The Western Michigan University football team will find itself in a very familiar place this Saturday afternoon. The Broncos (1-1, 0-0 MAC) will face its second Big Ten opponent in as many road games this season, as with almost every season, and will face a familiar face across the sidelines in the University of Minnesota’s head coach Jerry Kill.
Kill was the head coach at WMU’s hated Mid-American Conference West division rival, the University of Northern Illinois Huskies from 2008-10, and also coached against the Broncos with the University of Southern Illinois during coach Cubit’s inaugural season at WMU.
“It’s a little bit easier scheme wise,” said WMU head coach Bill Cubit. “You can go back to your notes and see some things they’ve done in the past. This is a little easier scheme-wise compared what we faced at Illinois.”
The game will mark the first time the Broncos have played at TCF Bank Stadium.
WMU is 0-3 all-time against the Golden Gophers (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) but haven’t faced them in 35 years. The Brown and Gold lost to Minnesota in the three consecutive years they played (1975-77), falling to the Gophers, 10-7, in the last meeting.
Kill remembers the threat that a Cubit coached team can pose as well.
“Western Michigan is the type of Western Michigan team that we played against where I’ve been before,” said Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill. “They’re a top tier team in the MAC Conference. Offensively under Coach Cubit, they’ve always been tremendous, throwing the ball for over 300 yards a game, a football team that’s going to be aggressive, attack you and stretch you on the perimeters and do a great job. He’s a great play caller, and we have a great deal of respect for them.”
WMU players aren’t newcomers when it comes to facing Big Ten talent.
“It’s something you get used to,” said WMU senior tight end Blake Hammond. “Coach Kill always gave us a run for our money when he was at [NIU] and it’s gonna be a good one.
After this weeks’ road game, the Broncos will return to Waldo Stadium for three consecutive weeks. WMU was undefeated at home last year, and stealing a win on the road this week in a hostile environment would be just the spark the Brown and Gold need to propel them to that ever-so-illusive MAC Championship Game.
The Broncos offense will look to keep rolling after not punting in last week’s game for the first time since 1981.
“Getting a road win is always big against a Big Ten opponent,” said Hammond. “We’ve had a good home record and to take care of business and get this road win would set us up for the three home games and would give us a great platform for success.”
Minnesota QB MarQueis Gray scored four touchdowns last week at home against the University of New Hampshire. He eclipsed the 100-plus yards mark passing and rushing alike to lead his team to a 44-7 victory.
“We’ve got a tough task containing this kid here,” said Cubit. “He’s everything that their offense centers around. The problem is that he’s big and physical and I don’t know if one guy will be able to bring him down. It definitely remains to be seen what we can really do against a Big Ten team.”
Alex Carder will need to protect the ball as the Golden Gophers have already matched its team interception total of a season ago with four. Carder has had some of his worst career games against Big Ten opponents and will need to stay focused on Saturday.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” said Cubit. “Their defensive front is playing really good, and they’re 2-0, and deservedly so.”
The game kicks off at 11 a.m. and will be televised locally on the Big Ten Network.