WMU's Davis closes in on receiving record
Corey Davis doesn't often get to operate in the limelight, but he will be on the national television stage Tuesday, a day in which most Americans head to the polls.
Best Receiver in the Nation isn't on the ballot, but the Western Michigan star's name would certainly be listed if that category was up for voting.
Davis is 210 yards away from becoming the FBS career leader in receiving yards, and the Broncos look to remain unbeaten when they visit Kent State in Mid-American Conference play (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
Davis has helped put Western Michigan (9-0, 5-0 MAC) in position to record 10 victories in a season for the first time in school history. The Broncos are one of five remaining unbeaten teams and are 14th in this week's Associated Press poll.
Davis is coming off a huge performance in which he caught 12 passes for a school-record 272 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-20 rout of Ball State last Tuesday in a nationally televised game. Broncos coach P.J. Fleck chided him for a couple of drops and said the performance could have better.
“He left a lot of meat on the bone as well,” Fleck said. “He could have had 340 or 350 yards.”
Still, Davis is a near-certainty to overtake Nevada's Trevor Insley (5,005 receiving yards from 1996-99) as the all-time leader with three regular-season games, the MAC title game and a bowl game left on Western Michigan's docket.
He leads the nation with 14 touchdown receptions, and his 47 career receiving scores are tied for the MAC record. He has caught 61 passes for 1,011 yards this season.
Kent State (3-6, 2-3) is allowing 204.8 passing yards per game and will be aiming to slow Davis and a Western Michigan offense that ranks fifth nationally in scoring at 45.2 points per game.
Each of the Golden Flashes' three MAC losses came by four points. A major issue for Kent State has been the inability to hold on to fourth-quarter leads.
“You think about where you could be,” Kent State coach Paul Haynes said. “It's nothing to hang your head on. We are where we are. It's just making sure that we finish the right way.”
Kent State will be without a key defensive player, as senior free safety Nate Holley was suspended indefinitely after getting arraigned on a felony kidnapping charge. Holley has 111 tackles and ranks second nationally in tackles per game (12.3).
The Golden Flashes' defense will have to rely more on senior outside linebacker Terence Waugh, a stellar pass rusher who has eight sacks.
“Kent State has one of the best defenses we face all year,” Fleck said. “We have to be way better than we ever have. We've got a lot of things to clean up, on all three phases.”
On offense, Kent State will be hard-matched to keep up with the Broncos if lots of points are being put on the board.
Junior Nick Holley, the twin brother of Nate, was moved to quarterback after a flurry of early-season injuries. The former running back has passed for 668 yards and three touchdowns against two interceptions while rushing for 775 yards and nine scores.
Only one player has more than 200 receiving yards for Kent State, true freshman running back Justin Rankin with 301.
Western Michigan's edge in firepower runs deeper than the electrifying Davis. Senior quarterback Zach Terrell and junior running back Jarvion Franklin are also enjoying big campaigns.
Terrell has 2,362 passing yards and 23 touchdowns and with just one interception. He ranks third in MAC history in passing yardage (10,933) and ninth with 86 touchdown passes.
Franklin ranks fifth in Western Michigan history with 3,306 rushing yards, and his 38 rushing scores are one behind school record-holder Jerome Persell (1976-78). He has rushed for 1,018 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
Junior weak-side linebacker Robert Spillane leads the Broncos with 79 tackles for a unit allowing 19.3 points per game. Senior defensive end Keion Adams has a team-leading 5.5 sacks.
Western Michigan, which leads the series 33-20-1, is entering uncharted territory as it seeks its first-ever double-digit campaign. Fleck and the players insist that they aren't feeling any pressure.
“We just worry about the next game,” junior tight end Donnie Ernsberger said. “The target does become bigger. We embrace it. We face the facts and go in there and prepare for the next team.”