Game 116: Toledo @ Western Michigan

In recent years, Toledo has been to the Middle American Conference as Michigan is to the Big Ten – a dominant, conference champion-grabbing machine. Western Michigan has enjoyed only one victory over the Rockets in the past twelve years. Both teams gathered in Kalamazoo on this chilly, atypical September evening carrying 0-1 records. With this matchup being a conference clash, neither team could afford to dig themselves deeper into the loss column. Already at week two, the Rockets and Broncos were in must-win situations.

The campus buildings, dorm rooms, and frat houses had emptied leaving Western Michigan a veritable wasteland. Everyone had gathered at Waldo Stadium. A flurry of activity buzzed around the old structure built into a hill. A colony of tents with tailgaters underneath flared up their grills and prepped for the conference and home opener. The realization that this game contained extreme importance for the Broncos became evident upon witnessing this exciting scene. Once settled in the stadium, the action began with both the Toledo and Western Michigan bands spicing up the atmosphere. Soon, both teams charged onto the field to rowdy cheers for the Broncos and cacophonous boos for the Rockets. The Middle American Conference season was ready to kick off.

Western Michigan got the scoring underway early taking a 7-0 advantage. Toledo rocketed back with ten unanswered points and held the lead at halftime. Fans were getting the sense that this scene was all too familiar. However, the Broncos showed a determination that would not disappoint. A two-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter recaptured the lead for the Broncos. Later in the third quarter, Toledo entered the red zone looking to go up again on Western Michigan when Londen Fryar intercepted a pass along the sidelines and returned it 92 yards for the third longest INT return in Bronco history. With the crowd suddenly rejuvenated and the Rockets appearing defeated, Western fans began to celebrate in their heads. Toledo could not recover from the damaging defensive play and Western nailed the game shut with a field goal and late fourth quarter touchdown ending the scoring at 31-10.

After the game, the Bronco band spilled onto the field and in front of the student section. They blasted the fight song while Bronco players danced in a huddle with their helmets raised high in victorious fashion. A row of fans waited outside the entrance tunnel where Western Michigan returned to the locker room. Players screamed, shouted, laughed, and cried. Fans hugged coaches and patted passing shoulder pads. The emotion invested in this rivalry had finally reaped rewards on this joyous night in Kalamazoo.

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