WMU football takes on Northern Illinois on Saturday looking to move to 4-0 on the season. Last season, the Broncos entered the regular-season finale against NIU with a chance to clinch a spot in the Mid-American Conference championship game but lost to the Huskies, who finished the season 5-7.
Here’s what the Broncos need to do to avoid another letdown against Northern Illinois.
Play with passion from kickoff to the final whistle - Last year, WMU beat Central Michigan and Miami (OH), who matched up in the MAC title game. The Broncos had a good argument as the best team in the conference. They failed to reach the championship game because of games that they lost to inferior opponents in Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois. Head coach Tim Lester talked about the disappointment from last year’s game against the Huskies in a press conference this week.
“We’ve been talking about it since that day, really. We didn’t finish the season, we didn’t do the job last year,” Lester said. “(The team has) been reminded of what happened and, you know, give (Northern Illinois) credit, they played well and we didn’t, and they won the game.”
Win the turnover battle - Northern Illinois has turned the ball over eight times to four takeaways in its first three games. Western Michigan, meanwhile, has just one turnover and three takeaways in its three games played so far. If the defense can come up with some big plays against a mistake-prone offense, it could give the Broncos offense some short fields to work with and the potential for easy points. Buffalo and Ball State both scored defensive touchdowns against NIU this year, and WMU has a defensive touchdown from its season-opening win over Akron. If the Broncos defense gets into the end zone it should help Western Michigan to a dominant win.
Let Eleby dominate a weak secondary - The Huskies have allowed 9.3 yards per pass attempt thus far while facing teams that have run-first offenses. No one on the NIU secondary was selected to a preseason All-MAC team for a reason. Dee Eskridge, Skyy Moore and Jaylon Hall should be able to have a field day against this secondary and Kaleb Eleby has proven he can make the right reads and make any throw he needs to. This Northern Illinois defense has struggled to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and if Eleby has time to throw he will find the right receiver to make big plays. There is a reason Eleby is averaging 21.1 yards per completion, and he can keep that up against this team.
Kickoff is at noon at Waldo Stadium and the game will be streamed on ESPN+.