By Neil Rosan / @neilandsports
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — The offseason for the Central Michigan University Football team was an eventful one. The program lost head coach Dan Enos days before national signing day and replaced him with former Detroit Lions special teams coordinator and Central Michigan University alum John Bonamego.
Bonamego called it a dream job, but many questions still remained unanswered coming into the team’s season opener against Big-12 opponents Oklahoma State. Last night, CMU showed its fan base a lot of what is yet to come this season.
Shout out to our Student Section. U guys were OUTSTANDING! Thanks 4 showing the world what Chippewa Pride looks like. See U next week!
— John Bonamego (@CMUCoachBono) September 4, 2015
Cooper Rush is primed for a breakout season
There were signs that the Indiana-native was on the verge of breaking out last season after he threw for 493 yards and seven touchdowns in the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl.
Rush’s first pass of 2015 was a pick, but the junior signal caller was able to overcome adversity and make a major difference in the game.
Following the interception, Cooper completed his next six passes and went on to finish the game competing 28-of-41. He was able to make a variety of reads and spread the ball around to nine different receivers.
“I’m confident in all those guys,” Cooper said. “They can all make plays and they showed that tonight. I don’t have a problem throwing to anybody. If they are open, it doesn’t matter who they are.”
Cooper was able to build a great rapport with tight end Ben McCord. The 240-pound senior recorded 59 yards on just four catches. Last season, McCord finished with 124 receiving yards and 10 receptions.
“I’m very confident in Ben,” Cooper said. “ You see what he can do after the catch. He’s a nice big target in there. We will use him.”
When the final whistle blew, Cooper racked up 276 of the 343 total offensive yards for the Chippewas and his team’s only touchdown. He showed he could get the job done in the air and on the ground against a power-five conference team meaning you will be hearing plenty more from Cooper as the reason goes on.
The running game needs work
While the passing game looked to be firing on all cylinders, the Chippewa run game looked lack luster.
The departure of 1,000-yard rusher Thomas Rawls and an injury to Saylor Lavallii meant junior Martez Walker and sophomore Devon Spalding would be carrying the brunt of the load this season.
Walker was only able to gain 25 yards on 12 carries, while Spalding finished with seven yards on five touches.
To give the backs credit, they were facing a defense that returned eight starters from last season and allowed an average of 162.8 rushing yards per game. Plus, both players are still looking to get more chances at the number one spot since they were both displaced by Rawls and Lavallii last season.
As both guys start to get more carries this season, they should improve. Spalding finished last season averaging 5.1 yards per rush, while Walker averaged 4.3 yards per touch.
CMU’s defense will once again be a force to recon with
The Chippewas allowed 419 yards of offense and 24 points, but the defensive unit’s presence was still known.
CMU was able to keep pressure on OSU quarterback Mason Randolph and sack him twice. The likes of defensive linemen Jabari Dean and Louis Palmer were able to keep Oklahoma State from getting into its hurry up rhythm for most of the game.
The defense was also very good at stopping the Cowboys on third down, allowing OSU to convert only 6-of-14 on the night.
CMU’s rush defense was in effect again as no runner was able to gain more than 100 yards. Last season, Syracuse’s Adonis Ameen-Moore was the only player to rush for over the century mark against the Chippewas.
However, Central Michigan was prone to giving up the big play last night. Six different Cowboys recorded plays over 20 yards, giving the Chippewa secondary a baptism by fire.
The secondary should be in good hands. While the Chippewas are a little inexperienced at the cornerback position, safeties Kavon Frazier and Tony Annese have what it takes to lead by example with Frazier recording a career high 13 tackles last night.