The Gophers on Friday hired fiery 36-year-old P.J. Fleck as their next football coach. Fleck led Western Michigan to a 13-1 record last season and was 30-22 in four seasons leading the Mid-American Conference program.
Here are five signature games that helped elevate Fleck’s status as a coach on the rise:
Oct. 26, 2013
Western Michigan at Massachusetts
Fleck won his first game as a head coach 31-30 on the road at UMass. Western Michigan fell behind 14-3 and trailed most of the first half before taking in the lead in the third quarter. UMass rushed for a touchdown with 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter to pull within a point, but the Broncos stopped Minutemen’s two-point attempt. It was Fleck’s only win in his first season.
Nov. 27, 2015
Western Michigan at Toledo
Fleck earned his first win against a ranked opponent with a 35-30 victory over No. 24 Toledo. The Broncos spoiled Toledo’s bid for a spot in the Mid-American Conference championship game and earned a share of the MAC West crown. The win also solidified Western Michigan’s status as bowl-eligible team. Fleck said after the game “A year and 10 weeks ago, we were the worst team in college football. Now we’re MAC West champs.”
Dec. 24, 2015
Bahamas Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee
Fleck led Western Michigan to its first bowl win in program history in the Christmas Eve 45-31 victory over Middle Tennessee. The teams entered the fourth quarter tied 24-24 before the Broncos erupted for 21 points to secure the victory.
Sept. 3, 2016
Western Michigan at Northwestern
The Broncos kicked off their historic season by edging out Northwestern 22-21 on the road. Fleck and Western Michigan were 4-for-4 on fourth-down conversions and forced a fumble inside their own 10-yard line ending Northwestern’s rally effort.
Jan. 2, 2017
Cotton Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Wisconsin
The Broncos fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter, but rallied to pull within a touchdown, 17-10, entering the fourth quarter. Though the No. 12 Broncos’ upset bid against No. 8 Wisconsin fell short, 24-16, the comeback effort on a national stage impressed many throughout the college football community.