KALAMAZOO, Mich.- A packed house of 30,885 looked on Friday night at Waldo Stadium as the Western Michigan Broncos went toe-to-toe with No. 5 ranked Michigan State before falling by a final score of 37-24 in the season opener.
.The Broncos had several shining moments in the game, including a 100-yard touchdown kickoff return by sophomore Darius Phillips that tied the game at 7-7. Michigan State, however, pulled back ahead and remained in front the rest of the way.
Junior WMU wide receiver Corey Davis had 10 receptions for 154 yards and one touchdown, making an elite grab in the third quarter that was tabbed as the offensive play of the game. Redshirt junior quarterback Zach Terrell set career highs for pass attempts and completions, going 33-for-50 for 365 yards. Junior Daniel Braverman also had a career night with 13 receptions for 109 yards.
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The Broncos punched back, however as Phillips turned the corner on the ensuing kickoff, racing down the left sideline for a 100-yard touchdown return.
Under the command of senior Heisman candidate Connor Cook, Michigan State’s offense got rolling before halftime, scoring three touchdowns to open a 27-7 lead. Madre London rushed for a seven-yard TD, Josiah Price caught a nine-yard touchdown and Gerald Holmes punched in an eight-yard run. Western Michigan’s defense, however, successfully defended a two-point conversion.
The Broncos continued to show resiliency, forcing and successfully recovering two fumbles in the first half. The first fumble on a sack by Nathan Braster was called back and negated after a holding call. On the very next play, Jayson Sylva delivered a big hit to force another fumble, which was recovered by Rontavious Atkins. The Bronco offense missed out on a key scoring opportunity however going three and out. On second down, Braverman had a step on the defense with the end zone in sight and could not bring in Terrell’s pass.
On the Broncos’ next drive Andrew Haldeman booted a 22-yard field goal to put the score at 27-10 at halftime.
MSU’s Cook continued his impressive play in the third quarter, finding DeAnthony Arnett for a 21-yard touchdown reception to extend the Spartans’ lead to 34-17. The Broncos fired back with two touchdown drives of their own to cut the deficit to 10 points, 34-24.
WMU’s Davis capped a 15-play, 75 yard-drive with his 17-yard touchdown snag with 1:37 left in the third quarter, and sophomore tight end Jeremiah Mullinax pulled in a 29-yard touchdown with 11:09 remaining in the fourth. It was Mullinax’s first career reception and touchdown.
Michigan State added a 21-yard field goal with 7:42 left to bring its point total to 37.
Western Michigan threatened on a drive in the final minutes of the game, marching down to the MSU seven-yard line, but came up empty handed. Terrell’s pass to Davis on 1st-and-goal was off the mark and intercepted by the Spartan defense. Michigan State went on to run out the clock for the 13-point victory.
Michigan State had 452 yards of total offense in the game, while Cook finished 15 for 31 passing for 256 yards. The Broncos only managed 58 yards on the ground and had 383 yards of total offense.
Sophomore Asantay Brown registered a WMU team-high 10 tackles. Atkins had nine tackles to go along with his fumble recovery and Austin Lewis made nine tackles as well.
The Broncos travel to reigning Sun Belt champion Georgia Southern next week, facing the Eagles on ESPN3 at 6 p.m. Western Michigan returns to Kalamazoo to host Murray State in its next home game, Sept. 20.
(Courtesy of WMU Athletics)