KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Western Michigan football program is coming off of a 4-2 finish to the shortened COVID season in 2020 after a heartbreaking loss on the road at Ball State in the final game of the regular season that would have sent the Broncos to the Mid-American Conference championship game.
"We had a lead, we missed we had a couple snap issues, we missed a field goal from the nine-yard line in the fourth quarter, the last play we didn't execute as well as we should have," head coach Tim Lester said.
And Lester's expectations for the group returning are high in the 2021 season.
"We have a lot of veterans coming back and they have a chip on their shoulder and that's a fun team to coach," he added, "it's a talented that has been there that knows how to get there, but is eager to to right some wrongs and hopefully get over the top."
Sophomore quarterback Kaleb Eleby returns this fall after bursting onto the scene in his first year of starting, finishing third in the entire FBS in passer rating, finishing only behind first round NFL draft picks, Mac Jones (Alabama) and Zach Wilson (BYU).
"I want him to lead our team," Lester explained, "I didn't ask him to do too much as a quarterback [last season], I mean there's some games that the quarterback is going to need to go win the game because I mean it's part of the position. You don't want to do that in the first quarter of every single game saying hey, you need to go win and you want to give him support and you want to run the ball, you want to give him some play action some easy completions."
The Broncos are picked to finish third in the MAC West in the preseason poll but Lester is hoping small improvements can get them over the top.
"I think defensively we need to be better in the redzone," he added, "that was probably the one stat that I think were top 10 in the country and tackles for losses which is a great stat and important stat but not when you give up big plays. We gave him too many big plays."
And Lester doesn't hold back with the way he coaches his roster.
"I think everyone knows the issues and we're very honest with them, that's how I coach, like here's the deal, this is where we're at and this is where we have to get better."
The Broncos will open the season on September 4th on the road at The Big House in Ann Arbor against Michigan with a full crowd of over 110,000 fans.
"To open up against opponent like Michigan with the players they have in their tradition they have, obviously the venue they have is great and it's a great thing for us," said Lester.
More importantly, Coach Lester says he's ready for fans to return to Waldo Stadium this fall.
"Our Toledo game last year, at least the last 47 seconds of it was about as exciting of a game as I've ever been a part of but nobody was there to see it, imagine if Waldo Stadium was packed," he added, "we're excited to hopefully have that back."