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Five things we learned from the CMU-Virginia game

Well, it had to happen sometime.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Central Michigan Chippewas finally felt what it was like to be a road favorite, and if you were to watch the whole game, you could tell it was a role they were uncomfortable with.

CMU ultimately fell under the weight of expectations and lost 49-35 to previously winless Virginia in Charlottesville and many problems previously addressed were exposed on regional television.

Let’s go through them together.

***

The offensive line put on a show. Again.

From the start, it was evident that the offensive line had no answer for an aggressive Cavaliers defense. The line was often beat by three-man rushes and Cooper Rush was often hit after the play or sacked before having a chance to go through progressions. There were some injuries during the game, but considering CMU’s reputation for excellent O-line prospects, it was a really disappointing effort. I feel like a broken record here, but these problems must absolutely be addressed for the offense to reach its fullest potential.

CMU is now a lot younger at skill positions.

Jesse Kroll and Mark Chapman both were injured in the game, forcing unknown contributors such as Brandon Childress and Eric Cooper to step up during the game. Jonathan Ward also contributed in unexpected areas to try and will the Chippewas back to life.

Kroll is likely out for an extended time, if not the rest of the season and Chapman could be a week-to-week situation, so CMU will have to rely on a few bench players for a good stretch here. It will interesting to see how Corey Willis develops as the true WR1 and who will start alongside him. Childress, a former high school QB,has been a highly-vaunted talent who was recruited as an ATH and placed at WR due to his speed. Cooper is a fellow speedster, but has very limited touches. Anthony Rice, who previously looked to have fallen out of favor, could also get a few looks. It’s yet to be seen if Coach Bono will utilize Bailey Edwards, one of the prize jewels from the 2016 recruiting class.

Tony Annese was sorely missed on defense.

It’s likely that it would not have made that much of a difference, but the absence of Tony Annese, defensive captain and signal caller, was definitely noticeable. The defense did not seem to have a lot of focus outside of the third quarter and looked lifeless at points. There were plenty of missed tackles or broken arm tackles from usually sure-fire defensive players that made their performance so concerning.

CMU also allowed 49 points to the Cavaliers, whose previous high score was 26 against Oregon in a blowout loss. The same Virginia team scored 20 against FCS Richmond while giving up 37. To say this is a bad loss for CMU is appropriate.

The CMU pass defense, normally very good, also laid an egg against Kurt Benkert, allowing five touchdowns and 421 yards through the air. The Amari Coleman interception return for a TD wiped out an otherwise pedestrian performance.

Finally, some touchdowns from the running game.

CMU struggled from a yards standpoint, gaining only 102 yards throughout the game using three different backs. That being said, they finally scored more than one touchdown for the first time since the Presbyterian game. The running groupd had no touchdowns vs. OK State and UNLV, so getting two scores against an ACC opponent is definitely a good thing. Jahray Hayes and Jonathan Ward both scored for Central, while Spalding collected the most yards. Ward’s score especially came at a good time while CMU was mounting a comeback effort.

This is a good sign going into their game against Western.

Special teams are still unsettled. That isn’t good.

Brian Eavey still hasn’t hit a field goal since the OK State game, missing his only attempt in the game Saturday. He was perfect on extra points, but those are essentially gimmies in college football. Kaden Keon, a true freshman from neighboring St. Louis, Michigan, is the backup to Eavey. It’s too early to know if Keon is ready to take over starting duties.

Meanwhile, it’s looking more an more like punting duties will be split between Cooper Mojsiejenko and Jack Sheldon, as both saw significant touches in Saturday’s game. Sheldon had four punts, while Mojsiejenko had three. Sheldon’s long was 38 yards and posted an average of 34.5 yards, while Mojsiejenko had a long of 48 and an average of 41. Mojsiejenko will most likely be used in long punt situations and Sheldon in short-yardage situations in the season from this point out., which is a bold strategy to say the least, as most teams typically stick to one specialist on both sides of the ball.