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Five things we learned from the Central Michigan-UNLV game

It might be time to put the CMU running game on the side of a milk carton.

NCAA Football: UNLV at Central Michigan Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

CMU managed to come away with a victory over UNLV on Saturday afternoon after a shaky start in front of hundreds of over 19,500 fans and one Andre Drummond of NBA fame.

The crowd was definitely a factor in the second half, as the simultaneous promotions of High School Band Day and CMU & You Day converged to create a raucous atmosphere.

The Chippewas are off to their first 3-0 start since 2002. In that season, the Chips finished 4-8. Coach John Bonamego will be looking to finish a little bit better than that moving on into the rest of the season.

Here’s five takeaways from the game to take into the week:

The Chippewa receiving corps is stacked.

The Chippewas like to spread the ball out in their system, and it has certainly worked thus far this season. Mark Chapman leads the team in receptions (13), Jesse Kroll leads in yards (205) and Corey Willis (4) leads in touchdowns. Each player had at least one touchdown in the game vs. UNLV, and Brandon Childress, a redshirt freshman, also hauled in a touchdown late on a 42-yard streak, showing great young depth.

Add in Tyler Conklin at the tight end position and you get a fun group of skill players to watch over the next couple months.

The Chippewa backfield needs a lot of work.

For the second straight game, the Chippewas rush offense was non-existent. That’s a huge concern going into the non-conference finale against Virginia.

The Chippewas utilize the run to set up play action down the field, but with a running game that has struggled to reach 100 yards per game, it gets hard to use that more effectively. It’s worked so far for CMU, but a one-trick pony can only go so far. (Shoutout to Wazzu.)

Devon Spalding leads the Chips in total yards with 174 rushing yards over three games, an average of 55.3 yards per game. Combine that with Jonathan Ward and Jahray Hayes’ average yards per game and you get 133.3 yards per game. That’s serviceable, but most of those numbers were collected vs. Presbyterian.

CMU must figure out a gameplan moving forward that can use the running game mroe effectively; otherwise, conference opponents will gameplan to the pass automatically, living little room for error down the stretch.

Cooper Rush is an eater of souls on offense.

After a 350+ yard, four touchdown performance on the road against Oklahoma State, Rush came right back to grind the UNLV defensive secondary into mincemeat, passing for four passing touchdowns in the first half and six overall en route to a dominant victory over the Rebs.

Rush did so efficiently, finishing with no interceptions on 20-of-33 passes for 352 yards. For those keeping track at home, Rush now has 957 yards on the young season, with 11 touchdowns to three interceptions.

CMU is definitely a second half team. That’s both good and bad.

There’s an old adage in auto racing that the most important lap is the last one. That’s true of any sporting event, but in football, second half performances can be both boons and curses.

The Chippewas have gained a reputation for being a second half team. While being able to make adjustments coming out of the second half is worthy of praise, it can also be seen as a form of derision.

For CMU to grab the headlines of a WMU or a Toledo, they have to overwhelm opponents from the start. Hanging tough for three quarters and then throwing on the afterburners is not exactly the same thing.

The numbers are excellent reflections of why being a second half team can be good, however.

CMU has allowed only 3 points in the third quarter all season and 7 points in the fourth quarter between three opponents combined, while scoring 30 and 41 points in each quarter, respectively. In the first two quarters, CMU has allowed 21 points in the first and 20 points in the second, while scoring 21 and 31, respectively.

IF CMU can find a way to turn this second half trend into a full-game mentality, opponents will have a tough road to sled moving forward.

What the hell, special teams?

We thought that the special teams mishaps had been solved in last week’s game, but new leaks sprung up in the game against UNLV that absolutely must be addressed before the Virginia game.

The normally reliable Brian Eavey missed three field goals from 40 yards in, which is deeply concerning. Cooper Mojsiejenko also lost a couple reps to Jack Sheldon in the game after the punt team couldn’t handle the UNLV block unit, allowing an early block return TD.

Kickoffs were also an issue, as UNLV was able to gain good starting position throughout the game due to missed open-field tackles. Coach Bono, a 16-year NFL special teams vet, will have to address these problem areas moving forward.


CMU will next play Virginia in Charlottesville at 12:30 p.m. EDT on regional Fox Sports Networks across the country, including Fox Detroit and Fox South.