From the first drive of the game between the Central Michigan Chippewas (0-2) and South Alabama Jaguars (2-0) on Saturday afternoon, it was apparent the homestanding team was not going to offer much in the way of a challenge.
The Chippewas went three-and-out on three missed connections on their first drive of the day, and then did so again on their next two drives, allowing South Alabama to hold onto the ball for over half of the first quarter. This would be something of a pattern in the first half, as the Chips never quite got going until it was much too late.
It was former Toledo Rocket Carter Bradley who would lead the first touchdown drive of the day, connecting with Damarcus Thomas on a 16-yard pass to put USA up 6-0 at the 8:51 mark. In a shocker, the usually-reliable Diego Guajardo missed the extra point, giving CMU an opportunity to take the lead with a score.
After forcing a three-and-out, CMU responded with a four-play, 63-yard drive to take the 7-6 lead on a Lew Nichols touchdown run from five yards out.
That was about as good as it would get for the Chippewas on this day.
The Jaguars immediately responded with a 10-play, 65-yard drive in just over two minutes, ending in a La’Darius Webb touchdown run to go up 13-7. On the ensuing kickoff, CMU returner Irone Jackson brought the ball out from the endzone, getting to the CMU 18 before Ke’Shun Brown forced the fumble and Trey Kiser recovered to give USA a short field. USA cashed in 12 seconds later on a stunning 22-yard throw from Bradley to Devin Voisin to go up 20-7 with 1:05 remaining in the first quarter.
The Jags would tag on 11 more points in the second quarter, with a Bradley-to-Jalen Wayne passing score and two-point conversion, and a Diego Guajardo field goal pushing the gap to 31-7 with 5:47 remaining in the first half.
CMU stopped the bleeding with a 48-yard field goal from Marshall Meeder on the ensuing possession, putting the halftime tally at 31-10.
The Chips had one of their better sustained drives on their first possession of the third quarter, going 40 yards on 14 plays, but ultimately got nothing from it, as Marshall Meeder pushed the kick wide right from 36 yard out.
The third quarter would go scoreless, with USA finally breaking the drought with their last score of the day, a 30-yard run up the middle from La’Darius Webb to get the Jags up to a 38-10 gap.
CMU, much like they did last week, would once again mount a furious rally, with Marion Lukes (12-yard rushing score) and Joel Wilson (21-yard receiving score, successful two-point conversion) getting CMU to within 14 points, but they ultimately ran out of time.
Daniel Richardson never looked comfortable, finishing 23-of-47 for 257 yards and one touchdown, consistently overthrowing several receivers or lacking touch on closer passes to force tips and drops.
The running game didn’t find very much room either, with Lew Nichols picking up an abysmal 20 yards on 15 carries, with 15 yards lost. Marion Lukes led the Chips in rushing with 36 yards on just three carries. Joel Wilson led Chippewa receivers with seven receptions for 73 yards and a score, with Carlos Carrierre nabbing four receptions for 69 yards.
Kyle Moretti and Justin Whiteside, as expected, led the CMU defense in tackles, with 10 apiece. Thomas Incoom picked up a solo sack, while John Wesley Whiteside and newcomer Joshua Washington each split another sack. Donte Kent led the defensive backfield with two pass break-ups.
Luke Elzinga came on to punt five times, with 254 net yards, including two 50_ yard boots, three punts inside-the-20 and one touchback, with a long of 65 yards. Marshall Meeder struggled once again at placekicker, going 1-of-2 on field goals with a make from 48 yards and a miss from 36.
For the visiting Jaguars, who scored on five of the first seven possessions and retained the ball for over 18 minutes of the first half, it was an explosive performance which confirmed their rebuild.
Carter Bradley picked up his second-straight win against the Chips in as many attempts after leading Toledo to a 24-23 win in 2020, going 26-of-42 for 354 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on Saturday, while also picking up 35 yards on seven carries.
Three different receivers hauled in touchdowns in Jalen Wayne (10 receptions, 98 yards), Devin Voisin (four receptions, 57 yards) and Damarcus Thomas (three receptions, 38 yards) all finding the endzone. Caullin Lacy (five receptions, 97 yards) also had a day despite not scoring.
La’Darius Webb led all rushers, with his longest run of the day picking up 10 more yards than Nichols’ entire production, picking up 95 yards and two scores on 20 carries. Webb also moved the chains with two catches for 30 yards.
Jaden Voisin, Quentin Wilfawn and Trey Kiser all picked up six tackles each to lead the Jags defensive charts, with Kiser picking up a key fumble recovery on special teams which helped swing the momentum of the game.
Wy’Kevious Thomas, CJ Rias and James Miller all picked up one sack each, while Darrell Luter Jr. and Jamar Richardson each had two pass break-ups.
Aussie punter Jack Brooks punted five times for 225 net yards, averaging 45 yards each, with one punt inside-the-20. Diego Guajardo had a up-and-down day, going 1-of-1 on field goals but just 3-of-4 on extra points.
CMU will take a week to learn their lessons after a week which head coach Jim McElwain admitted was one where CMU was “not ready to play”, as they prepare to host FCS program Bucknell on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern.
The Jags will travel cross-country to face the UCLA Bruins in the Rose Bowl next Saturday, with a 2 p.m. Eastern kick scheduled.