Early football preview and predictions: Western Michigan
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, March 30, 2020
Opponent: Western Michigan
Date: Sept. 19
Location: Notre Dame Stadium
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
History of the Matchup
The Irish and Broncos have played each other on three occasions, and the Irish have been victorious in all of those games.
Two of the games occurred a century ago in 1919 and 1920 when the Irish were coached by Knute Rockne. At the time, Western Michigan was still known as Western State Normal School. The Irish claimed comfortable shutout victories in both games by scores of 53-0 and 42-0, respectively. The Rockne-led Irish went on to finish both seasons with a perfect 9-0 record.
More recently, the Irish hosted the Broncos 10 years ago at Notre Dame Stadium in Brian Kelly’s first year as Notre Dame head coach. In the 2010 matchup, the Irish started the game slow and the Broncos only trailed the Irish by 10 at half. The Irish ended up pulling away in the second half, however, and won the game comfortably by a score of 44-20. In that game, former Irish wide receiver Michael Floyd had three touchdowns and 157 receiving yards, though nearly half those yards came from an 80 yard touchdown pass from Dayne Crist at the first play from scrimmage.
The Broncos finished last season with a 7-6 record overall and a 5-3 record in the MAC, which was good for second in the MAC West Division. The Broncos played in the First Responder Bowl to end the season, where they lost to Western Kentucky by a score of 23-20.
Western Michigan were a run-heavy team last year and they were led by then-senior LeVante Bellamy, who had 266 carries and 1,472 yards on the ground in 2019. Bellamy also recorded 23 touchdowns, but is headed to the draft, so the Irish will not have to worry about him in 2020. Their lead back this year will likely be rising sophomore Sean Tyler, who had five touchdowns last year as a freshman.
The Broncos will also be without their 2019 starting quarterback, Jon Wassink, when they meet the Irish. Wassink threw for over 3,000 yards and rushed for over 300 as a senior. Wassink had 20 passing touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns and eight interceptions on the year.
Hayden Adams — Sports Editor
Coming from the MAC, Western Michigan is probably better than New Mexico or Bowling Green were last season, right? Who‘s to say when we’re still about six months out from this game. But with the Broncos losing both their leading rusher and passer from last season, it doesn’t really matter. They’re coming into the house that Rockne built and they aren’t leaving with a win, period.
I could see a slow start like the Irish had against New Mexico in 2019, and even though another Kyle Hamilton pick-6 on the Broncos’ opening possession to get the Irish going is unlikely, the bevy of Notre Dame receivers should have a field day, from Kevin Austin and Braden Lenzy to incoming freshmen Xavier Watts and Jordan Johnson. Backup quarterbacks Brendon Clark and Drew Pyne should also get some reps in, and the Irish will hopefully continue to establish a successful rushing attack, especially at the end of the game when they’re running out the clock.
FINAL: Notre Dame 62, Western Michigan 13
Jimmy Ward — Associate Sports Editor
It’s safe to say that this game should be a blowout. However, we did see the Irish get off to some slow starts in the first couple games of the season last year. Call it nervous jitters, call it whatever you want, but I think we will see more of the same in this game. Of course, both teams will likely be spending much more time away from the field than they would like, but when the Irish finally do return to Notre Dame Stadium, the pressure will be on. I expect the Broncos to hang in there through the first quarter or two and maybe even secure a lead in the process, but once the Irish get rolling in front of a home crowd in South Bend for the second week in a row, the nervous jitters will be all but gone and there will be no slowing them down. Irish take the win.
FINAL: Notre Dame 42, Western Michigan 14
Nate Moller — Sports Writer
I expect the Irish to breeze through this one. Typically the Irish have one or two sure wins on their schedule each year, and this is one of them. The Broncos will be young and inexperienced next year and they no longer have any players that former head coach P.J. Fleck recruited. I expect the Irish to dominate this game on both sides of the ball. Look for a couple of Ian Book passes to Braden Lenzy early on and some big runs from Jafar Armstrong. The Irish defense should be able to stop the Broncos’ offense in their tracks as well.
I could see the Irish coming out a bit sluggish in this one on the first possession or two, but I expect a comfortable double-digit lead by halftime. Look for the starters to come out midway through the third quarter after the Irish have built a three-touchdown lead. This game should be no problem for the Irish, and they will use their size and superior athleticism to rout the Broncos.
FINAL: Notre Dame 55, Western Michigan 10