To the surprise of nobody, Michigan marched over Western Michigan 35-12 last Saturday, led by four John Navarre touchdown passes, two of which were caught by sophomore wide receiver Braylon Edwards.
The Wolverines suffered no emotional letdown after their thrilling 31-29 victory over Washington, but they were still disappointed with their play at times.
“We didn’t play good enough to win a championship,” Defensive lineman Norman Heuer said. “Today we got the job done, but we have to come out next week with an improved effort and continue to do what we have been doing.”
In winning by 23 points, Michigan increased the defensive line pressure, but still gave up nearly 250 yards and two touchdowns passing.
“We had a lot of confidence,” Western Michigan wide receiver Greg Jennings said. “We knew we would be able to move the ball downfield, especially the first possession.”
But the Wolverines’ defense did more than enough to limit the Broncos’ scoring opportunities and the Michigan offense proved too potent for the Broncos. Michigan followed up its offensive success against Washington well, both in the running game and the passing game. The Wolverines pounded the Broncos on the ground for 220 yards with Chris Perry, David Underwood and Tim Bracken each rushing more than 10 times in the game.
This success helped set up play-action passes, leading to Michigan’s 226 yards in the air and Navarre’s four touchdowns, which tied a Michigan record.
Western Michigan has a “very difficult defense to run against, and very difficult to run outside. So you have to run north-south,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “You need to sustain some drives and keep their defense on the field.”
Perhaps the greatest sign of success in the game for the Michigan offense was the fact that Western Michigan knew what was coming but still could not stop it.
“I know that we couldn’t stop it,” Western Michigan coach Gary Darnell said. “I just felt like there were times that we pretty much knew what to expect and there wasn’t anything we could get done with it.”
The Wolverines again utilized their improved offense by spreading the ball around. Nine different receivers notched a reception, with Edwards and Tyrece Butler leading the way.
“This (offensive) system works – we’re getting guys the football,” Navarre said.
The tone of the game was set early after Western Michigan worked down the field easily, but came up short after Broncos’ kicker Robert Menchinger missed a 36-yard field goal.
Michigan took advantage of the disappointed Western Michigan defense by turning around and scoring a touchdown on a nine-play, 80-yard drive, finished by an eight-yard Bennie Joppru reception.
“When we took it down the first time and we when came off the field without any points, I thought it was a huge letdown at that particular point,” Darnell said.
Michigan further deflated the Broncos on its ensuing possession with another touchdown-scoring drive on 10 plays over 53 yards, which was highlighted 23-yard reception by Edwards – the first of many deep plays by the emerging star.
Michigan essentially put the game away in the second quarter by taking at 21-0 lead after a 57-yard drive was capped by Edwards’ first touchdown of the game – a 25-yard strike where Edwards beat the Broncos’ soft zone.
Michigan’s final two touchdowns proved that it was too strong and athletic for Western Michigan with a 14-yard pass to fullback B.J. Askew and a 39-yard reception by Edwards.
“On (Edwards’) second touchdown he showed his speed when he ran the ball down,” Carr said. “He is a big play receiver and he helps us a lot out there.”