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October 26, 2013

Fleck, Broncos get first win in back-and-forth affair

Nothing is going to come easy for this Western Michigan football team.

When Zach Terrell looked down the barrel of an all-out UMass blitz and found Corey Davis on a slant for a 54 yard touchdown with 4:59 to play, it felt like a load off for the Broncos. But UMass would not go quietly.

Davis' catch and sprint put WMU up 31-24. But the Minutemen (1-7, 1-3 Mid-American Conference) marched right back down the field in 13 plays, covering 68 yards in 4:33 to apparently force overtime.

Instead, head coach Charley Molnar took a major gamble, going for a two-point conversion. A.J. Doyle overthrew an open man in the back of the end zone on the attempt, sealing the win for WMU (1-8, 1-4 MAC).

Both offenses were surprisingly effective all day, with WMU outgaining UMass 394-332 when all was said and done. Redshirt freshman Zach Terrell compiled 275 of those yards on 23-of-36 passing, and added four touchdowns with no interceptions.

Again, though, it wasn't easy. It looked like déjà vu all over again for WMU fans when UMass' Khary Bailey-Smith took the opening kickoff 90 yards for a score, and UMass used the momentum to jump out to a 14-3 first quarter lead.

WMU would not go away, though, and finally took their first lead at 24-21 on the opening second half drive when Corey Davis grabbed a 14-yarder from Terrell for one of his two receiving touchdowns on the day.

Davis ended the day with ten catches for 154 yards.

UMass was led by quarterback A.J. Doyle with 194 yards and a touchdown, along with tight end Rob Blanchflower's career-high 131 yards on seven catches and a score. Blanchflower also came up with multiple huge third down conversions, including a second-effort on UMass' final drive to keep their hopes alive.

WMU coach P.J. Fleck rolled the dice a number of times, as WMU finished 3-for-5 on fourth down. That includes failed fakes on one field goal and one punt, including a particularly questionable fake punt in the third quarter from the WMU 38 with a chance to flip field position.

There will be a time to question those decisions, though. Right now, players, coaches and fans will enjoy a very relieving win heading into a much-needed bye week.

WMU will take the extra week to prepare for an upcoming trip to Ypsilanti to take on Eastern Michigan (1-7, 0-4 MAC) on Nov. 9.

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