Ohio, Western Michigan set for battle in MAC title game
Zach Terrell and Corey Davis wouldn't be such a dynamic duo unless they knew what it's like to be awful.
That's the way Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck looks at his senior quarterback and top wide receiver. The undefeated and 21st-ranked Broncos, who face Ohio for the Mid-American Conference championship at Detroit's Ford Field on Friday, were 1-11 just three years ago.
“These guys have used their failing as growth,” Fleck said. “They didn't look at the failing as failures and quit. They were both 1-11. They both understood the pressures they were under to get better. The greatest people and greatest leaders in the world have failed the most. I really believe that.”
Terrell and Davis have played magnificently during this dream season for Western Michigan, which will likely emerge from the Group of Five and earn a New Year's Six bowl berth with a victory. Terrell has completed 71.7 percent of his pass attempts with 30 touchdown passes and just one interception. His favorite target, Davis, has 83 receptions for 1,283 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Davis set the FBS career receiving yards record in the Broncos' 55-35 win over Toledo on Friday, which clinched the MAC West Division title. Davis enters the title game with 5,068 yards.
“There's a lot of meat left on the bone,” Terrell said. “There are a lot of things to accomplish that we've yet to accomplish. We're going to continue to work hard, both Corey and I, and we've got a lot left to do.”
The Broncos (12-0 overall, 8-0 conference) haven't been to the MAC championship game since 2000, when they were defeated by Marshall for the second straight season.
Fleck doesn't want his team to worry how the selection committee views his team.
“I can't control where we are in the polls,” he said. The Broncos are also ranked 13th in the AP Top 25 poll.
“We're not here to state a case. We're just here to play football. We're going to let our play talk for itself.”
Speculation is running rampant that Fleck will leave for a bigger program and he's made a point of addressing the rumors with his team.
“I believe they deserve to know what's going on, what the truth really is because they're my children, they're my kids,” he said. “That's the way I look at it.”
The Bobcats are also seeking their first MAC championship victory. They were defeated by Northern Illinois, 23-20, in their last trip to Ford Field in 2011 and are 0-3 overall in the title game.
Ohio (8-4, 6-2) won a tiebreaker over Miami (Ohio) to capture the East Division. The Bobcats have won four of their last five, including a 9-3 win over Akron on Nov. 22 to secure their berth.
Freshman Quinton Maxwell has taken over at quarterback during the second half of the season, completing 55.9 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Senior quarterback Greg Windham missed the last three games with a leg injury and his status for Friday's game is uncertain.
Junior Dorian Brown (794 yards, four TDs) and sophomore Maleek Irons (426 yards, five TDs) head the rushing attack.
Veteran coach Frank Solich realizes that few people give his team a chance to win.
“There's a circle of guys who think we will win the game and obviously that's our guys, our team and the people within our program, some of our fans obviously and some of their parents and friends. But we are the underdogs and rightfully so,” he said. “Western Michigan has played at a level where they are deserving of all the accolades that they're getting.”
After watching Western Michigan dismantle Toledo, Solich knows his team needs to play a near perfect game to win.
“What are they, a plus 18 on turnovers? It's a ridiculous number,” he said. “We're something like a plus five so there's a disparity there. We're going to have to take care of the ball, we cannot give them the ball. We cannot give them great field position time after time and somehow think that we're going to get it done. So we've got to get a few turnovers, we have to take great care of the ball, we've got to win the field position battle and go from there.”