It isn’t often you say that the defining point of a game happened within the first five minutes, but it was the case on Saturday night, when LSU defensive back Derek Stingley Jr. correctly read the screen, tackled CMU running back Darius Bracy out of the game and popped the ball out, allowing defensive end Andre Anthony to scoop-and-score from 33 yards out to push the score at 14-0 at the 10:05 mark of the first quarter.
(It was confirmed after the game by Central Michigan head coach Jim McElwain that Bracy suffered an MCL injury on the play, and that he is on an indefinite timetable.)
The Stingley/Anthony play, especially on the back of LSU WR Deion Smith’s SportsCenter-worthy touchdown grab just over a minute of game time prior, really set the emotional tone in what turned out to be a hellacious 49-21 victory for LSU (2-1) over CMU (1-2.)
Things didn’t get much better for Central after that series of plays, as they had to go back onto the field after the previously-remarked upon humiliations. CMU repossessed the ball at their own 25 and made it to their own 41 before Sirmon rifled an interception to the waiting arms of LSU DB Major Burns (yes, that’s his name) on an errant pass forced by a broken contain.
CMU DL Jacquez Bristol forced RB Tyrion Davis-Price to fumble the ball on the second play of LSU’s next offensive series for a loss of 11 yards, eventually forcing a punt. CMU would punt the ball back after a three-and-out, giving LSU the ball back in time for the Tigers to find Deion Smith once again, this time for a 40-yard touchdown strike to put LSU up 21-0.
The Chippewas responded three plays later, with Jacob Sirmon finding a streaking JaCorey Sullivan down the sideline for a 78-yard touchdown to pull the game back to a 21-7 margin with :25 remaining in the first quarter.
Both teams settled down once again to exchange punts on the next two drives, but LSU broke the drought with 6:54 remaining in the second quarter, as LSU capped off a 12-play, 65 yard drive lasting 5:04 with WR Keyshon Boutee (six receptions, 44 yards) extending his FBS-leading touchdown receptions mark, courtesy of a two-yard touch pass from QB Max Johnson, who finished the day 26-of-35 for 372 yards and five touchdowns.
Another score a possession later, this time on a 20-yard one-handed catch in the endzone for TE Jack Bech, would put LSU up 35-7 at the halftime horn.
Down 42-7 after another LSU passing touchdown from Johnson to Damien Lee, CMU intercepted what would turn out to be Johnson’s last pass attempt, as Devonni Reed snagged the overthrow down the middle and ran it back 21 yards the other way to put CMU into double digits, 42-14.
Daniel Richardson would sub in for Jacob Sirmon in the fourth quarter, leading a touchdown drive ending with a Joel Wilson reception in the endzone from 18 yards out to give CMU 21 points on the scoreboard. LSU would do the same with a late Cody Kiner run from five yards out to put the score at 49-21 with 7:19 remaining.
Sirmon finished the game 17-of-24 for 156 yards, one touchdown and one interception for CMU, with his backup Richardson logging 8-of-15 for 72 yards and a touchdown.
It was rough sledding for all of CMU’s running backs against an LSU front four which swarmed to the ball all night. Lew Nichols III had 12 carries for 18 yards with a long of 17 yards, highlighting CMU’s woes at keeping contain. CMU found more success in the late going, with freshman back Myles Bailey leading the Chips with 29 yards on seven carries. De’Javion Stephney also showed out on limited touches, with 22 yards on three carries.
JaCorey Sullivan picked up 114 yards on five receptions for CMU, leading the receivers. Kalil Pimpleton was kept in check by the LSU defense, bringing down three receptions for 35 yards. Joel Wilson had four receptions for 31 yards on top of his touchdowns.
It was a tough assignment for the Chippewa defense, who gave up 485 total yards and six touchdowns, including five through the air. Gage Kreski was especially busy, collecting six tackles (four solo.) Alonzo McCoy had four tackles, including a tackle-for-loss and a pass break-up. Four other Chippewas also collected four tackles, while Justin Whiteside, Troy Hairston and Amir Siddiq all collected tackles-for-loss. Siddiq also added a sack. Dishon McNary had two pass breakups at the outside corner spot, while Troy Brown had an important pass break-up on third-down.
The Chippewas will hop back onto the plane straight from the stadium and hunker down to try and get back to a .500 mark before the conference season, as they host the FIU Panthers at Kelly/Shorts Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 25 at noon Eastern time. The game will be streamed exclusively on ESPN+.