The Western Michigan Broncos (0-1) take to the road for the second-straight game to start the 2022 season when they travel to Indiana to take on the Ball State Cardinals (0-1) on Saturday afternoon. The Broncos opened the season with a 35-13 loss to #14 Michigan State in Lansing, MI. Ball State also had a tough opener, falling 59-10 to Tennessee in Knoxville, TN last Thursday night. Both teams will be looking to get off on the right foot in their first Mid-American Conference game of 2022. The opening kickoff is set for 2pm EST.
Bucking BroncosWestern Michigan travels to Ball State on Saturday afternoon hoping to have a better outcome than the team had on Friday night in East Lansing against the Spartans of Michigan State. Despite the loss, the Broncos showed some promise against a Top-15 team on the road. Redshirt-freshman quarterback Jack Salopek handled the pressure of a packed opposing stadium, throwing for 193 yards and rushing for 36 yards in his first-ever start. Tight end Blake Bosma, another redshirt freshman, had five catches for 35 yards and running back Sean Tyler was solid on the ground with 68 yards on 13 carries. Wide receivers Corey Grooms and Jehlani Galloway showed out with 111 combined yards receiving as well.
Defensively, the Broncos came out very sharp, holding the Spartans to two-straight three-and-outs. Linebacker Ryan Selig led the Broncos with nine tackles and defensive end Andre Carter finished second on the team with seven tackles and a half sack. The Broncos briefly held a 3-0 lead before the Spartans regained their footing and scored three straight touchdowns to close the half and take a 21-3 lead into halftime. The defense shut out the Spartans in the third quarter and after two scores, the Broncos trailed just 21-13 entering the fourth quarter before two more Spartans touchdowns sealed the deal. WMU head coach Tim Lester lamented his team's loss opportunities after the game, particularly the turnovers:
"We didn't get the job done. Our number one thing coming into the game was to take care of the ball and I don't think we did a good job of that. Obviously, we turned the ball over twice in the red zone, two lost fumbles. We need to be better to beat a good team like that. Good game for [quarterback] Jack [Salopek]. I thought, numbers-wise, he had a decent day. He probably wouldn't agree. He thinks there were too many things he missed. He has a high expectation of himself, and he is going to get better. I was overall happy with the effort and happy with the fight, but we have got to be able to take care of the ball and have to make more plays."
The Broncos showed promise in the opener, particularly against a team that has major bowl aspirations. Western Michigan was 6-for-18 on third down conversions while holding Michigan State to just 30% on third down conversions. They were very competitive with the Spartans in a number of categories, including first downs 10-9, and total offense at 334 yards to 430 yards. Ultimately, the Broncos were done in by turnovers, fumbling twice in the red zone in a close game. There aren't any moral victories in football but the Broncos were a few key plays away from a possible upset on the road in front of a hostile crowd with a first-time starting quarterback.
Cardinals Looking to FlyLike their MAC counterparts Western Michigan, the Cardinals took to the road in their season opener against a power conference team. Like the Broncos, Ball State was soundly beaten in their opener, 59-10 by the Tennessee Volunteers. Ball State has undergone major changes from last season's 6-7 team that finished 4th in the Mac West. Ball State comes into this season with the 7th youngest roster in Division 1 football. In fact, eight of the Cardinals' 22 starters were making their first career start against the Volunteers. The inexperience showed as the Volunteers jumped out to a 38-0 lead by halftime and cruised to an easy win.
"Tennessee is good at what they do from an offensive standpoint," said Ball State coach Mike Neu. "It's tough to slow down an offense like that with a quarterback playing at a high level."
Quarterback John Paddock was given a good opportunity to shine in the opener with 27 completions and a touchdown but did throw two interceptions. Coming into the season, Paddock had completed just 34 passes in his entire college career. He went on to throw his first-ever college touchdown to true freshman tight end Tanner Koziol early in the 3rd quarter. For Koziol, it was just his second career catch. Ball State's offense generated 343 yards of total offense, mostly through the air. The Cardinals had just 74 yards rushing on the night against the stiff Volunteers' defense. Paddock through for 269 yards in his first college start, which got off to a rocky start after his first pass was intercepted.
"Credit John Paddock for battling back, especially after that punch to the gut to start the game," said Neu. "Really proud of him for battling back."
Ball State was out-gained on the night 569 to 343. They lost the turnover battle three to one as well. Time of possession was nearly even with each team holding the ball a shade over 29 minutes. Defensively, junior Jack Blanco led the team with nine tackles and Jaquan Amos and Loren Strickland each added eight tackles to pace the Cardinals. Like the offense, the defense is extremely inexperienced and will take some time to gel as the season moves along.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Broncos were one or two plays away from making the Spartans squirm last Friday night. Two costly fumbles in the red zone led to a score that belies the efforts of Western Michigan. Western Michigan has a far more experienced team than the Cardinals and gave a better team, the Spartans, a better game on the road than the Cardinals did against Tennessee. Western Michigan will likely set their game plan around stopping the pass as Ball State didn't show much of a ground attack in the opener. WMU, meanwhile, was far more balanced and can lead on their ground game much more than Ball State should be able to do. Last season, a far more experienced Ball State team upset the Broncos on the road, 45-20. The Broncos will be ready this year and are far more suited to handle this younger, inexperienced Cardinals team giving up points on the road.
Lay the points and go with Western Michigan.
Full-Game Total Pick
Ball State's offense produced 293 yards passing and very little rushing in the opener. The young team committed 12 penalties for nearly 100 yards and turned the ball over three times. They now match up with a more experienced Western Michigan team that controlled time of possession against Michigan State, holding the ball 37 minutes with an effective ground game. I fully expect the Broncos to take a similar approach to Ball State and take advantage of their inexperience. The Cardinals' offense will have difficulty scoring quickly in this one and will be forced to as the Broncos control pace of play. This game will stay under the total and be dominated by the Broncos' ground and pound approach.
Take the under, 55.5 points.