KALAMAZOO, Mich. — It's nearly impossible to describe Western Michigan's comeback victory on Wednesday night without using the word 'miracle'.
The Broncos trailed throughout the second half, including by ten points with just over a minute left before quarterback Kaleb Eleby scored from one-yard out, the Broncos then recovered Thiago Kapps' onside kick and capped the game with a game-winning fake spike from Eleby to Jaylen Hall.
"I think it's a big win," head coach Tim Lester said after the game, "I think they're all big. The way we won I think is the special part and the way they fought and the way we didn't play our best game and still found a way to win, that says a lot about a team."
The Broncos would overcome nine penalties for 102 yards, including several personal foul penalties. Coach Lester knows his team must improve in that area moving forward.
"We put too many obstacles in front of ourselves and we have to be better," Lester explained, "I'm really upset with some of the things that we did, we have to get that fixed."
Of course, that can all take a backseat after the victory at least for the time being after the Broncos found a way to overcome the ten point deficit in the final 61 seconds of the game.
"I think that's the definition of this team is just to keep fighting," said sophomore quarterback, Kaleb Eleby, "things didn't look so good at the end but we made a promise to each other to keep fighting. We were going to keep fighting and just let things be."
After recovering the onside kick down by four with just under a minute left, the Broncos had to hurrry without any timeouts. After a first down from D'Wayne Eskridge, head coach Tim Lester called for a fake spike, which caught the defense standing still and Eleby found Jaylen Hall for the go-ahead score.
"I told them at the beginning of the drive when it came up that I was going to use it," Lester said after keeping the fake spike in his pocket for over 20 years of coaching, he adds, "I reminded them of some key points, but we run that play every week [in practice]."
And for a sophomore quarterback, Eleby stepped up in a big way, especially in the fourth quarter and finished the game with 284 yards passing and three touchdowns, including that game winner.
"Everybody talks about the last play but honestly, that's not there without the onside kick," Eleby said, "Thiago did a great job with the onside kick, we did a great job recovering, it's the small details, it's really just being resilient."
While only parents of the players could be in attendance, the win came in front of a national television audience on ESPN as the Broncos showed everyone why they can make a run for the MAC Championship this December.
"It was just great to have a game like this, when we're on a national stage to showcase Western and Kalamazoo," Lester, a WMU alum, explained, "and to showcase our players and the way they fight, so I'm really happy about that."
With just a six-game conference-only schedule this season, the win was extra important as the Broncos improve to 2-0 on the season ahead of Wednesday's rivalry game at Central Michigan.