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September 21, 2013

Broncos suffer total breakdown in blowout at Iowa

When Mid-American Conference teams go on the road to BCS venues and come away with a loss, as is usually the case, it's natural to look for positives in the performance.

That's going to be a tall order this week following a 59-3 setback to Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.

For the first time in 2013, Western Michigan seemed out of a game before it really even got going today. Name an aspect of a football game, and the Broncos did not perform.

Offensively, there were times when WMU (0-4) made plays, but couldn't consistently move the chains and when they did, they turned the ball over.

WMU's defense suffered multiple breakdowns and despite forcing a couple of turnovers of their own, were outmanned and physically dominated at the line of scrimmage.

Special teams were perhaps the biggest nightmare of all. J. Schroeder looked somewhat better and Andrew Haldeman remained perfect on field goals for the year, but kickoff and punt coverage was atrocious as Kevante Martin-Manley took two punts back for touchdowns for the Hawkeyes (3-1), who led 38-3 at the halfway mark.

It's simply hard to find anything to like about this performance.

By the 10:46 mark of the second quarter, WMU found itself down 24-0 after Martin-Manley took back-to-back punts to the house from 83 and 63 yards out, respectively.

Any momentum that was gained from the ensuing drive (ending in a 23 yard field goal from Haldeman) was lost when Iowa responded with a 7 play, 65 yard drive capped by a Mark Weisman touchdown run. The cherry on top came on a 35 yard interception return for six from B.J. Lowery, giving the Hawkeyes their 35 point halftime cushion.

Tyler Van Tubbergen was replaced by redshirt freshman Zach Terrell in the second half. Van Tubbergen finished 14-of-32 for 114 yards and two interception. Terrell was also picked once, for a touchdown, and fumbled while throwing for 21 yards.

Iowa outgained WMU on the day 446-209.

Even in the home loss to FCS Nicholls, there were certain aspects of the game that could be built on as positives, though the loss was overall harder to take. Today, you have to think WMU just wants to be done with this week and the long bus ride home from Iowa City.

What will be tested, again, is this coaching staff's ability to make this team forget the past. There are reasons to think they might; WMU's effort last week at Northwestern didn't look like a team demoralized by an embarrassing loss to a lower-division team. But then, they didn't lose by more than 50.

There certainly can't be a full judgment on a coach's tenure based on his first four games, and we won't attempt to make one. What we'll find out about his his mettle, and his ability to coach through adversity. Of course, that's what his "Row the Boat" mantra is all about.

For now, the Broncos will try to forget that this game ever happened.

WMU gets back in action next Saturday, opening MAC play at 7pm against Kent State.

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