Broncos Go Toe-to-Toe at Minnesota; Fall, 28-23
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -Western Michigan went back and forth with Minnesota but a few key plays in the first half turned the game in the Gophers favor as they held on for a 28-23 win over the Broncos in front of a near sellout crowd at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday.
Dareyon Chance had a career day on the Big Ten stage, carrying the ball 29 times for 144 yards, both career highs, and a six-yard touchdown run.
For Chance, it was his first career 100-yard rushing game and the first for the Broncos since Tevin Drake had 112 againts Bowling Green on Oct. 8, 2011. It was the most rushing yards for WMU since Brandon West had 166 against Eastern Michigan on Nov. 1, 2008.
The Broncos found themselves in a deja vu situation near the end of the game. Much like last season, at Illinois, the Broncos had one last possession, needing a touchdown to pull out the win. WMU put itself in that position by driving 66 yards in 1:32 and five plays to score.
Alex Carder, who went 24-for-44 for 209 yards, found Jaime Wilson in the corner of the end zone. It is the third straight game with a TD to open up Wilson's career. It was Carder's 68th career TD pass. Wilson quietly led the game with 10 catches for 117 yards, his second straight 100-yard receiving game.
A failed two-point conversion left WMU behind, 28-23, needing a defensive stop. They got it. On 3rd and 1, Travonte Boles and Johnnie Simon converged on the ball carrier for a three-yard loss, forcing a punt.
The Broncos' final possession did not go as planned as an illegal formation call negated a 14-yard completion to Wilson and then Carder was sacked for a five-yard loss. Facing fourth-and-18, Carder completed a pass to Wilson for 15 yards, a good gain but three yards shy and effectively ending the game.
WMU's defense also had a plan where starting QB MarQueis Gray was concerned. The Broncos held the 250-pound senior signal caller to 57 yards rushing and 29 yards passing before he left the game in the second quarter due to injury.
Max Shortell saw his chance to shine and took it as the sophomore, on his first play from scrimmage, completed a 32-yard pass and five plays later, Minnesota was in the end zone to take a 14-10 lead, one it would not relinquish.
Shortell would have two more TD passes with A.J. Barker hauling in both of them, finishing with three on the day. Minnesota took its first lead of the day after Michael Carter picked off Carder on an out route near the Gophers' sideline. Minnesota scored three plays later on a Gray to Barker 10-yard connection to go up 7-3.
WMU opened the scoring with a 35-yard field goal with 6:07 remaining in the first quarter. He would miss a 42-yard field goal with 2:12 remaining in the third that would have cut Minnesota's lead to 28-20, making it a one-possession game.
Chance's first score in nearly two years capped a four-play 18-yard drive after Paul Hazel and Justin Currie, who led WMU with nine tackles, combined to force Gray to fumble the ball. Each of the game's first two TDs were the results of a turnover on the previous possession.
Western Michigan opened the second half by marching down the field in 11 plays, one of two 11-play scoring drives, to cut the lead to 21-17 with 10:54 to go in the third quarter. Antoin Scriven scored his eighth career TD from one yard out.
Western Michigan now has three straight home games, beginning with Connecticut out of the Big East. WMU defeated UConn, 38-31, on Oct. 1, 2011. Game time is 2 p.m. and airs on ESPN3.