Minus Coach Tim Lester, Western Michigan Welcomes Stern San Jose State Test

Written By Julie Walker on September 22, 2021
Western Michigan San Jose State September 2021

On the heels of a thrilling 44-41 road win against Pittsburgh last week, Western Michigan is hosting the San Jose State Spartans this Saturday without Broncos head coach Tim Lester.

Lester announced Tuesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19, but did not yet specify who would take over coaching duties for Saturday’s 2 p.m. game.

Will the Broncos overcome the change-up to keep their two-game win streak alive, or will the Spartans capitalize on uncertainty and get the NCAA football win?

San Jose State at Western Michigan: NCAA Football Odds

Western Michigan has slight odds edge over San Jose State

As of Tuesday afternoon, Western’s coaching news did not affect the Broncos’ edge from oddsmakers. Both DraftKings Sportsbook and PointsBet Sportsbook had the home team favored by a field goal. FanDuel Sportsbook initially Western favored by 2.5.

FanDuel’s over/under for the game was set at 63.5, while PointsBet and DraftKings had it set at 63.

Of the six games played between the two schools so far, a combined total of 63 or more points was reached just once — in Western’s 44-41 win over Pitt in Week 3.

Western Michigan is 2-0 against the spread this season; San Jose has not won against the spread as underdogs.

How to watch: Western Michigan Broncos vs. San Jose State Spartans

  • What: San Jose State (2-1) at Western Michigan (2-1)
  • When: 2 p.m. ET, Saturday
  • Where: Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo, Mich.
  • Online livestream: ESPN+ (Announcers: Jason Ross, Tyoka Jackson)
  • Radio: Bronco Radio Network
  • Satellite Radio: Sirius XM Channel 384

Can Broncos regroup without their leader?

The shootout win against Pittsburgh at Heinz Field was Western’s first victory against a Power Five school since 2016 and the first under Lester.

Pittsburgh was favored by two touchdowns heading into the matchup and Panthers senior quarterback Kenny Pickett came out firing, throwing for 382 yards, six touchdowns and an interception. Pickett’s performance was enough to move him past Dan Marino into second place on the school’s all-time passing list, but not enough to stop Western’s well-rounded attack.

The Broncos controlled possession with 40 minutes on offense. Sophomore quarterback Kaleb Eleby had season-high numbers for completions, yardage and touchdowns in the game, finishing 23-for-35 for 337 yards and three scores. Eleby’s performance earned him honors as the MAC West Division’s offensive player of the week.

Joining Eleby on the top MAC players’ list is teammate Zaire Barnes, who earned top defensive player honors for the West division. The junior linebacker had 10 tackles, including two tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries that led to two Western touchdowns. Pitt had three turnovers, while Western had none.

Sophomore running back Sean Tyler scored once by air and once on the ground, finishing with 14 carries for 84 rushing yards and three receptions for 11 yards. Junior running back La’Darius Jefferson had 22 carries for 78 yards and two touchdowns.

Rounding out the offensive attack were sophomore receivers Corey Crooms and Skyy Moore. Crooms snagged eight receptions for a game-high 161 receiving yards and a touchdown. Moore, returning from an injury in Week 1, had 11 catches for 124 yards and a score.

The Broncos finished with 517 total yards on offense.

San Jose State also coming off hard-earned win

The Spartans’ month-long road trip stopped in Honolulu last Saturday where they edged Hawaii for a 17-13 win.

It was the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams, and the win puts San Jose State’s conference win-streak at nine.

Senior quarterback Nick Starkel went 23-for-50, throwing for 235 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The scores came about three minutes apart in the end of the first half, the first courtesy a blocked punt from Spartans running back Kairee Robinson that helped set up the scoring drive.

The defending Mountain West Conference champs had to deal with high winds during the shaky win against Hawaii and reportedly planned to head to Michigan a day early to acclimate to the weather here.

First meeting between Broncos, Spartans

Saturday’s game marks the first between San Jose State and Western Michigan. Will playing without their head coach hurt Western’s chances?

Lester, a former WMU quarterback, said in a statement that technology will allow him to help his team prepare virtually.

“I will be away from the team until next week, but thanks to technology, I will be with them virtually,” Lester said in the statement. “I have full faith in our staff and players, and am looking forward to quickly getting back in the office next week as we enter conference play.”

The Spartans will play the first half without co-captain Kyle Harmon, a junior linebacker, who was ejected early in the fourth quarter against Hawaii for targeting.

Western Michigan opens up conference play against the Buffalo Bulls at noon Oct. 2 in Buffalo. San Jose State will return home to host the New Mexico State Aggies at 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 2.

Photo by Keith Srakocic/AP
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Julie Walker

Julie has written, edited and designed words at five Michigan newspapers and websites. She’s worked on two sports desks, including at The Oakland Press and most recently at The Detroit News. Julie has contributed to stories on many big sports moments, from the NFL's 100th season to Super Bowls to Justin Verlander’s trade to the closing of the Palace of Auburn Hills.  Julie loves lakes, bonfires, Dachshunds, coaching Little League and carrying on her Dad’s fantasy football legacy that he started in 1987 — before there was an app for that.

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