Oh, how important one game can be.
Last year's game between Western Michigan and Miami came down to the final minute. Down by one point, facing fourth and two, the RedHawks went for a 50-yard Sam Sloman field goal. The try just missed, and so did Miami (6-6 in 2019 ) on a bowl invitation at seasons end.
For Western, the road victory . . .
. . . at Miami was part of an impressive six-game mid-season win streak. That came to an end when quarterback Jon Wassink was injured early in a game against Toledo. The Broncos won just one more game the rest of the year, but they made it to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Those two teams meet again Saturday -- this time in Kalamazoo. Once again, the stakes could be high.
After losing three of four non-conference games, the RedHawks have a thinner margin for reaching bowl eligibility. They did, however, help themselves with a huge upset of Buffalo in Oxford two weeks ago. Decimated by injuries from the non-conference slate, MU then had a bye week to recover and prep for this week's tilt.
Western Michican, meanwhile, can ill afford another MAC loss after dropping a 31-24 contest at pre-season MAC West favorite Toledo last week. With the Rockets now holding a head-to-head tiebreaker, WMU needs to go on a run similar to last year's win streak and hope the Rockets will stumble a couple times.
Western Michigan Broncos (3-3, 1-1 MAC)
Saturday, Oct. 12 -- Noon ET
Waldo Stadium -- Kalamazoo MI
Series: Miami leads 37-22-1
Last year's contest was a 49-48 Western Michigan win. Jon Wassink had a spectacular day, completing 27 of 42 for 439 yards and five touchdowns. Four of those scores went to then-freshman Jayden Reed. He has since transferred to Michigan State and is sitting out 2019. D'Wayne Eskridge also had seven catches, providing 141 yards. He moved over to the defense as a DB this year but is out for the year with an injury.
The RedHawks, who were outgained 562-349, rushed for just 55 yards last year against the Broncos. Quarterback Gus Ragland, meanwhile, completed 22of 32 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns.
Ragland is gone, but three of his targets from last year are back. Jack Sorenson, who caught nine passes for 156 yards, has been hampered by injuries this year. So has tight end Andrew Homer. How much each has healed with a bye week to work with remains to be seen.
-- Actually, Miami's offensive line was down to playing true freshmen along the front against Buffalo two weeks ago. Getting some of the experience back would help a team that likes to run the ball even more now that a true freshman leads the offense.
-- Brett Gabbert has completed 50 of 94 attempts (53.2 %) with three TDs and two interceptions. He has been sacked eight times.
-- Sorenson's 12 receptions top RedHawk receivers. Jalen Walker and Dominique Robinson have combined for 11 receptions and 137 yards.
-- Another freshman, Tyre Shelton, has a team-high 37 carries, good for 133 yards and one TD. Junior Jaylon Bester ran 24 times for 107 yards and a score in his return to the lineup last week. He was injured after five carries against Iowa in Week One.
-- Senior Maurice Thomas has 27 carries for 119 yards, but he is also a major threat in the return game -- kickoffs or punts. He punt return work helped MU with some favorable field position situations against Iowa.
Another factor that has helped Miami with field position is turnovers. MU leads the MAC with a plus-4 turnover margin. The RedHawks have gained five fumbles and five interceptions.
- Junior Mike Brown has two picks, one of which he returned for a touchdown against Buffalo. Senior Myles Reid owns a MAC-best three fumble recoveries.
-- Although Miami leads the series, WMU emerged victorious in each of the six meetings since 2006.
- Western's 1,800 passing yards this year leads the MAC and is seventh nationally. Wassink's two touchdown passes against Toledo give him 42 for his career (7th most in WMU history). He is eighth on the Bronco career completions chart (399).
-- The 629 rushing yards by senior RB LaVante Bellamy is sixth most nationally and the most in the MAC. Sean Tyler's four rushing TDs is the most among MAC freshmen.
-- Tight end Giovanni Ricci has recorded six TD receptions thisyear (most in MAC and 11th nationally). Center Luke Juriga has started every game of his career and helps anchor an offensive line that has helped the Broncos gain a MAC -best 6.99 yards per carry.
-- Western hs scored 34 points off turnovers this year, with 27 coming in the last three outings.
-- Over the last four games, WMU has notched 30.9 tackles for lss and forced five fumbles. Junior LB Treshaun Hayward owns a team-high 67 tackles. He had 13 stops against Toledo, giving him double-digit tackles in five consecutive games.