It was supposed to be a coming out party for the Central Michigan Chippewas on Thursday night in Mount Pleasant against the Rhode Island Rams. It was anything but for CMU as they had to hold on over the FCS Rams for a three-overtime 30-27 win.
It’s almost an expectation that teams will potentially be a little sluggish out of the gate for the first game of the season. Of course, “a little sluggish” doesn’t describe the football played in Mount Pleasant on Thursday. At the conclusion of regulation, a 21-21 deadlock, the teams had combined for more turnovers (9) than scoring drives (7). That is sub-optimal for pretty much everyone involved.
Sluggish out of the gate across the board, both teams were held scoreless for the first quarter. Central Michigan would go on to lead 13-0 at the half, and would lead 21-7 with just under thirteen minutes remaining in the game. Rhode Island would score fourteen in the fourth quarter, the final TD with just over two minutes remaining, to knot the score and force overtime.
In overtime, Rhode Island would take the first possession on offense. After four plays and no yards, the Rams would settle for their first lead of the game on a 42-yard field goal. CMU’s first possession was more disappointment after a first and goal at the eight yard line was unable to be converted to the winning touchdown. Only in this game would a 22-yard field goal to keep your team alive feel like a let down.
It was then fitting that a game that featured turnover on turnover on turnover would nearly end CMU’s hopes with one. On the Chips’ second overtime possession, a fumble recovered by Rhode Island gave the Rams the opening they needed to claim an FBS victory on the road. The Chips remained alive with a missed 33-yard field goal. Rhode Island would go up 27-24 in the third overtime after a 36-yard field goal. On CMU’s possession, Devon Spalding would go on to seal the win for the Chips with a 3-yard crash into the end zone to give the Chips the needed touchdown.
CMU fans can offer countless excuses and rationale like Shane Morris adjusting to the offense, poor playcalling with the passing game being seemingly forced when the rushing game was successful, or a plucky upstart FCS squad with nothing to lose. Those are all valid reasons for a poor performance, but none of it should allow for the type of game fans were forced to witness Thursday night.
For CMU, the fact remains that when you have a team down thirteen at halftime and fourteen in the fourth quarter, that’s a game you have to win. To have an FCS team down like that, come back and tie it, and then force overtime is inexcusable. If this was an NCAA football XBox game, it wasn’t an automatic Instant Classic. Your XBox would spit the disc out and light itself on fire to make you think about what you’ve done.
The Chips now stand 1-0, as a win is a win. They are back in action next Saturday against Kansas.