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Five keys to victory against Northwestern

by Colin Windecker

Five keys to victory against Northwestern

For the 22nd time in school history the Western Michigan Football Team will square off against a nationally ranked opponent as the Broncos travel to Evanston, Illinois to take on the 17th (AP Poll)/16th (USA Today Poll) ranked Northwestern Wildcats. This will be the first ever matchup between the Broncos and Wildcats, leaving only Ohio State and Penn State as the two remaining Big Ten teams that Western Michigan has never faced. Saturday night’s game will also be a sort of homecoming for two Bronco coaches. Head coach P.J. Fleck grew up about an hour away from Evanston and second year linebacker coach Tim McGarigle is an alumni of Northwestern and played for the Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald while Fitzgerald was the Wildcats’ linebackers coach.

Keys to victory:

1. Can’t start flat – Before you could blink an eye, the Broncos were down 14-0 to Nicholls, a hole they were never able to dig themselves out of. Against a much stronger opponent in Northwestern, the Broncos will have no chance at all if they fall behind by two scores before the end of the first quarter.

2. Limit Northwestern’s possessions – The Wildcats sport one the better offenses in college football, averaging 46 points per game and over 540 yards of total offense. The Broncos defense has been solid so far but will be put to the test against Northwestern. For WMU to have any shot at an upset, they must take the air out of the ball and win the time possession battle.

3. Keep TVT upright – Tyler VanTubbergen looked timid almost scared, at times against Nicholls, after suffering a concussion against MSU during week 1. Again for the Broncos to have any shot at succeeding during MAC play TVT must be under center.  

4. Win the field position battle via special teams – We already know it’s going to up an uphill battle for the Broncos, so gaining and preventing as many yards as possible on special teams is key. Punter J Schroeder is averaging over 44 yards per punt and will have to continue to be consistent with his punts, hopefully pinning the Wildcats deep in their own territory, forcing them to long drives.

5. Keep rowing the boat – No one expects the Broncos to win against Northwestern. If you looked at the Broncos’ schedule during the preseason and had to circle one game you knew Western would lose, it would be this one. Northwestern is competing for a Big Ten Title, while the Broncos are praying they can at least make a bowl game. Fleck needs to keep his team motivated and remind them, along with everyone in Kalamazoo, that the foundation for this program is in place, but it’s going to take some time. Don’t jump ship if this one gets ugly quickly.

Prediction: Northwestern 45 Western Michigan 16