KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Saturday marks the start of a new era for Western Michigan football.
Following the most successful season in program history, the Broncos are starting this season with several big challenges. First and foremost on the list, a road game at No. 4 USC with a first year head coach and new quarterback.
Head coach Tim Lester will be making his debut at the LA Coliseum, a historic college football venue.
“I’m excited, I just want to play. That’s the biggest thing,” Lester said. “It’s one of those points where I’ve been here for almost nine months now, and the guys have been excited for this game. To me, it could be any game, just to get back out there on the sideline and watch these guys compete.”
Saturday’s game will be the first Lester steps on the field as a head coach, but he says he is ready to get the season going.
“Everything is the first time. Tomorrow is our first flight, it will be our first pregame, so everything is a first,” he said. “Eventually, it’s no big deal. Once we can kick off, it will allow everyone to relax and go do what we love to do.”
In addition to replacing their head coach, the Broncos had to replace the school’s career passing yards leader in Zach Terrell. Former Grand Rapids South Christian standout Jon Wassink won the position battle this offseason, earning him the starting job against USC.
Lester said he has confidence in Wassink, but he is interested to see how he performs Saturday. He said he is also excited to see what the team’s speed is going to look like and how it plays on the line of scrimmage.
When it comes to a plan on defeating the Trojans, Lester said USC’s speed will be the biggest factor.
Offensively, he said it will be important for his offensive line to win the line of scrimmage to give the team’s stable of running backs room to advance the ball.
“If you can’t run the ball, you’ll never get matchups,” Lester said. “If you can run the ball, you can get matchups any time you want.”
On defense, it’s all about containing Heisman Trophy candidate and potential NFL No. 1 draft pick Sam Darnold.
“Their O-line is good, their receivers are talented, but (Darnold) makes it go,” Lester said.
Kickoff is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Saturday in Los Angeles.