Mike Brown takes playing Western Michigan personally, and not just because the Broncos came from behind to edge his Miami RedHawks last season.
It goes back further than that.
“They didn’t recruit me,” said the 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior safety and native of Grand Rapids, Mich., which is just a few miles north on U.S. 131 from Kalamazoo, where Miami will meet Western Michigan on Saturday at noon. “It’s personal. Not being offered? It’s personal
Andrew Sharp has a different viewpoint. The 6-4, 267-pound third-year sophomore defensive tackle from Grosse Pointe, Mich., was offered by the Broncos, but he chose Miami;
“It’s just another game,” he said on Monday during Miami’s weekly media session, though he’s going to have to somehow get his hands on 15 tickets for friends and family.
Brown, Sharp and the RedHawks will be trying to snap a six-game losing streak in the series against Western Michigan (3-3, 1-1 Mid-American Conference West Division). Miami (2-3, 1-0 MAC East), coming off an impressive win over defending East-champion Buffalo and a bye week, hasn’t beaten the Broncos since 42-21 victory at WMU’s Waldo Stadium in 2004.
Western Michigan goes into its homecoming game with a run-pass option-oriented offense that is, perhaps, the most effective and balanced in the MAC. Led by 5-9, 190-pound senior running back Levante Bellamy and 6-2, 208-pound senior quarterback Jon Wassink, the Broncos lead the MAC with averages of 35.0 points, 485.5 yards of total offense and 300.0 passing yards per game while ranking third with an average of 185.5 rushing yards per game.
Wassink, also a Grand Rapids native, leads the MAC with an average of 294.8 passing yards per game and is second with 12 passing touchdowns. Bellamy’s average of 104.8 rushing yards per game also is second in the conference, while 6-3, 240-pound senior tight end Giovanni Ricci leads the MAC with six receiving touchdowns.
“Bellamy is a big-play guy,” sixth-year Miami coach Chuck Martin said on Monday. “His big-play tape runs for a long time. They’re really balanced. They love to push the ball down the field.”
Treshaun Hayward, a 6-2, 225-pound junior linebacker, sparks the Broncos’ defense. Hayward ranks second in the MAC with 67 tackles, but Western Michigan ranks sixth in the MAC with an average of 28.7 points allowed per game and eighth with an average of 449.5 yards of total offense allowed per game. The Broncos also have allowed an average 204.8 rushing yards per game, which is ninth in the 12-team conference.
“They like to pressure you,” Martin said “They like to make you operate under duress.”
Western Michigan, which was picked to finish second in the West in the pre-season MAC media poll, is coming off a narrow 31-24 loss at Toledo, the favorite to win the conference title. It was the latest in what has been a roller-coaster season for the Broncos, who’ve alternated wins and losses through the first six games on their schedule. They fell behind the Rockets, 24-7, and pulled within a touchdown before running out of time.
“I thought the defense fought and fought, and after giving up a lot of points early, they played a great second half,” Western Michigan coach Tim Lester said. “The offense woke up a little bit, but not enough to get back and win the game.”
Miami is trying for the third time since 2012 to go 2-0 in the MAC. The RedHawks opened that conference season, Don Treadwell’s second as coach, with wins over Massachusetts and Akron on the way to finishing 4-8 overall and 3-5 in the MAC. Last season’s 40-39 loss at Miami’s Yager Stadium kept the RedHawks from going 2-0 in the MAC.
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