MTS-WMU Grades: Broncos’ run blocking leads team to victory

The top takeaways and highest-graded players from Western Michigan’s 45-31 win over Middle Tennessee in the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl.

| 12 months ago
(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

MTS-WMU Grades: Broncos’ run blocking leads team to victory


Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from Western Michigan’s 45-31 win over Middle Tennessee in the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

-It was a tough finish to a relatively strong season for freshman QB Brent Stockstill (-3.9). His day was a mix of very good and very bad looking throws. He forced a lot of passes, and aside from his one essentially game-sealing interception, had two other throws that were bad and should have been picked off. Stockstill especially struggled when faced with a blitz, where he finished with just a 45.5 percent completion percentage and only 2.8 yards per attempt (compared to 75 percent and 10.6 YPA when not blitzed). Still though, the potential was clear with some of the throws he made, such as going 3-for-7 for 121 yards and two touchdowns on passes of over 20 yards in the air. If Stockstill can cut out the poor decisions and bad throws going forward, then the Blue Raiders’ quarterback position should be set for the next couple of years.

-S Kevin Byard, widely seen as one of the better safeties in this year’s draft class, finished his Blue Raiders’ career on a mostly positive note. In coverage he had a beautiful pass breakup, but was also beaten when he tried to jump a pass and failed, resulting in a huge touchdown for Western Michigan. Still, he also made three tackles and finished with a positive run defense grade. On the season Byard finished with a +14.2 overall grade thanks to his solid pass coverage (+8.8) and run defense (+5.4).

-One player who has made a name for himself this season is WR Richie James (+3.2), finishing the regular season as our seventh-highest graded wide receiver in the entire NCAA. Yesterday he was the biggest highlight for the Blue Raiders’ offense, catching eight of a possible 12 balls for 126 yards and two touchdowns. He gained 61 of those yards after the catch, and forced two missed tackles. James finishes the season with an average of 3.32 yards per route run, which currently sits comfortably in seventh among all NCAA receivers. With Stockstill throwing to James for the next few seasons at least, the future looks bright for this Middle Tennessee offense.

Top Performers:

WR Richie James (+3.2)
T Chandler Brewer (+3.2)
G Daniel Stephens (+1.4)
OLB Steven Rhodes (+1.4)
WR Ed’Marques Batties (+1.1)

Western Michigan Broncos

– QB Zach Terrell (-2.6), our 11th highest-graded quarterback during the regular season, ended his season on a bit of a down note. With the offense having such success running the football, he wasn’t asked to make too many plays. He only threw two passes over 20 yards downfield, completing one for 41 yards. He was lucky to be throwing to receivers like Corey Davis (+3.1) and Daniel Braverman (+1.1), who caught 8-of-10 for 183 yards and a touchdown and 5-of-8 for 101 yards and a touchdown, respectively. Davis was especially good, forcing two missed tackles and gaining 90 yards after the catch. Terrell simply put the ball in the hands of his playmakers, but didn’t do much more than that. All three will return next year, which gives plenty of reason to be excited for this Broncos’ offense next season.

– It was another good day for CB Darius Phillips (+2.8), who has been the Broncos’ best cover corner this season. Phillips was only targeted four times and allowed three receptions for 42 yards. The incompletion was a beautiful pass breakup. On the season Phillips was targeted a ton (87 targets, seventh-most in the NCAA) but only allowed 38 receptions (43.7 percent completion rate). He also had four interceptions and 11 passes defended on the year, both of which were top twenty marks among all NCAA players.

– Many people will talk about what a game freshman RB Jamauri Bogan (+1.6) had, finishing with 212 yards rushing on just 18 attempts and four touchdowns. But the lack of high grade is mostly due to just how well his offensive line played in front of him. As a unit, the offensive line plus starting TE Donnie Ernsberger (+7.2) combined for a +15.6 run block grade on the day, led by Ernsberger (+7.1 run block) and T Chukwuma Okorafor (+4.1 run block). For more proof, consider that Bogan only needed to force two missed tackles, and gained a mere 24 yards after contact. That means that 188 of his rushing yards were before he was even touched by a defender. Bogan will get the glory, but this offensive line played an incredible game that allowed him to finish with such huge numbers.

Top Performers:

TE Donnie Ernsberger (+7.2)
T Chukwuma Okorafor (+4.2)
DE Keion Adams (+3.2)
WR Corey Davis (+3.1)
CB Darius Phillips (+2.8)

| Analyst

Bryson has been an analyst at Pro Football Focus since 2014, and has also been a contributor to 120 Sports.

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