Sep 4, 2021; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA;  Western Michigan Broncos head coach Tim Lester on the sideline in the first half against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Western Michigan coach Tim Lester (COVID-19) to miss Saturday game

Western Michigan coach Tim Lester will miss Saturday’s game against San Jose State after testing positive for COVID-19.

Lester, 44, said Tuesday that he was tested after feeling mild symptoms on Sunday — the day after a big 44-41 road win at Pitt.

“Thankfully, due to being fully vaccinated, I am feeling OK,” Lester said in a statement. “Our program has practiced, and will continue to practice athletic department safety guidelines and protocols.”

Lester, who is in his fifth year at Western Michigan, said he will be away from the team this week but will assist virtually in preparing for the Spartans. He did not announce who will fill in as head coach against San Jose State.

The Broncos (2-1) will play their Mid-American Conference opener at Buffalo on Oct. 2.

Lester quarterbacked the Broncos in the late 1990s.

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Jaylon Barden (10) makes a catch against Western Michigan Broncos safety Ryan Kilburg (rear) during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Western Michigan outlasts Pitt in 44-41 slugfest

Kaleb Eleby went 23-of-35 passing for 336 yards and three touchdowns to lead Western Michigan to a 44-41 win at Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Kenny Pickett was 23-of-31 passing for 382 yards and six touchdowns in defeat for Pitt, which scored a big road win last week at Tennessee.

The first half was a display of offensive fireworks, with the teams tied 27-27 at halftime.

Pitt (2-1) opened the scoring with 8:08 left in the first quarter on a 67-yard touchdown pass from Pickett to Jordan Addison.

Western Michigan then scored 20 unanswered points on a 1-yard touchdown run by Sean Tyler with 3:42 left in the first quarter, a 1-yard touchdown run by La’Darius Jefferson with 1:28 to go in the first quarter and a 30-yard touchdown pass from Eleby to Skyy Moore with 12:01 left in the second quarter.

The Panthers answered as Pickett threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Krull with 8:54 remaining in the second quarter and then found Addison for a 23-yard touchdown pass with 7:25 to go in the second to tie the game at 20.

Western Michigan (2-1) regained the lead at 27-20 on a 5-yard touchdown from Eleby to Tyler with 4:17 left in the second, but Pitt tied the game with 1:07 left until halftime on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Pickett to Addison.

The Broncos took a 34-27 lead with 7:31 left in the third quarter on a 54-yard touchdown pass from Eleby to Corey Crooms, but Pitt tied the game at 34 with 5:00 remaining in the third on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Pickett to Krull.

Western Michigan went back up 41-34 with 14:10 remaining in the game on a 3-yard touchdown run by Jefferson.

Western Michigan took a 44-34 lead with 5:37 left on a 29-yard field goal by Parker Sampson, but Pitt closed to within 44-41 on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Pickett to Jaylon Barden with 3:48 left.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) throws a touchdown pass against the Tennessee Volunteers during the second quarter at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt looks to avoid letdown vs. Western Michigan

Following a road win over an SEC opponent, the questions will be predictable for Pittsburgh headed into a home contest against Western Michigan on Saturday.

Will there be a letdown for the Panthers following an emotional 41-34 win at Tennessee?

That will be the million-dollar question for Pitt as it seeks a 3-0 start for a second consecutive year.

“I don’t see that as a problem,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “I think we have a mature football team. We won’t overlook anybody.”

As will be the case throughout the season, the Panthers relied mainly on senior quarterback Kenny Pickett in the win over Tennessee.

Pickett went 24-of-36 passing for 285 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 36 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries to lead Pitt’s offense.

The performance of Pickett, who is 57 yards shy of passing Dan Marino (8,597 from 1979-82) for second-place on the school’s list for most career passing yards, helped the Panthers overcome some special teams and defensive breakdowns to beat the Volunteers.

“It’s nice to have missed execution and W’s at the same time,” Narduzzi said. “That’s what we were able to get. We had some poor execution. You live and learn from it. That’ll be a focus this week.”

Next up for the Panthers is a Mid-American Conference opponent in Western Michigan, which is looking to fare better against its second FBS opponent of the season than it did in its first.

The Broncos (1-1) were walloped in a season opener at Michigan, giving up 551 total yards — including 335 rushing — in a 47-14 loss.

Western Michigan was better in its home opener against an FCS opponent, Illinois State, recording its first shutout since 2018 in a 28-0 win.

The Broncos can be a dangerous team on offense behind sophomore quarterback Kaleb Eleby (365 yards, two touchdowns) and junior running back La’Darius Jefferson (144 yards, three touchdowns on the ground).

“There are still some things we need to get better at,” Western Michigan head coach Tim Lester said. “Every time you play, it’s a great magnifying glass into what you need to work on. You just go back to work the next week.”

–Field Level Media

Michigan running back Blake Corum celebrates with teammates after his touchdown against Western Michigan during the first half in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021.Mich West

Blake Corum paces Michigan past Western Michigan

Blake Corum caught a touchdown pass and ran for another as Michigan opened its season with a 47-14 romp over visiting Western Michigan on Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Corum rushed 14 times for 111 yards and caught two passes for 22 yards.

Starting quarterback Cade McNamara completed 9 of 11 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns, including a 76-yard strike to Ronnie Bell.

Bell, however, was injured during a punt return in the second quarter and did not return.

Wide receiver A.J. Henning scored on a 74-yard run in the third quarter. Hassan Haskins added 70 yards rushing on 13 carries and a touchdown.

The Wolverines are now 8-0 in program history against the Broncos.

Kaleb Eleby completed 20 of 37 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown for Western Michigan.

Sean Tyler rushed for 55 yards on 10 carries in the loss.

Michigan grabbed a 27-7 halftime lead.

The Wolverines drove 75 yards on their opening possession. Haskins converted a 4th-and-1 with a 4-yard run before McNamara connected with Corum on a 14-yard scoring pass.

Elleby’s 29-yard pass to Jaylen Hall set up Western Michigan’s first-half touchdown, a 2-yard run by La’Darius Jefferson.

Corum returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards, setting up Jake Moody’s 37-yard field goal.

Bell had a one-handed sideline grab nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty early in the second quarter. On Michigan’s next possession, Bell beat one-on-one coverage on a 76-yard pass play. He caught the ball at the WMU 30-yard-line and raced untouched into the end zone.

On the play that Bell was injured, he made a 31-yard punt return to the Broncos’ 31-yard line. That set up Haskins’ 22-yard touchdown run up the middle.

Moody added a 20-yard field goal seconds before halftime.

Henning eluded two would-be tacklers on his 74-yard end around five minutes into the second half to make it 33-7.

Corum scored on a 30-yard run with just under 13 minutes remaining. JJ McCarthy’s 69-yard touchdown pass to Daylen Baldwin gave the Wolverines a 40-point lead with 7:57 left.

Corey Crooms caught a 27-yard pass from Eleby for the Broncos’ second touchdown.

–Field Level Media

Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara makes a pass against Penn State during the second half of Michigan's 27-17 loss at Michigan Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020.

Cade McNamara, Michigan tackle high-scoring neighbors

The University of Michigan opens its football season against a program with zero success against the Wolverines.

Following a miserable 2020 season, Michigan shuffles into a new season looking for a positive start.

The Wolverines have a 7-0 record against Western Michigan, with the most recent meeting in 2018. They’ll square off at Michigan’s Big House in Ann Arbor on Saturday.

Michigan finished last season with a 2-4 record and had its last three games canceled due to COVID-19 issues.

Sophomore Cade McNamara won a training camp competition for the starting quarterback job. McNamara appeared in four games last season, including a stellar relief effort against Rutgers when he threw for four scores and ran for another in a triple-overtime win.

“He’s ratcheted it up, really, in a lot of different areas,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “The biggest one is consistency. Consistency of doing his job. Also, call it a talent of really making everyone else around you better. Maybe that is the most important part of being a quarterback.”

The rushing attack is led by Hassan Haskins, who has gained 997 yards and scored 10 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Ronnie Bell and Cornelius Johnson are the top returning wide receivers.

Western Michigan’s offense will test a Michigan defense that struggled to get off the field against any opponent last season.

The Broncos finished 4-2 a year ago playing a Mid-American Conference schedule. Quarterback Kaleb Eleby threw for 1,715 yards and 18 touchdowns, while running back La’Darius Jefferson averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns.

“Offensively, they’re really good at what they do,” Harbaugh said. “They execute really well, at a high level. Quarterback Eleby, really fantastic. When you rank third in the country in pass efficiency, that’s playing really efficient, that’s playing really good football. La’Darius, a fine running back. All the running backs are really. They’re north-south guys, they hit holes fast.”

Western Michigan coach Tim Lester is wary of U-M defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and safety Dax Hill.

“They are an extremely talented team, big, fast and they have one of the best pass rushers in the country, projected to be a top-five pick, so you have to know where he’s at at all times,” Lester said. “They have a safety who in my opinion is one of the best I’ve seen. Obviously, they’re surrounded by a bunch of really good players, but those two I think are special, and so you have to keep an eye on those two and where they are on the field.”

–Field Level Media