Broncos in must-win finale with Eastern Michigan
Nov. 11, 2000
MT. PLEASANT, Mich. -- WMU's football Broncos, winners of eight straight games, lost 21-17 at Central Michigan on Saturday (Nov. 11). It was the first loss for the Broncos since a 19-7 season-opening setback at Wisconsin on Aug. 31.
Going into the contest, WMU was ranked 27th in the nation and was a 34-point favorite over the Chippewas, who had won only once before this season.
Western Michigan fell to 8-2 overall, 6-1 in the Mid-American Conference, and 3-1 in the all-important MAC West Division standings. The Broncos dropped one-half game behind Toledo, but hold the tie breaker by virtue of a 21-14 victory over the Rockets on Sept. 23.
On Saturday, Toledo pounded Ball State, 31-3, and completed its MAC West schedule with a division record of 4-1.
WMU's final regular season game versus Eastern Michigan, Saturday, Nov. 18, will decide the MAC West Division championship. If the Broncos win, they will claim their second straight division title and berth in the conference championship game. If the Broncos were to fall to EMU, Toledo would win the division, and the Broncos' remarkable 2000 season would be over.
Eastern Michigan (3-7 overall, 2-2 MAC West) has won only three games this season, but the Eagles are flying high on a two-game winning streak with victories over MAC West opponents Central Michigan, 31-15, and Northern Illinois, 39-32.
Next Saturday's contest with Eastern Michigan will be played in Waldo Stadium, where the Broncos are undefeated this season. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.
In other conference action on Saturday, Marshall clinched the MAC East title with a 51-31 victory over Miami.
Central Michigan 21 Western Michigan 17
At Central Michigan, Josh Bush returned a punt 73 yards to give Western Michigan its first lead of the afternoon, 17-14, with 10:31 remaining in the game. What happened after that was typical of the Broncos' Saturday in Mt. Pleasant.
The WMU defense, which has shut down the league's best offenses throughout the season, could not stop the Chippewas on a 14-play, 71-yard drive, which returned CMU to the lead, 21-17, with 4:40 remaining.
Down by four points, the Bronco offense drove the length of the field, primarily on the running of Robert Sanford, but could not get the ball in the end zone. With a first down at the CMU 19 yard line, the Broncos failed to convert on four attempts and turned the ball over on downs with an incomplete pass to the end zone.
Senior Robert Sanford is among eight semifinalists for the Doak Walker award, which has recognized the nation's top collegiate running back annually since 1990. He was outstanding again at Central Michigan with 183 yards rushing on 36 attempts, for an average of better than five yards per carry. He also scored the Broncos' lone offensive touchdown on a four-yard run in the second quarter.
Sanford surpassed 4,000 yards for his career. He has 1,363 yards and 17 touchdowns for the season.
Quarterback Jeff Welsh was 8-of-20 for 99 yards and had three passes intercepted. The leading receiver for WMU on Saturday was senior Steve Neal. He had four catches for 56 yards, including a clutch reception for a first down to keep the Broncos' final drive going.
1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final WMU Broncos 3 7 0 7 17 Central Michigan 14 0 0 7 21 Attendance: 26,249