CMU Hangs with Cowboys, Fall in Opener

By Neil Rosan / @neilandsports

A strong first half from the Central Michigan University Chippewas and junior quarterback Cooper Rush was not enough to keep the Oklahoma State Cowboys from leaving Mount Pleasant with a 24 -13 win.

Rush led the Chippewas with 225-yards passing and 51-yards on the ground as the Chippewas converted 5-of-10 on third down in the first half.

“I’m pleased with how we played with physicality, emotion and effort,” Central Michigan University head coach John Bonamego said. “Our guys hung in there against a very tough opponent for four quarters. They proved they belonged on the field. We just made too many mistakes against a quality opponent. You can’t turn the ball over and you can’t have penalties. We had two penalties in the first half where we traded touchdowns for field goals.”

The Chippewas didn’t get off to the best start. Following a strong stand by the Central Michigan defensive unit, Oklahoma State defensive back Tre Flowers picked off Cooper on his first pass of the game. “It was a tough little read,” the Indiana-native said. “You can’t throw that one.” The CMU forced an immediate three-and-out from OSU to limit the damage to a field goal. Central Michigan had it’s own chances in the first half. The Chippewas capped off a 14-play, 63-yard drive with a 31-yard field goal from junior kicker Brian Eavey. Oklahoma State responded in the second quarter with a long drive of their own. OSU quarterback sophomore Mason Rudolph ended the first quarter with a 21-yard pass to junior wide receiver Jhajuan Seales, while the running back tandem of junior Chris Carson and junior Rennie Childs wore down the Chippewa defense. Senior quarterback J.W. Walsh finished off the drive by waltzing into the end zone to make it 10-3 Cowboys with 13:20 remaining in the half. The Chippewas would add another field goal before halftime to make it 10-6 going into the intermission.

Despite trailing at the half, the Chippewas were positive because of the pressure the defense was putting on the OSU quarterbacks. “The defensive line makes our job a lot easier when they get pressure,” senior safety Kavon Frazier said. Frazier led both teams with 13 tackles on the night and made his presence known on special teams. “I was just trying to run around and make a play the whole game,” Frazier said. Central Michigan was able to take the lead on the team’s first drive of the second half. The Chippewas strung together 7 plays to travel 75-yards in under four minutes. Rush plowed over a Cowboy defender to finish off a 16-yard scamper to the end zone to make it 13-10 Chippewas. “When you are on the goal line you have to score,” Cooper said. “You can’t slide on that one.”

In the end, OSU would be too much. CMU lost its ability to convert on third down, going 3-of-8 in the second half.

“In the fourth quarter when we were going three-and-out and the defense was right back out on the field might have taken it’s toll on our guys,” Bonamego said. “We have to be able to move the ball down the field. We were not efficient enough and we prevented ourselves from sustaining drives.”

The Chippewas’ running game also never materialized. CMU used three runners other than Rush who gained a combined 36 yards on the ground. Cooper led the team averaging 6.4 yard on eight carries.

“When the opportunity to run presents itself you just try to make a play,” Rush said. “You are in total game mode. Tonight I took off a few more times.”

Rudolph added a touchdown with his legs and his arm to give the Cowboys a 24-13 lead for good.

“They were very quick,” Frazier said. “There were a couple of times where we couldn’t even get lined up because they were already hiking the ball.”

Despite the loss, Bonamego was proud of his players, including Rush. The first-year coach was very confident in his quarterback’s play. “I don’t worry about Cooper,” he said. “He had a bad play and we knew he was going to bounce back from that. Cooper played a great game. He kept us in the game.”