MITCH STACY, AP Sports Writer
Western Michigan started getting some respect beyond the Mid-American Conference when it slipped past a Big Ten team to start the season, then thumped another one two weeks later. On Monday the AP Top 25 poll voters took notice of the Broncos and slotted them at No. 24 — the first national ranking in school history.
Hardly a perennial MAC power, Western Michigan is 6-0 for the first time since 1941, including a takedown of Northwestern 22-21 in the opener and a 34-10 win over Illinois on Sept. 17.
The Broncos continue their potential dream season when they travel to play Akron (4-2, 2-0 MAC) on Saturday.
“This is what we wanted as a community,” coach P.J. Fleck said. “It’s wonderful for Western Michigan University, it’s wonderful for Kalamazoo, our student body and our players. They deserve all the credit in the world.”
Two of Western Michigan’s stars, quarterback Zach Terrell and receiver Corey Davis, started as freshmen together on a 1-11 team in 2013.
Davis broke the school record last week with his 40th touchdown catch, surpassing the mark set by former Green Bay Packer Greg Jennings. He finished the 45-30 win over Northern Illinois with six catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns — including a terrific one-handed grab of a Terrell end zone pass that was the top play of the day on ESPN. He’s got 36 receptions for 589 yards, and his eight touchdowns is second in the FBS.
Western Michigan has established a website to promote Davis’ candidacy for the Heisman Trophy, with Fleck saying, “it’s our obligation to make sure the nation knows.”
Terrell has been almost as good, with a 71 percent completion rate (4th in the nation), 15 touchdowns and a QB rating of 188.2 (3rd in the nation). A pair of running backs — Jamauri Bogan and Jarvion Franklin — have split the majority of the carries, each surpassing the 500-yard mark and scoring five touchdowns apiece.
“Their athletes are at the top level of this conference,” Akron coach Terry Bowden said. “They’ve got stars at every position, they play with great confidence and great talent. I don’t see any weaknesses on their football team.”
With all the attention, of course, comes talk that the 35-year-old Fleck — the youngest head coach in the FBS — could be a candidate for one of the Power Five coaching jobs expected to open up after the season.
AKRON’S SUPER SUB: Akron quarterback Tra’Von Chapman stepped in for injured starter Thomas Woodson for the second straight week last Saturday and did a little bit of everything in the win over Miami (Ohio). The junior was 15 for 29 passing for 174 yards and three touchdowns, and picked up another 80 yards running the ball. The offense managed just 299 yards but kept Miami in check, despite being without its two starting defensive ends. Bowden said the defensive effort was the best of the year so far.
THAT GUY LOOKS FAMILIAR: Akron’s No. 1 running back to start the season was Warren Ball, who played three seasons at Ohio State and is using his final year of eligibility at the MAC school. Ball, a former four-star prospect from Columbus, rushed for 189 yards on 41 attempts for the Buckeyes, but was overshadowed by Carlos Hyde and then Ezekiel Elliott. He graduated from OSU and enrolled at Akron as a grad student so he could play for the Zips. He played in the first two games, picking up 181 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, but has not played in the last four because of an unspecified injury. He is one of 21 transfers on the Akron roster.
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