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Get to Know the Opponent: Western Michigan

A familiar in-state opponent comes to East Lansing for a week two match-up.

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

One game down and two more to go in the non-conference portion of the MSU football schedule. With Tulsa out of the way the Spartans take on a much more familiar opponent this week. While they no longer row the boat, Western is no stranger to playing against the Spartans.

School: Western Michigan University

Nickname: Broncos

Conference: Mid-American Conference (MAC)

Location: Kalamazoo, Michigan

Head Coach: Tim Lester (3rd season, 14-12)

Mascot: Buster Bronco

All-Time Series: Michigan State leads 10-0 (Last meeting MSU won 28-14 in 2017)

Since the departure of PJ Fleck to Minnesota, the Broncos have slumped back into mediocrity in the MAC. They went 6-6 in Tim Lester’s first season, but finished 4-4 in MAC play and were fourth place in their division. Last season they improved to 7-5 in the regular season, and 5-3 in conference play, and finished second in their division. They also earned a bid to the Idaho Potato Bowl where they were thumped by BYU.

Western is off to a 1-0 start this season after defeating FCS Monmouth 48-13 last week.

Team Stats

Not a lot to go by here in the early going, but WMU did put up a big number last week against an FCS opponent. In addition to the 48 points, the Broncos racked up 458 yards of total offense, 368 of which came through the air. They averaged 7.9 yards per play in the win.

Last season the Broncos were 39th in scoring offense at 32 points per game and 35th in total offense averaging 436.8 yards per game.

Western was 38th in rushing offense with just under 200 yards per game on the ground, and were 49th in yards per carry at 4.58.

Through the air the Broncos were 63rd nationally, averaging 237.4 yards per game, 41st in yards per attempt, and 56th in passer rating. They had 20 touchdowns to just nine interceptions through the air.

On defense, things weren’t as good. Western was 106th in scoring defense giving up 34.5 points per game. In terms of total yards they were middle of the road, checking in at 57th overall allowing 386.6 yards per game.

On the ground the WMU defense allowed 165.85 yards per game, ranking 68th overall, with an average of 4.45 yards per carry, which was 76th in the country. The 27 rushing touchdowns allowed ranked 97th nationally.

Against the pass Western was 59th in total yards, giving up 220.8 yards per game. However, they were 121st in yards per attempt giving up 8.8 yards per pass. As a result they were 122nd in opponent passer rating and allowed 30 touchdowns against nine picks.

Players to Watch

Senior quarterback Jon Wassink was very sharp in the opener, completing 20-of-25 passes for 368 yards and five touchdowns. Wassink led the team in passing yards the last two years, but also suffered season ending injuries each of those years. He has 18 career starts and over 3,700 passing yards along with 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Wassink also has nine career rushing touchdowns and 274 yards rushing during his time in K-Zoo.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Western Michigan Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Senior running back LeVante Bellamy is coming off a season in which he averaged almost six yards per carry and racked up 1,228 yards. However, he struggled in the opener, gaining just 53 yards on 18 carries. He was able to find the endzone once though.

The leading receiver for the Broncos in the first game was freshman DaShon Bussell, who hauled in five passes for 116 yards. Bussell is 6-2 and 195 pounds and is a three-star recruit out of Tennessee.

Senior tight end Giovanni Ricci also had five catches last week, totaling 97 yards, and also found the endzone twice. Ricci had 35 catches for 392 yards and three touchdowns last year and was third-team All-MAC.

On defense, junior Ali Fayad led the team last year in sacks, tackles for loss, and forced fumbles.

Former wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge led the team in tackles from a defensive back position last week with eight.

Senior linebacker Drake Spears was the team’s leading tackler a year ago, and started the season off with seven against Monmouth last week.

Brazilian kicker Thiago Kapps was 2-for-2 on field goals and 6-for-6 on extra points in his debut last week after two years of JUCO ball. He had a 45-yarder for a long so he’s got plenty of leg.