The Central Michigan Chippewas (1-1) opened up the new-look Kelly/Shorts Stadium to fans for the first time since clinching the MAC West Division title in November 2019, and gave the over 16,000 fans assembled quite the show, taking the 45-0 victory over the Robert Morris Colonials (0-1) for the school’s first shutout since Nov. 23, 2013 (44-0 in a conference win vs. UMass.)
Saturday’s action marked the return of one Jim McElwain to the sidelines, coming off surgery from appendicitis which kept him away from traveling with the team to Missouri last week, his first missed game over his decades-long career. McElwain’s impact was immediately felt, as the Chippewas picked up 515 total offensive yards and six touchdowns, while keeping RMU to 109 yards total, including just 13 yards through the air.
Robert Morris started the game with the ball, but after a quick three-and-out, relinquished the ball to Central. The CMU offense would eventually find its way to the RMU 6 thanks to a 13-yard pass from Jacob Sirmon to Darius Bracy, but struggled to get past a fairly admirable effort by the RMU defensive line, which stifled three straight Lew Nichols III runs, before Nichols managed to snake into the endzone with a slithering outside zone run on fourth-and-goal from a yard out to open the scoring account at 7-0 CMU with 8:26 remaining in the first quarter.
CMU would find themselves once again stymied by the Robert Morris defense in the redzone two possessions later, after utilizing a 10-play drive lasting over 3:30 to get to the RMU four-yard line, ultimately failing to convert on a fourth-and-one run to give the ball back to the Colonials, giving them their only forced turnover of the day.
CMU would not grant any mercy after that, with four straight three-and-outs in the second quarter on defense, while utilizing three drives worth 20 plays, 186 yards and three touchdowns, with Hunter Buczkowski (three-yard reception), JaCorey Sullivan (24-yard reception) and Dallas Dixon (16-yard reception) to push the score to 28-0 before the end of the first half.
The second half was pretty elementary from there, with CMU tacking on a six-yard pass from Jacob Sirmon to Dallas Dixon on the first possession of the second half, and Kalil Pimpleton running in from 20 yards out on a Wildcat jet sweep option play with 1:25 remaining in the third quarter to end the endzone visits. Marshall Meeder would kick a field goal after the game was well in hand to put the game at its final tally.
Jacob Sirmon once again lead the way as CMU’s starting QB, finishing 12-of-16 for 110 yards and three touchdowns, with Daniel Richardson rotating in on two drives, going 3-of-7 for 83 yards and a touchdown. True freshman Tyler Pape (2-of-2, 12 yards) and transfer sophomore (and former Army specialist) Bailey Smith also made appearances in the fourth quarter.
On the ground, Lew Nichols III tallied 17 rushes for 79 yards and a touchdown for the Chippewas, while true freshman De’Javion “DJ” Stephney led the way in total yards with 81 in nine rushing attempts. Pimpleton, a receiver, racked up CMU’s other rushing touchdown on four carries and 58 yards. Myles Bailey, Darius Bracy and Marion Lukes also rotated in, with each earning at least five carries.
Dallas Dixon paced all receivers with five receptions for 72 yards and two touchdowns on the day, while JaCorey Sullivan contributed two receptions, 34 yards and a score of his own to the CMU cause. Remi Simmons, a senior transfer from Stephen F. Austin, notched his first receptions as a Chippewa, with two caught for 39 yards.
Defensively, it was a light work day for CMU, as they held Robert Morris to just over 100 yards of total offense and 1-of-12 on third-down attempts, and kept the Colonials from crossing past the CMU 44 all game.
Amir Siddiq led the Chips with five total tackles, including 1.5 tackles-for-loss. Luke Moretti contributed a forced fumble on top of his four tackles and a tackle-for-loss, while Alonzo McCoy forced a pass break-up and picked up two tackles. Troy Brown, Justin Whiteside and Chris Parker also picked up tackles-for-loss.
It was always going to be a long climb for the visiting Colonials, who missed last week’s originally scheduled opener vs. Dayton due to a cancellation for a COVID breakout on the RMU roster. Coming into this matchup, RMU were missing 26 players and coaches due to COVID restrictions, and were forced to convert backup defensive linemen into tight ends in order to be able to run certain plays.
It was the rushing attack which carried RMU for most of the day, and that was by design, as RMU is generally a running team. If there’s one thing to take away from today’s performance, it would be the fact they were able to pick up 96 net yards on the Chips even despite their roster woes. Quamir Jenkins took lead back responsibilities in the absence of Alijah Jackson, with 13 carries for 31 yards. Jaylon Brown was the Colonials’ biggest gainer, with 37 yards on three carries.
George Martin and the rest of the passing offense was a non-factor, with Martin completing 5-of-8 passes for 13 yards. Bryce Bevins pulled in a 12-yard reception for the longest RMU reception of the day.
It was a busy day for the Colonial defense, which was on the field for well over 36 minutes of game time. Jamar Shegog showed very well for himself, leading all tacklers with 18 stops (11 solo), including a tackle-for-loss and a sack. William Barber also found himself in double-digit tackles with 10, while Miles Hayes (nine tackles, two tackles-for-loss), Quentin Jackson (four tackles, one tackle-for-loss and one sack) and Tavin Harville (five tackles, one pass breakup) were also amongst the top performers for RMU.
CMU will now prepare to face LSU, in a game scheduled for kickoff next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. The game is set to be aired on the SEC Network.