Welcome back to our semi-regular feature Friends With Bennies, where we sit down with another blogger to talk about their team. Today we have Brandon from WMU blog Saddle Up, Fight On (he also contributes to MAC blog Hustle Belt as Brown and Gold) to talk about Saturday's game with Western Michigan. I also answered some questions for them, which I'll link to when they're posted.
TheUConnBlog: Last year Alex Carder absolutely torched the Huskies, throwing for nearly 500 yards and five touchdowns. Luckily for UConn two of those touchdowns and almost 200 of the yards were courtesy of Jordan White who's now gone. How has his departure affected Carder and who are his new weapons?
Saddle Up, Fight On: Actually, anyone who scored last year for the Broncos in that UConn game is gone. White had those two TDs, Chleb Ravenell had 2 TDs, Robert Arnheim had a boat load of receptions, Dallas Walker had the other TD, and John Potter is in the NFL as a kicker for the Bills now. So lucky for you, that factoid is correct.
As for the here and now, Carder has another Jordan White character in Jaime Wilson. Wilson has had a great season so far leading the Bronco receiving corps, and he's only a freshman. The two returning receivers from last year, Eric Monette and Josh Schafer, have been banged up, but really haven't done much anyways. In fact, Monette had an AWFUL game against Illinois and probably cost us a score or two because of drops and a fumble.
Other guys include our TEs in Blake Hammond, Matt Cutler, and Clark Mussman. Some of our other wide-outs that are young or JUCO guys are Daniel Braverman and Justin "Leaps Tall Buildings" Collins. But honestly, the pickings are slim after Wilson and Hammond right now.
TUB: With their potent air attack, the Broncos don't seem to have a huge focus on the ground game. Is there anything UConn should be aware of there?
SUFO: Well now that you mention it, the Broncos did have a good game rushing the ball last weekend against Minnesota. Dareyon Chance took the reigns and had himself a dandy of a game, rushing for 144 yards and a TD. We needed that because it helped move our offense since Carder really wasn't on his game at all. Usually the line has trouble run blocking, but in a year where the defense is surprisingly good, maybe our run game will open up this weekend. Brian Fields and Tevin Drake could also see some carries this weekend as well.
TUB: Tell us a bit about the Broncos defense. What's their base formation, what should UConn expect to see? Are there any playmakers to keep an eye on?
SUFO: The Broncos switched from their 4-2-5 last season to a 3-3-5 this year, and it seems to work. Paul Hazel is now a DE/LB hybrid in the linebacking "3" with Terry Easmon and Freddie Bishop anchors the d-line on the outside. Those three are a NASTY combo at times.
In the secondary, the Bronco's have a good strength there as well. However, I do need to note that they got torched for 3 TDs on 3 drives last weekend between the end of the 2nd quarter and the start of the 3rd by Max Shortell, so their worth is sometimes shaky. Johnnie Simon is the rover of the group, and is a ballhawk. He makes more stops than a pissed-off traffic cop when he's on. Lewis Toler and Donald Celiscar man the corners, and they are really good at their jobs as well, again, when they are on.
TUB: What are your hopes for the season?
SUFO: My hopes for the season start with non-conference. With this non-conference schedule (1 FCS, 3 weaker BCS teams), a 2-2 or 3-1 non-conference record was not out of question. Now we have to beat UConn to make the 2-2 mark. The @Illinois and @Minnesota games were horrid to watch, as our offense struggled and Alex Carder looked bad. So while I get to my prediction later, I'll just say that this is probably a must win if we want to make a bowl this year.
In the MAC itself, hopes are still high. NIU lost Chandler Harnish, but Jordan Lynch looks like he might be the real deal, so that game is now more of a toss-up than before. Ball State also looks potent on offense this year, and will be a road game for us after this home-stand. Toledo isn't as great as they were last year, but they still are good. Lucky for us, we get both NIU and Toledo at home. CMU and EMU are laughably weak, and if we don't win the Michigan MAC Trophy, I'll cry and then start my "Fire Cubit" chants.
Our cross-division is even more laughable. We get UMass at the end of this home-stand, and we can all laugh at their pain right? Buffalo looks weak again, and Kent State is good, but not that great of a team. If the Broncos can fix their offensive woes, and Carder can return to his dominant form in MAC play, there is NO reason to think we can't win the MAC West with our schedule. I think that with the improved defensive play, they get it done, but I can't say if they'll win the MAC over Ohio. Still lots of football to be played though.
TUB: Give us a prediction for Saturday.
SUFO: The weather for Kalamazoo this weekend is 50's and wet. If that is the case, it'll be a long game if we can't pass. I do think the clouds will hold off at times though, and that's when the Broncos can do their damage. The key is to stop Lyle McCombs and the UConn rushing attack. If we can do that, and force either Whitmer or McEntee (if they bring him out as a "surprise") to throw, I think this game is decidedly in Western's favor.
The Broncos don't run as much as they did against Minnesota, and in a defensive battle, the team with handily the better offense wins. WMU 28, UConn 17