When the Western Michigan University football team last took the field against the Purdue Boilermakers, the Broncos we're riding high.
That game took place on a brutally cold December day in 2011, when WMU played Purdue in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit. The Broncos took an early lead, but got sloppy right before halftime, falling behind 27-15 at the break. Thanks to a huge second half from quarterback Alex Carder, Western Michigan rallied back, but the damage was done, with Purdue prevailing 37-32.
Fast forward to this Saturday and WMU will try to get revenge against the Boilermakers, opening the 2014 season at Purdue. Both teams are in very different places at the start of this season than they were at the end of 2011, and yet they're eerily similar to each other. Western Michigan head coach Bill Cubit is gone, as is his counterpart at Purdue, Danny Hope. They've been replaced by young coaches, with impressive resumes, who have yet to deliver, which became painfully apparent when the Broncos and Boilermakers each went 1-11 last year. Western Michigan's only win was a 31-30 decision over UMass, while Purdue beat Indiana State 20-14.
Still, a new season is a chance for change. Western Michigan fields one of the nation's youngest teams, with 18 freshman earning spots on the two-deep roster. The Broncos also turn to a young quarterback, sophomore Zach Terrell, who was thrust into some unexpected action last year. As a freshman, the native of Fort Wayne, Ind., threw for 1,602 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games, earning six starts.
Purdue is in a similar boat, starting a sophomore at quarterback. Danny Etling will be taking the snaps, after seeing significant time in his rookie season. Last year, Etling played in eight games, passing for 1,690 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Broncos and Boilermakers will meet for the fourth time in history on Saturday for a 12 p.m. start. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU.