Central Michigan (3-1) in Mount Pleasant. Kickoff for the annual Battle of the Cannon Trophy game is at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.
Tied 7-7 after one quarter, Western Michigan blew the game open with 28 points in the second quarter and led 35-17 at halftime. The two teams traded touchdowns over the each quarter of the second half for a 49-31 final.
Western Michigan’s defense was a major factor in the victory, as the Broncos forced three fumbles and recovered two and also came up with two interceptions. WMU did not turn the ball over in the game.
At the start of the second quarter, senior wide receiver Michael Henry hauled in a 37-yard pass for a touchdown from quarterback Zach Terrell to put WMU on top, 14-7. WMU held the lead the remainder of the game. Henry caught two touchdown receptions on the evening and Terrell threw for four.
Following a 34-yard field goal by Georgia Southern, junior Darius Phillips came up with his first of two absolutely electric, game-defining plays. Phillips received the ensuing kickoff a foot in the end zone and split through a seam at the 35-yard line, taking a 100-yard return to the house for the second time in his career. Phillips also had a 100-yard return last year against Michigan State. It was his third career kickoff return for a touchdown.
On Georgia Southern’s next drive, Bronco redshirt safety Justin Ferguson got between Georgia Southern quarterback Favian Upshaw and his pitch man on the option read, causing Upshaw to fumble away the ball which Eric Assoua recovered. Five plays later, Terrell hit Carrington Thompson for an eight-yard leaping touchdown catch to give WMU a 28-10 lead.
The Eagles scored with 3:11 to go before halftime, but Western Michigan answered as senior wide receiver Corey Davis caught the 37th touchdown pass of his career, a 35-yard post route between two defenders, increasing the Broncos’ lead to 35-17 at the half.
Phillips began the second half with another highlight reel play, as he intercepted a pass down the right sideline, spun back the other direction and raced 70 yards to the end zone for the second pick-six of his career.
The Broncos closed out the game with a 15-play, 87-yard drive late in the fourth quarter. Terrell connected with Henry for the second time in the game, this time a seven-yard touchdown.
“All I can say about that game is it was really elite,” Terrell said. “I think after last year’s game against them, a lot of us were really embarrassed to tell the truth. We weren’t surprised this time around; we knew we had an elite opponent coming into The Boatyard. Our defense did an amazing job tonight, just to see the transformation from last year to this was really fun.”
The win avenged Western Michigan’s worst defeat of 2015, when the Broncos were handed a 43-17 loss by Georgia Southern in Statesboro, Georgia, in the second game of the season.
Who stood out
Jr. CB Darius Phillips: 100-yard TD kickoff return, INT for 70-yard TD,
Sr. WR Michael Henry: 125 yards receiving, 8 receptions, 2 TDs (all career highs)
Sr. QB Zach Terrell: 270 yards passing, 4 TDs, 18-27-0 (C-A-I), 1 rushing TD
So. RB Jamauri Bogan: 106 yards, 1 TD, 26 carries – Bogan has gone for 100-plus yards in all four games this season
So. DL Eric Assoua: career-high 8 tackles, 1 fumble recovery