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Quantifying Quarterbacks: Western Michigan’s Zach Terrell Slices Through Buffalo

Western Michigan has been on a tear this season. Head coach P.J. Fleck has rallied the Broncos to an undefeated season thus far and there do not appear to be any signs of faltering before the season comes to a close. Last Saturday, the Broncos got out to an early lead against the Buffalo Bulls and never let go of the throttle, eventually coming away with a 38-0 victory.

By: Derrik Klassen

Of course, Western Michigan’s defense had an excellent shutout performance, but the offense deserves their fair share of credit, as well. Quarterback Zach Terrell has played highly efficient football this season and he looked just the same against Buffalo. Through the team’s 38 point performance, Terrell notched his 27th passing touchdown of the season, compared to just the one interception he’s thrown all year. Terrell didn’t elevate the offense, but he didn’t have to, and that is more than okay.


  • ADJ = Adjustment from receiver
  • DE = Drop w/ effort or defended pass
  • DB = Dropped blatantly
  • TD = Touchdown
  • INT = Interception
25+ 0/1 (1 DE)
16-20 1/2 (1 DB) 3/3 2/2
11-15 0/1 (1 DB) 0/1 (1 DB) 1/1 (1 TD)
6-10 3/4 (1 DE, 1 TD) 0/2 1/1 1/1
1-5 1/1 (1 ADJ) 2/3 (1 DE, 1 TD) 2/2
0 1/1 (1 TD) 4/4 2/2 2/2
Throwaways: Left Outside Left Middle Right Middle Right Outside

Total: 26/34 (78.79%) *does not include jet/touch passes*

Being a ball-secure, efficient quarterback is aesthetically unappealing, but it has its merits. If the situation is right, the quarterback doesn’t need to be a creator for an offense. Rather, he can play with a lowered sense of pressure and focus on consistently making the safest throws. Western Michigan has provided that environment for Terrell and the senior quarterback has delivered for the Broncos with great success. On the year, Terrell has thrown 27 touchdowns, completed 71% of his passes, averaged nearly ten yards per pass and given up just one interception. He’s not been gawdy, but he’s been good.

Terrell’s performance against Buffalo was like many others that he has had this season. A high completion percentage, a few touchdowns and zero interceptions is the norm for Terrell. Even when not including a handful of “jet/touch” passes, which are essentially hand-offs, Terrell still completed nearly 80% of his throws versus Buffalo.

In fairness to Terrell’s peers, Terrell was not heavily taxed in this game. The offense largely enabled him to make short, easy throws, so long as he completed the occasional intermediate shot to wide receiver Corey Davis, which he did. Terrell’s game versus Buffalo was the perfect game to show that Terrell can be effective when asked to keep the offense on time and not be forced to be the reason the offense thrives, but rather to be the enabling piece that allows the playmakers to make the offense thrive. Terrell is the key starter, not the engine.

Pass Rush Breakdown:

  • 3 Man Rush: 2 Times, 0 Pressures – 2/2 (1 ADJ)
  • 4 Man Rush: 24 Times, 2 Pressures – 20/24 (1 DB, 2 DE, 2 TD)
  • 5 Man Rush: 5 Times, 2 Pressures – 2/5 (2 DB, 1 DE, 1 TD)
  • 6 Man Rush: 2 Times, 2 Pressures – 2/2 (1 TD)
  • 7 Man Rush: 1 Time, 0 Pressures – 0/1

Passing When Pressured: 3/6 (2 DB, 1 TD)

Terrell had an undeniable benefit of great protection from his offensive line. No matter the rush count, Terrell never seemed off of his game. Pressure rarely got to Terrell and the scarcity of that pressure made it easier for Terrell to adjust to it. Terrell didn’t have to fear that his offensive line would break down when he dropped back to pass. The offensive line gave him ease of mind and Terrell was able to pick Buffalo’s defense apart because of it.

Situational Passing:

  • Play Action: 17/21 (2 DB, 1 DE, 1 TD)
  • 3rd/4th Down: 5/8 (2 DB, 1 TD)
  • Red Zone: 3/5 (1 DE, 2 TD)

On about two-thirds of his passing attempts, Terrell was given the advantage of play action. After a while, the advantages of play action begin to wear off as the defense adjusts to it, but even then, it can grant the quarterback an extra quarter-second that they would not have otherwise had. Most quarterbacks are able to execute well off of cheap play action and Terrell is comfortable amongst those who can.

Terrell was excellent in key situations. On seven attempts, Terrell only missed one pass on third down. He did have two incompletions on third down, but one of them was a blatant drop and can not be blamed on him. Terrell was also great in the red zone. He protected the ball, completed over half of his passes and was able to find the end zone a couple of times. That’s about all you can ask for in that spot.

Route Break Key:

  • S = Screen, Shoot, Swing
  • O = Out-breaking
  • I = In-breaking
  • V = Vertical
  • C = Crossing
S 10/10 (1 TD)
O 7/7 (1 TD)
I 5/11 (2 DB, 2 DE, 1 TD)
V 2/3 (1 DE, 1 TD)
C 2/3 (1 ADJ, 1 DB)

Terrell had an easy workload. Roughly 30% of Terrell’s attempts were screen passes, which is more than most other NFL hopefuls are throwing. To his credit, he completed all of those throws. The only area of some concern for Terrell was over the middle of the field. Terrell still should have went seven for eleven on in-breaking routes, but it was his weakest area against Buffalo.

Target Distribution

Carrington Thompson (No.15) 2/6 (1 DB, 2 DE)
Jarvion Franklin (No.31) 5/5 (1 TD)
Michael Henry (No.83) 6/6 (1 ADJ, 1 TD)
Corey Davis (No.84) 10/14 (2 DB, 1 DE, 2 TD)
Donnie Ernsberger (No.85) 3/3

If the numbers weren’t enough of an indicator, Terrell’s favorite target was wide receiver Corey Davis. Davis is said by many to be a first round caliber wide receiver. At 6’2”, 210-plus, Davis sports a nice build to compliment his speed, agility and natural ability to find the ball in the air. There are other solid skill players surrounding Terrell, but Davis looks like an alien compared to his competition, making it a no-brainer for Terrell to target Davis as often as possible.

Zach Terrell will be an easy player for the NFL to like. Terrell has started for four seasons at Western Michigan and has thrown more than 1,300 times in that span, giving him plenty of experience as a passer. As he should have, Terrell progressed every season under P.J. Fleck and has put together a senior campaign that has helped propel Western Michigan to an undefeated season. Terrell has the build, he has enough of an arm and his game experience will be unrivaled in this quarterback class. Terrell should by no means be a first round pick, but as a mid-late round option, Terrell is going to get attention.