WMU News

Exceptional season ends with championship performance

Dec. 3, 1999

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Western Michigan, champions of the MAC West Division, gave 12th-ranked Marshall everything it could handle in a 34-30 Bronco setback in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game, Dec. 3, in Huntington, W.Va.

WMU stunned Marshall and the largely partisan home crowd of 28,069 by marching the length of the field for an early 7-0 lead. Tim Lester completed a 16-yard end-zone strike to Corey Alston for the score. Marshall was held scoreless on their opening possession for only the second time this season. (The other was versus WMU in Kalamazoo.) Brad Selent added the first of three field goals for a 10-0 lead at the end of one quarter.

Robert Sanford scored on a one-yard run in the second quarter, Selent added a 32-yard field goal as time expired, and the Broncos led 20-0 at the half. WMU built a 23-0 lead early in the third quarter before Marshall exploded for 27 unanswered points. Twenty of those points came on three touchdowns scored in the final six minutes of the third quarter.

Western Michigan regained the lead at 30-27 on a 10-play drive that concluded with a Tim Lester to Jake Moreland TD strike of four yards.

Marshall (12-0 overall) responded by marching the ball 74 yards, scoring the deciding touchdown with four seconds left on a one-yard pass. The victory kept the Herd's national-best winning streak alive at 16 games.

"Our players stood tall and proud, and did everything that could be expected of them," said WMU coach Gary Darnell afterwards.

Junior Robert Sanford rushed for 163 yards on 32 carries. Steve Neil caught eight passes for 105 yards. Tight end Jake Moreland had seven receptions for 56 yards and one touchdown. His blocking was key to the Bronco rushing success in the championship. Tim Lester completed 27 of 41 passes for 282 yards. He had two touchdown passes and two interceptions. (One was a meaningless INT on a "Hail Mary" desperation pass on the final play of the game.)

The Broncos finished the 1999 campaign with a 7-5 overall record. They were 6-2 in MAC regular-season competition.

Eight Broncos selected to All-MAC teams

WMU placed eight players on 1999 All-MAC teams, the second most selections among the 13 teams in the Mid-American Conference. Wide receiver Steve Neal and linebacker Scott Niles were named to the All-MAC First Team, while quarterback Tim Lester, tight end Jake Moreland, offensive tackle Charlie Knapp and running back Robert Sanford received second team honors. Corner back Ronald Rogers and defensive lineman Jeremy Johnson earned honorable mention status.

Media contact: Daniel Jankowski, 616 387-4122; daniel.jankowski@wmich.edu

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