By Neil Rosan / @neilandsports
MT. PLEASANT, Mich. — The Central Michigan Chippewas were unable to overcome a fast start from the Toledo Rockets in a 28-23 loss Tuesday night.
Toledo opened the game out gaining the Chippewas 110 yards to 34 in the first quarter while scoring 21-unanswered points.
“This was a game we thought we had a chance to win,” head coach John Bonamego said. “The bottom line is that Toledo made more plays than us. We hurt ourselves with a few mistakes. I am proud of the effort and fight in our team. We are still a very good football team. Brighter days are still ahead for CMU Football.”
The fast start comes as no surprise. The Rockets were ranked as the number four scoring offense and top ranked scoring defense in the Mid American Conference coming into the game.
Toledo took the opening drive to the end zone in 70 yards on 12 plays. Quarterback Phillip Ely finished the drive by finding Michael Roberts on a two-yard pass.
Ely ended the night with 322 yards passing and two touchdowns.
The Rockets’ next two scores came off a 41-yard run from Kareem Hunt and 36-yard pitch-and-catch from Ely to Diontae Johnson.
Hunt led all players with 113 yards on the ground a found pay dirt twice.
“The game plan doesn’t change,” quarterback Cooper Rush said. “We knew we were going to make enough plays. We just had to be patient and get back into it.”
CMU responded with a career-long, 48-yard field goal from Brian Eavey. Following a defensive stop and a short punt, the Chippewas drove 58 yards for their first touchdown.
Running back Jay Roberson carried the ball two yards before fumbling on the goal line. Luckily for the Chippewas, right tackle Derek Edwards fell on the ball to cut the lead to 21-10.
The second half saw CMU squander chances to take the lead following a 23-yard touchdown from Corey Willis. Rush was 33-of-52 with 354 yards and two touchdowns.
Late in the third, quarterback Cooper Rush found space on a third-and-seven play and ran 33 yards to the two-yard line. A strange pass interference call coupled with a sack eventually pushed the Chippewas into a long field goal miss.
“It was a very unfortunate series of events there,” Bonamego said. “You don’t expect to kick a 51-yard field goal after first-and-2. We have to play better. We didn’t lose the game because of the officiating.”
Hunt added a late touchdown, but Toledo’s defense started to deteriorate. Two pass interference calls led to Cooper Rush firing a pass to Anthony Rice making it a 23-28 game.
Central Michigan went for the onside kick, but a whiff on the kick gave Toledo the ball and essentially ended the game.
“We practice that kick every week,” Bonamego said. “He got overanxious and missed the ball. I’ve yet to see him kick one that looked like that in practice.”
It is rare that play gets called in that situation. Especially for a ball that was thrown that far out of the end zone.”
CMU is now 5-5 with a 4-2 record in the MAC. The Chippewas are essentially eliminated from the MAC West title race, but still have a lot to play for.
“We play for the seniors,” Rush said. “We are also playing for a bowl game and a chance to get to eight wins.”