The Western Michigan University football team is back on the road to face its second Big Ten opponent in as many away games this Saturday night, as the Broncos (0-2, 0-0 MAC)battle the No.16 ranked Northwestern University Wildcats (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) in Evanston, Ill.
The Brown and Gold are focused on bouncing back after suffering a demoralizing, 27-23, home defeat to the Nicholls Colonels.
“It was 100 percent my fault,” said WMU head coach PJ Fleck. “Looking back, it was the mental mistakes and that comes back squarely on my shoulders. We’ve all, especially myself, gotta turn it up a notch.”
Fleck is the first WMU head coach to lose the home opener in their debut since 1975.
“We’re turning around a program not a season here,” said Fleck. “You build a season in the National Football League. You build a program at the collegiate level.”
The Wildcats are averaging 46 points a game and run a two-quarterback system which has posed difficult for WMU defenses in seasons past. Northwestern has won 14 straight home games against non-conference opponents, which boasts the tenth longest streak in the nation.
The Broncos have yet to give up a passing score to an opponent but that may come to an end against a team putting up over 500 yards a contest.
“They’re very athletic and disciplined,” said Broncos senior running back Brian Fields. “We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’ve gotta get back to what we do and build team confidence. That starts with keeping the run game going.”
WMU was very successful on the ground in the loss last week. Both Dareyon Chance and Fields eclipsed the 100-yard rushing plateau. Marking the first time a pair of Broncos backs accomplished this on the same day since November of the 2010 campaign.
Fields scored a career-best three touchdowns to go with his 100-yard day. He had seven career TDs before last week.
This is the first meeting between the two schools although WMU is no stranger to the Big Ten or nationally ranked opponents. Bronco football will face its 22nd ranked opponent in program history under the lights this week.
After last weeks’ loss, many WMU fans, Alumni and media members alike were quick to attack the “Row the Boat” theme. Coach Fleck insisted this is all just a small part of the growing pains required to instill a new focus for future success of the program for years to come.
“When adversity strikes you’re still rowing,” said Fleck. “If you take your oars out of the water you’re just gonna stay in the storm. You’re just gonna sit there and it’s gonna rain on you and you’re gonna sink. But we’re not gonna stop, we’re gonna keep rowing.”
Saturday’s game is the third night game for WMU in as many games this year. Kickoff is slated for 9:00 EST and the game will air on the Big Ten Network.