COLLEGE FOOTBALL RECAP

Unbeaten Western Michigan rallies past Kent State

The Sports Xchange

November 08, 2016 at 8:15 pm.

Nov 27, 2015; Toledo, OH, USA; Western Michigan Broncos head coach P.J. Fleck celebrates with his team during the third quarter against the Toledo Rockets at Glass Bowl. Broncos win 35-30. Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 27, 2015; Toledo, OH, USA; Western Michigan Broncos head coach P.J. Fleck celebrates with his team during the third quarter against the Toledo Rockets at Glass Bowl. Broncos win 35-30. Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

No. 21 Western Michigan used the power of two 100-yard rushers and momentum from a fourth-quarter safety to remain unbeaten and stay in the chase for a big bowl with a 37-21 victory at Kent State in a Mid-American Conference game on a rainy Tuesday night in Kent, Ohio.

The Broncos were in early trouble, falling behind 14-0, then scoring 21 unanswered points before the Golden Flashes tied the game at 21 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Kent State forced Western Michigan to punt, but James Coleman’s 53-yarder was downed at the 1. On the next play, linebacker Robert Spillane tackled running back Justin Rankin in the end zone for a 23-21 lead with 12:04 to go.

Western Michigan (10-0, 6-0 MAC) followed up with a touchdown drive, capped by a 19-yard run from running back Jarvion Franklin with 8:27 to go. Running back Fabian Johnson added another rushing touchdown with four minutes left.

Franklin carried 31 times for 134 yards. Johnson had 19 rushes for 126 yards. Western Michigan gained 329 yards on the ground.

The Broncos achieved their first 10-win season in school history and earned their 12th consecutive victory. Kent State, which entered as a three-touchdown underdog, dropped to 3-7, 2-4.

Western Michigan, one of five unbeaten teams in the nation, was one spot ahead of No. 22 Boise State in the rankings released Tuesday night by the College Football Playoff selection committee. The Broncos, however, might have missed a chance to make a statement to keep that advantage in the race to be the highest-ranked team among the non-Power Five conference teams that gets a spot in a major bowl, this season the Cotton Bowl.

The Broncos turned to their running game to take the lead in the second half. They churned out a 20-play, 90-yard drive that featured 19 rushes and covered 9:08 of the third quarter.

Western Michigan converted five third-down chances on the drive, including third-and-goal from the 1, when quarterback Zach Terrell pushed into the end zone on a keeper. A two-point conversion pass made the score 21-14.

Kent State tied the game at 21 at the start of the fourth quarter, as Rankin turned the corner on the right side and scored on a 20-yard run.

The Golden Flashes struck first as cornerback Najee Murray scooped up a fumble from Franklin and took it 47 yards for a score with just about two minutes gone in the game.

Western Michigan star receiver Corey Davis, who entered the game with 61 catches for 1,011 yards and 14 touchdowns, had only one reception for 18 yards.

Terrell was 6 of 13 for 83 yards. Kent State quarterback Nick Holley was 7 of 18 for 66 yards, but he was a tough runner, gaining 141 yards on 22 carries.

Kent State was without All-MAC safety Nate Holley, who was suspended indefinitely Monday after his arraignment on a felony kidnapping charge.

NOTES: Kent State entered the game with three league losses, but each of those was by exactly four points — to Akron, Miami (Ohio) and Ohio. … The 14-0 lead for Akron was the biggest deficit for Western Michigan this season. … This was the Broncos’ final true road game of the season. Western Michigan finishes the regular season at home against Buffalo (Nov. 19) and Toledo (Nov. 25). … Western Michigan RB Jarvion Franklin tied the school record for career rushing touchdowns (39) with his 19-yard score in the fourth quarter. … Kent State senior LB Nick Cuthbert had a career-high 19 tackles.