KALAMAZOO, MI – The first win over a Power 5 opponent since 2016 gave Western Michigan’s football program a good boost, but the most important part of the season kicks off on Saturday when the Broncos visit Buffalo for their Mid-American Conference opener.
Head coach Tim Lester will be back on the sidelines after a 10-day absence due to a positive COVID-19 test, but WMU will be without a key player for the remainder of the season, the fifth-year coach of the Broncos announced Wednesday.
Cornerback DaShon Bussell sustained a shoulder injury during their Week 2 win against Illinois State and will have surgery on Thursday at the end of the season.
“Bussell’s shoulder is beyond repair, so he’ll have an operation tomorrow so he’ll be out for the rest,” Lester said of the sophomore red shirt. âHe tried to come back, the shoulder just wouldn’t agree with him; it wouldn’t stay in place even though he tried, man. We had it attached and taped off and all we could do to keep the thing in and it wouldn’t stay in, so bus has an operation. “
After missing the 23-3 win against San Jose last week due to injury, the conference defenders Bricen Garner and AJ Thomas are in doubt about Saturday’s kick-off in Buffalo. Lester plans to take them on the trip and see how they feel warm up during foreplay.
Even without the three starters last week, the Broncos secondary allowed only 59 yards on 9 of 26 passes with an interception from linebacker Ryan Selig, who was back in the line-up after a two week injury.
Dorian Jackson, a 5-foot-10 junior transfer from St. Francis of the Football Championship subdivision, has started on Bussell’s cornerback course for the past two weeks and has eight tackles (1 for loss), one interception, and four Passports.
“We brought Dorian Jackson in for that very reason and we felt we had three to four starting corners at the beginning of the year, and that’s why they are recruited,” said Lester. âDorian has done a great job since he’s been there; I am very confident and I am sorry for Bussell but he will be back.
âAnd then the other two (Garner and Thomas) are game decisions. It was great to get Blessed back. I thought it was fun to see him out there again; he’s got a ball so I hope AJ and Bricen. You’re about to turn the corner and you’re in shape and know what we’re doing. Hopefully we’ll find out where they are after the warm-up. “
Lester will be returning to the team on Thursday morning after his quarantine period, which included remote meetings, breaking open Buffalo’s film and fast pace on Saturday, when he was banned from communicating with his team an hour before kick-off until the end of the game .
âOn an average day during COVID in my basement, I walk around 1,500 to 2,000 steps, which is not a lot, because in meetings I virtually lie on the couch for most of the day. Saturday I had 12,000 steps from one side of my basement to the other side of my basement, âLester said.
âI had my game plan in front of me so I knew what we were doing; I knew what many of the calls were; I had some opinions on some of the things that I wanted to do aggressively and change, but I couldn’t really pass them on to our boys because it was against the rules, âhe added. âSo, I think that was the most frustrating part that I really enjoy – I think everyone enjoys the adjustments that you can make at halftime, seeing things and putting our guys in good positions, and I’ve had some adjustments I wanted that I couldn’t do that.
âI am happy to be part of the conversation again and to be able to help at least offensively to make some adjustments, because we always know that our plan will now also hold up against the enemy. You will have adaptations and we will have to adapt better than anyone else.
âOf course it was hopefully a one-off thing that I don’t have to get used to, but it was definitely a different game day for me and I was proud of the guys for participating and controlling the clock, controlling the ball and the more physical of the two teams.
âThis bunch on the line of scrimmage – it’s moving – and I thought we won that on both sides of the ball, and that was really difficult because their D-line is huge – massive – and we were physical and we controlled them Clock. I would like to get more points; The offense knows that and we have to get back to work on this side of the ball. “
Between the 44-41 win over Pitt in Week 3 and last week’s win over San Jose State, WMU’s offense nearly doubled their opponents’ ball possession time, which helped keep the Broncos defense fresh, but Lester said he would like his team to play better in the redzone and avoid negligent penalties.
“Every time you don’t turn the ball and hold it for 37 minutes, you have a chance to win,” he said of the game at San Jose State. âNow being able to finish rides is a big deal, so we have to do a better job. We missed some reads, we missed some protections, and it seemed like Saturday came at important times. There was a third deficit in the red zone a couple of times and then penalty shoot-outs – we have to be more disciplined. We can’t step offside and get calls on hold, so I thought we were really sloppy on the offensive. “
A 15 mph wind blowing from one end zone to the other at Waldo Stadium last week certainly didn’t help either attack, but the Broncos running game produced 147 yards and a touchdown at 43 carries was just enough to close the chains move and make it seem to lose the WMU game.
Lester credited center Mike Caliendo – a Campbell Trophy semi-finalist also known as Academic Heisman – for leading the blockade of the Broncos against a San Jose state defense that runs on several different fronts.
âI thought Mike Caliendo did a phenomenal job orchestrating the 10 different fronts we saw and getting us into the game pretty well – I mean, you don’t run the ball like us without a guy up front who’s pretty clever against the front like that, âLester said. âI thought we didn’t start the ball game that well, and later I think we just missed a few throws and took a few bags that we didn’t have to take.
âIt’s great to learn when you win. (Quarterback) Kaleb (Eleby) has a lot to learn from this game, as does the offense as a whole. I love when there is a lot that can be improved and we talk about how we won because we controlled the line of scrimmage and we took care of the ball. Those are the two things that have to happen if we are going to win, especially a street MAC game; that this must go on. We also have to be more efficient at passing, and I’m proud of that. I wasn’t quite there to be a part of it and I look forward to coming back and being a part of it again. “
Lester’s return to campus begins with meeting his team’s leadership council on Thursday at 7:20 a.m., and after a few days with no COVID-19 symptoms, he looks forward to seeing the players and bringing Kalamazoo’s most famous breakfast pastries.
“My first assignment is right out of Sweetwaters, right for the leadership board meeting before our team meeting at 7:50 am, so I can’t wait,” he said. âIt took me a while to get well, but about two days ago I was back – like the energy was back, like I was going to leave – so it’s been like a caged animal ever since and so I’m looking forward to going back and see the boys face to face. “
Dominant defense leads Western Michigan Football to a 23-3 win over San Jose State
Hundreds of high school musicians join Western’s Bronco Marching Band on the field at Waldo Stadium
Photos of Western Michigan University’s win over San Jose State
WMU soccer DC Lou Esposito takes on the head coach duty for the game in San Jose state amid Tim Lester’s COVID absence
Western’s real mascot Triumph leads the charges for Broncos with a new driver
WMU soccer coach Tim Lester misses San Jose State’s game after testing positive for COVID-19