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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 6, 2:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Waldo Stadium (30,200) -- Kalamazoo, Michigan. Television: None. Home Record: UMass 0-2, WMU 2-1. Away Record: UMass 0-3, WMU 0-2. Neutral Record: UMass 0-0, WMU 0-0. Conference Record: UMass 0-2, WMU 0-1. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Massachusetts Minutemen will try once again for their first win as a member of the FBS when they travel to Kalamazoo for Saturday's Mid- American Conference clash with the Western Michigan Broncos.
Though UMass has not recorded a win this season, it has shown signs of improvement recently. Last week, the Minutemen went toe-to-toe with undefeated Ohio University before coughing up a fourth-quarter lead to lose, 37-34. They've now dropped eight straight games dating back to last season.
Since losing its season opener at Illinois (24-7), Western Michigan has alternated wins with losses en route to its 2-3 record. The Broncos opened up their MAC schedule last week with a disappointing 37-17 home loss to Toledo, marking its first conference defeat at Waldo Stadium since Oct. 30, 2010.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools on the football field.
Only a handful of teams in FBS have an offense that is less efficient than UMass's (13.8 ppg, 308.8 ypg), but there is plenty of room for optimism following its 511-yard performance against Ohio.
After throwing zero touchdown passes in the first four games, Mike Wegzyn exploded for a career-best game last week with 373 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. His year-to-date numbers are still modest at best (87- of-168, 934 yards, four TDs, four INTs) but the performance is clearly a good sign moving forward.
Deion Walker has been Wegzyn's preferred target with a team-high 22 catches and 330 yards, with nearly half of that production coming last week (11 grabs, 162 yards). Alan Williams (19 catches, 205 yards, three TDs) and Rob Blanchflower (17 catches, 186 yards) have also been heavily utilized in the passing game.
Most of the work out of the backfield goes to Michael Cox, who has 381 yards and two touchdowns on 90 carries. Wegzyn can also make plays with his feet, piling up 111 rushing yards and a score.
While there are signs of hope on the offensive side of the ball, the UMass defense continues to be a step behind the competition, allowing more than 40 ppg and nearly 500 ypg.
The increased volume of play has allowed Perry McIntyre to figure among the league leaders in tackles with 52. The unit has just as many interceptions as it does sacks (five).
Although it scored just 17 points in last week's loss, the WMU offense has been for the most part effective this season, scoring 25.8 ppg on nearly 400 ypg.
Starting quarterback Alex Carder threw for 1,049 yards and eight touchdowns in the first four games, but he had to miss the Toledo matchup with an injured throwing hand. In his absence, Tyler Van Tubbergen was moderately effective (26-of-46, 232 yards, one TD) but he threw three interceptions. Turnovers have been a problem for both signal-callers as they have accounted for eight picks in five games.
Jaime Wilson has been the MAC's busiest receiver with a league-high 47 catches, including 10 last week. He is also among the conference leaders in yards (533) and touchdowns (five). Opposite Wilson is Josh Schaffer, who has caught 21 balls for 247 yards and a score.
Dareyon Chance (77 carries, 377 yards, two TDs) has a pair of 100-yard rushing performances in the last three games. Brian Fields offers a change of pace in the backfield, picking up 147 rushing yards and score on 23 carries.
The defense (26.8 ppg) is coming off its worst performance of the year as Toledo amassed 521 yards and 37 points last Saturday.
Johnnie Simon, Justin Currie, and Desmond Bozeman each have 40 tackles or more. The unit can create plenty of pressure on the quarterback, with Bozeman (four sacks), Paul Hazel (three sacks), and Deauntay Legrier (2.5 sacks) all causing problems in the backfield. Donald Celiscar is the standout in the secondary with two interception and 11 passes defended.
The UMass offense appears as if it is beginning to gel, and against a WMU defense that hasn't looked sharp lately, it can certainly put up some points. However, the Broncos will be extra focused coming into this game after losing a home bout last week and should have enough fire power to outlast the Minutemen, regardless of who is under center.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Michigan 42, Massachusetts 28
10/03 10:37:35 ET
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