UMass heads to Kalamazoo to face Western Michigan
Western Michigan helmets on the sideline during an NCAA college football game against Minnesota, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia) Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — If rivalries are built on history, the University of Massachusetts football team and Western Michigan have the foundation for one with quite a few connections despite never having played before.
Among UMass coach Charley Molnar’s four stints as an assistant coach in the Mid-American Conference was a two-year (2003-04) stint coaching quarterbacks at WMU.
“I had a great experience there. I have great memories there,” said Molnar, who’ll be returning to Western for the first time since leaving. “I’ve moved on, but it was a very nice place to work.”
While he was there Molnar coached Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit’s son Ryan, a quarterback, as well as his own son Charley III. Ryan is now the quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator, a duty he shares with his father.
Bill Cubit was the assistant head coach/secondary coach at Central Florida when UMass offensive coordinator Mike Kruczek was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach there in 1985.
UMass safeties coach Ted Daisher played both ways for Western Michigan as a wide receiver and defensive back from 1975-77.
Western special teams coach Bobby Erhardt is a Westfield State alum and coached at UMass under Jim Reid and Mike Hodges in 1991 and 1992.
The following is a look at Western Michigan’s program and alumni:
BOWL HISTORY — The Broncos have been to five bowl games, including three since 2007. They lost to Purdue last year in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, 37-32.
NOTABLE FOOTBALL ALUMNI — Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings is the most prominent former Western Michigan player in the NFL. Detroit Lions tight end Tony Sheffler also attended the Kalamazoo school. Former Miami Dolphins standout John Offerdahl, a five-time pro bowler, also attended Western.
Actor Terry Crews, who was in the Expendables and Get Smart, and maybe most famously Old Spice commercials, played football for the Broncos and spent seven years in the NFL.
OTHER NOTABLE ATTENDEES — Not only did actor Tim Allen graduate from Western Michigan, but he made his most famous character, Tim “The Toolman” Taylor from the show Home Improvement, a WMU grad.
Loretta Long, who played Susan on Sesame Street and has a doctorate from UMass, got her undergraduate degree from Western Michigan.
Other noteworthy former students include comedian Stephen Lynch, ESPN’s John Saunders, musician Luther Vandross (didn’t graduate), baseball pitcher and author Jim Bouton and Detroit Tigers president and CEO Dave Dombrowski
Time & location: 2 p.m., Kalamazoo, Mich.
Records: UMass (0-5, 0-2 MAC); Western Michigan (2-3, 0-1)
Last week: UMass fell to Ohio, 37-34; WMU lost to Toledo, 37-17
All-time series: First meeting
TV/Internet: Broadcast is available at MAC-sports.com
Radio: WWEI-FM (105.5)
When Western Michigan has the ball: The Broncos struggled offensively last week without starting quarterback Alex Carder, who’ll miss his second straight game with a hand injury. Tyler Van Tubbergen struggled last week with three interceptions in the loss to Toledo at home.
UMass has interceptions in four of its five games this season. Forcing a turnover Saturday could significantly improve its upset chances and the Broncos are prone to giving one up with five fumbles and eight picks this season.
Freshman Jaime Wilson has been one of the nation’s top receivers. His 47 catches are fourth in the nation, while his 533 yards receiving are 11th. It’ll be worth noting to see if his production suffers without Carder.
UMass has struggled this season and especially the past two weeks at slowing down opponents’ rushing games, but the Minutemen could get a boost from the expected return of defensive lineman Galen Clemons. Running hasn’t been a forte for the Broncos, who are 11th in rushing at 127.6 yards per game. Dareyon Chance is their top rusher with 77 carries for 377 yards and two touchdowns.
When UMass has the ball: The Broncos’ defense is in the top half of the MAC in rushing (fourth, 153.0 yards allowed) and passing (sixth, 234.0). With their offensive question marks they’ll be relying on their defense to take some pressure off the offense.
Minuteman quarterback Mike Wegzyn is coming off his best game as a collegian, but the freshman could be under some pressure as WMU’s 13 sacks are second best in the MAC. Like UMass, Western has five interceptions.
The expected return of sophomore receiver Marken Michel could give Wegzyn another weapon alongside Deion Walker, who has thrived of late, and tight end Rob Blanchflower, who has been a favorite target on third-down plays.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.