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April 7, 2012

Tables turn in second scrimmage

As opposed to Western Michigan's first spring scrimmage where the defense took center stage, Saturday's affair was a time for the offense to show off. Maybe it was the beautiful spring morning as opposed to last week's blustery conditions, but whatever the reason, while the passing game clicked, the running game was perhaps the single most impressive aspect for the Broncos.

Brian Fields and Dareyon Chance were the stars for the WMU rushing attack, as Fields led the way with 124 yards on 14 carries and Chance added 109 yards on 9 attempts including a 50 yard run as he busted through the right side of the line on a zone read play. Chance has been a revelation this spring, taking advantage of increased reps with Tevin Drake sidelined with a leg injury.

"Whatever Coach tells me to do, I try to do it to the best of my ability," Chance said. "I'm not necessarily feeding off the injuries, but you do have to take advantage of what's in front of you, so that's just my main focus right now."

The Broncos totaled 284 yards on 39 carries on the morning, with the offensive line opening up particularly large holes on read option plays. While that is encouraging for an offense that sometimes lacked a running threat last season, there is some concern for the defense, which struggled with that particular play at times over the course of the year.

Western Michigan's passing game was improved, with Alex Carder, Tyler Van Tubbergen and the receivers mainly focusing on eliminating the mental errors that sometimes plagued the unit last Saturday. While the explosiveness was not quite at the level WMU fans have come to expect, Carder managed a 15-for-20 line for 124 yards and a 13 yard touchdown to Eric Monette on a fade to the left corner of the end zone. Van Tubbergen added 75 yards on 12-for-19 passing. Monette led all receivers with 65 yards on seven catches, while Timmy Keith added five for 32 yards and Courtney Bynes grabbed three passes for 25 yards. Kendrick Roberts continues to sit with a groin pull and is unlikely to return for next week's Brown and Gold game for precautionary reasons.

Alex Carder was happy with how Western Michigan cut down on mistakes in the scrimmage, and talked about his leadership role within the younger offense.

"I think we played on their side of the ball a lot more, and that's one of the things we really wanted to work on and change from last week," Carder said. "I kind of find I have to be more of a teacher. I feel like we have to communicate more than last year, because last year they pretty much knew everything."

WMU head football coach Bill Cubit was not too surprised by the way the scrimmage went, saying that the offense being behind in the first scrimmage but rebounding in the second is a normal pattern. Next up for the Broncos is the annual Brown and Gold spring game, which Cubit previewed following Saturday's scrimmage.

"Just keeping it simple, and keeping a clean game, you don't want anyone hurt doing something foolish out there," Cubit said. "To me it's just kind of a day at the end where we all get together as Broncos. Let's just go out there and play, and support, and rally the troops to get the Bronco Nation 100 percent behind us."

Other notes from Saturday's scrimmage:

- The kicking game is shaking out somewhat, as Andrew Haldeman is now getting a large majority of the reps as placekicker. He will have further competition in the fall from incoming Vicksburg preferred walk-on Jesse Boulnemour among others, but he should be the favorite heading into the summer.

- One of the most impressive plays of the day came from the third team offense, a 50 yard strike down the sideline from Zack Wynn to walk-on wide receiver Jack Stevens.

- For the second straight weekend, numerous recruits came out to visit WMU and talk with coaches. Three star offensive lineman Nate Jeppesen of Portage Central and promising defensive end prospect John Stepec of Mentor, Ohio were among the visitors.

- Wide receiver Josh Schaffer's separated shoulder has been evaluated, and while he will be held out of the remainder of spring practice, the injury is not serious.

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