Can WMU Pull the Upset on Pittsburgh Again?
The Western Michigan Broncos will host the Pittsburgh Panthers Saturday evening for its home opener in Waldo Stadium at 7:30 p.m. with eyes set repeating the upset from last year.
Behind the arm of Kaleb Eleby at quarterback, the Broncos stormed out to a 20-7 lead over the Panthers at the top of the second quarter before the game turned into a shootout between Eleby and future first-round pick Kenny Pickett. The second quarter saw five total touchdowns sparked by this one from wide receiver Skyy Moore who now catches his passes from Patrick Mahomes with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Thanks to Moore and Corey Crooms, Eleby threw for 387 yards in the contest and gave the broncos a 44-31 lead in the fourth quarter. Even with Pickett's sixth touchdown pass of the day, the Panthers couldn't complete the comeback. Despite hosting the Broncos as a 14.5-point favorite, the Panthers lost its first of three game in the 2021 campaign 44-41.
Fast forward to this Saturday, Eleby, Moore and Pickett are all out of the picture. Both teams are 1-1 on the season with tough losses to top-25 teams. The Panthers come into Kalamazoo as an 11-point favorite and a question mark at quarterback.
Reason number one WMU can repeat the upset: Pittsburgh's shaky quarterback situation. Last week in its loss to Tennessee, Pittsburgh's talented transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis suffered an upper-body injury. This Saturday he'll be a game-time decision according to head coach Pat Narduzzi. Senior quarterback Nick Patti relieved Slovis in the loss, completing nine of his 20 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.
The Broncos have allowed an average of 262 yards passing in each contest this year, so any assistance from the opposition would be a massive benefit for WMU. If Slovis can't play and Patti continues to struggle to complete passes, the Broncos' hgih-flying offense will have a chance to compete.
Reason number two WMU can repeat the upset: Corey Crooms can pick on safety Erick Hallett again.
Crooms caught eight passes for 161 yards and a score last year in Pittsburgh. He's already off to a great 2022 with 15 receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown this year.
Hallett isn't looking to be burned again, telling Sports Illustrated he and the Panthers are taking this return game personally. The Broncos will be looking to freshman quarterback Jack Salopek to repeat Eleby's success against Hallett by targeting Crooms early and often.
Just in time for those heading out to Waldo Stadium to catch the game, the city of Kalamazoo has announced the road work on Stadium Dr will be open in time for the traffic headed to the city, according to MLive and the Kalamazoo Gazette. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., tickets are still available, and the game will air on ESPNU.