By Alan Gerould, Senior Writer, BroncoBlitz
KALAMAZOO -- There is no place like home. Just ask Tim Lester and the Western Michigan University football team, who have played its last four football games in venues other than Waldo Stadium. Places like Ford Field, AT&T Stadium "JerryWorld", L.A. Coliseum and Spartan Stadium.
"It's been cool playing in those other places but we are anxious to get back to our field in front of our fans," senior return man and cornerback Darius Philips said.
Much of the excitement built up from the strong showing against the number 4 ranked Trojans was tarnished a bit with an underwhelming performance against Micghian State University in a 28-14 loss to the improved Spartans. In fact, if not for Mr. Phillips, the Broncos offense laid a goose egg at MSU.
There is no panic in Bronco Nation despite the two opening losses. Most of whom are knowledgeable football fans. We understand that USC really is a good football team as evidenced by its 42-24 win over Stanford, the same margin as the 49-31 defeat of the Broncos. Although the WMU game was close until late, the Stanford game was not. We also know that despite Michigan State's 3-9 debacle last season, Mark Dantonio is still a great coach with great talent, good enough to win the B1G in 2013 and 2015. Bronco fans also know that there are 15 starters back from the team that went 13-1 last year but that the biggest losses came at quarterback and wide receiver which are the toughest positions to get up to speed.
There have also been some key injuries lately, with offensive tackle Curtis Doyle going down in week one and defensive end Eric Assoua and safety Justin Tranquill going down in week two. Tranquill is done for the season with a torn ACL but both Assoua and Doyle are game to game.
The Broncos should have an opportunity to get well over the next three weeks with Idaho coming in first followed by Wagner and Ball State in the Mid-American Conference opener. The Broncos still feature the best 1-2-3 running attack in the MAC with Franklin, Bellamy and Bogan. These three will soften up the Idaho front seven and enable redshirt sophomore Jon Wassink to get his passing game cranked up. Wassink should have more time to find his receivers and deliver the ball on the money. It's up to the receivers to catch the ball.
"We can't put this all on Jon," head coach Tim Lester said. "It's difficult to get into an offensive rythym when you are not getting any push and we didn't get it against MSU like we did at USC."
One thing that has been steady is the play of Phillips, who won his second straight MAC West Special Teams POTW award. How he didn't win the award for defensive player is beside me. Philips had the Broncos first and last touchdowns, the first coming on a 67 yard strip and return to the house. Later Phillips returned a kickoff 100 yards, the second week in a row he has done as much. Phillips has now scored five different ways in his career with an interception return, fumble return, kick return, punt return, and receiving touchdown. He is the only player, college or pro that we can find who has accomplished this feat.
Idaho is coming off of a 9-4 season, including a win over Colorado State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. I have a column coming that will feature the Moscow Pullman Daily News beat writer with more on the Vandals. I predicted 34-20 in my preseason picks. #LetsRide.