Head coach Tim Lester and the Western Michigan football team faltered in yet another close-scoring late-game setting Tuesday night, ultimately losing to in-state rival Eastern Michigan by a score of 22-21. Here are the key takeaways from the Broncos’ fifth loss of the season:
Eleby’s ball security needs to improve
Kaleb Eleby was, for the most part, a huge bright spot for WMU in the loss. Before the fourth quarter game-sealing interception, the redshirt sophomore was nothing short of incredible as he threw for 307 yards on 22 of 29 passes with a score through the air and on the ground.
Eleby made a crucial mistake in the fourth quarter though, coughing up the ball late on a hit by the Eagle’s Turan Rush which eventually led to the game-winning score on a field goal from Chad Ryland. Turnovers as a whole have been a problem lately for WMU, but Eleby’s inability to take a hit and secure the football has been troubling.
Defense couldn't get off of the field
One of the keys Western Michigan needed to keep in mind coming into the contest was a need to keep Eastern Michigan’s offense from converting on third and fourth downs. Lou Esposito’s unit was unable to achieve that goal, as they allowed three conversions on fourth down from the Eagles, a perfect conversion rate from EMU on the night.
Too many times the Bronco defense has taken the ‘bend don’t break’ approach, and it has burned the 6-5 squad every game, whether it be through deep plays or allowing teams to get into field goal range. Eastern Michigan was 5-5 on field goal attempts on the night, which is an incredibly accurate line, but WMU needed to not allow the Eagles to have five field goal attempts in the first place.
Tim Lester is officially on the hot seat
With yet another loss in November, the ‘Lester Letdown’ phenomenon becomes more and more real. The Western Michigan football program consistently puts itself in position to secure wins early and midway through contests, but questionable play calling and coaching decisions have once again bogged down the Broncos late in the season. Now supporters of the program are calling for his head, a growing theme over the last two seasons.
With athletic director Kathy Beauregard on her way out, it seems that Lester will have one more year to leave a lasting impression on the WMU fanbase and the Mid-American Conference before the next AD decides his fate. The young head coach has had plenty of talent and holdovers from the PJ Fleck years to work with, and it seems that this team comes up short in almost every situation and repeatedly disappoints its fans.