Western Michigan battled to the final gun, but in the end a string of three touchdown passes by Minnesota backup quarterback Max Shortell was enough for the Gophers as they edged out WMU 28-23.
Star quarterback MarQueis Gray was struggling to get much going when he left with an apparent ankle injury late in the second quarter, but the arrival of Shortell appeared to confuse a Bronco defense that was not prepared for an aerial attack. Receivers found holes in the WMU zone that had been successful against the running game in the first quarter, and Shortell racked up touchdown throws in his first three drives before the Broncos adjusted to a man defense for the remainder of the game.
The third scoring strike, a nine yarder to Drew Goodger, put the Gophers up 28-17 with 8:00 to play in the third quarter and the teams then traded failed drives until late in the game.
WMU was able to rally with a five play, 66 yard drive capped with a ten yard out to Jaime Wilson in the end zone with 4:40 to go in the game. The Broncos then held to give the offense a shot with under two minutes left and no timeouts. An Alex Carder completion to Josh Schaffer was wiped off the board by a procedure penalty, followed by a sack and incompletion. The threat ended with a completion to Wilson that fell just three yards short of a first down.
Wilson was the player of the game for WMU, finishing with ten catches for 117 yards and a score. Carder battled through an apparent leg injury and finished 24-of-44 for 209 yards with a touchdown and a pick.
Of note for the Broncos was the emergence of Dareyon Chance, who ran effectively all day and gained 144 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown.
Shortell's effectiveness was limited after WMU adjusted to primarily man coverage midway through the third quarter, but the damage was done as he finished with 188 yards and three touchdowns on 10-of-17 passing. Lewis Toler picked off one of his passes to end a threat in the final frame.
The Broncos will return home for three straight at Waldo Stadium starting next Saturday at 2:00pm against Connecticut. The MAC opener vs. Toledo takes place on Sept. 29, followed by the Homecoming game against Massachusetts.
BroncoBlitz.com will have more on the loss to the Gophers as well as the upcoming matchup with UConn as the week rolls on.