The Central Michigan Chippewas (1-2) desperately needed a result to go their way after an unexpected loss in their home opener last weekend, and thankfully for them, help came in the way of a 41-0 win over the Bucknell Bison (0-3), though it wasn’t exactly an easy victory for the Maroon and Gold on a cloudy Saturday afternoon.
Both teams would exchange three-and-outs to start the game, with Bucknell converting the first first-down play for either side on the third overall possession of the game on a drive which itself would end in a punt after a drive lasting 3:47 went nowhere.
The Chippewas would get pinned at their own two-yard line after a booming 45-yard punt by Ruben Anderson was downed inside the Chippewa redzone, seemingly putting them on their heels after an inauspicious start.
The offense finally stuttered to a start, picking up 68 yards on 13 plays over four minutes of game time to set up a 48-yard try for Marshall Meeder to give them the lead from the right hash. Meeder missed instead, giving Bucknell the ball at their own 30-yard line.
Bucknell took the ball and got out to the CMU 47-yard line, staring down a fourth-and-one conversion attempt. Starting quarterback Ethan Grady, who had led the offense to that point, made way for third-string QB Tyler Beverett for a change of pace as a planned rotation. Beverett couldn’t connect with Kyle Fontes, but a roughing the passer penalty on Nick Apsey gave Bucknell new life on the drive.
The Bison would march down to the CMU 19 before a fumble on second-and-11 put them back at the CMU 28-yard line for a long third-down conversion attempt, which didn’t connect. Ryan Schatzel came out for a 44-yard field goal attempt, but it had no chance, angling wide right straight off the foot to keep the score at 0-0.
The Bison wouldn’t need to wait long to get another swing at the bat, as Alex Smith Jr. jumped in front of a Daniel Richardson pass attempt to give the Bison the ball back at midfield on the very next play.
Ethan Grady came back in on the next possession, but a bad snap for a 16-yard loss and a delay of game on the play after doomed the drive to failure.
CMU flipped the field after the Bison couldn’t capitalize on the interception, trotting from their own 30 to the Bison 32-yard line to set up a Marshall Meeder field goal attempt from 50 yards out. The kick missed, once again leaving CMU with no points to finish a drive which made its way to enemy territory.
Two possessions later, CMU would find themselves in a bit of trouble on a fourth-and-four at the Bucknell 36-yard line, set up by a two-yard loss on a Lew Nichols run the prior play. Jim McElwain opted to go for it in enemy territory after missing field goals on prior possessions, and it turned out to be the right decision, as Richardson found Finn Hogan for a nine-yard gain and drew a roughing-the-passer call to get 15 more yards.
CMU stalled out once again at the Bucknell 10-yard line, facing fourth-and-seven. With little choice but to give it the old college try, McElwain elected once again to keep the offense on the field.
Richardson aimed for Jalen McGaughy on the slant, but the pass tipped off his hands— and into the waiting hands of tight end Joel Wilson, who was uncovered behind the play, for a 10-yard touchdown to open the scoring account with 4:37 remaining in the first half.
Bucknell would threaten to score on the next possession, getting up to the CMU 29-yard line before a delay of game and a negative run forced third-and-16 from the CMU 35. Grady’s pass attempt would get intercepted by Caleb Spann, playing in place of the injured Trey Jones, who returned it for some decent yardage— before having the ball punched out and recovered by the Bison at the CMU 40.
Fortunately for the Chippewas, the Bison wouldn’t present much threat, as on third-and-one at the CMU 31-yard line, freshman end Michael Heldman strip sacked Grady and Jacques Bristol recovered the ball to stop the potential rally and preserve the 7-0 lead at the halftime break.
It was still a fairly tenuous situation at the start of the third quarter, as CMU had a third drive end in a missed field goal after backup kicker Josh Rolston kicked the ball wide right from 44 yards out and Bucknell had a three-and-out in reply.
CMU had a three-and-out of their own, and gave the ball right back to Bucknell, who (you guessed it) went three-and-out. Ruben Anderson lined up for the punt from the Bison’s 23-yard line, but a missed assignment in the interior meant CMU linebacker Fernando Sanchez II could get a chance at blocking it. Sanchez was able to deflect it, and it fell after just 11 air yards, putting the ball at the Bison 34-yard line.
That was all CMU needed to break the game open, as Lew Nichols immediately ran for a 31-yard gain on an outside look and followed it up with a three-yard inside rush to put CMU up 13-0 after Josh Rolston missed the PAT wide.
The next drive saw Grady get injured on a fumble recovery attempt, meaning an already-hurt Tyler Beverett had to jump back into the game due to a lack of available bodies, and it was all over from there for the Bison.
CMU would go on a tear from there, scoring on the final four possessions to put the Bison away for good, with Lew Nichols getting a 15-yard rush with 2:24 remaining in the third quarter, Daniel Richardson finding newcomer Langston Lewis for his maiden catch as a Chippewa for a 45-yard touchdown, and backup QB Jace Bauer scoring on two scramble plays from 10 and eight yards out to put the final tally at 41-0.
It was another rough day for Daniel Richardson, who finished 15-of-32 for 198 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Jase Bauer, his backup, made his FBS debut and looked competent, connecting on a 44-yard pass on his only attempt and rushing for 47 yards and two scores on six carries.
Lew Nichols looked more like his old self again vs. Bucknell, rushing for 166 yards and two touchdowns after picking up just 92 yards the previous two contests. With no Carlos Carriere (dental procedure) or Dallas Dixon (arm injury), it was up to Jalen McGaughy (four catches, 69 yards) to lead the receivers. No other receiver had more than 45 yards. Joel Wilson and Langston Lewis each scored a receiving touchdown.
The CMU defense was dominant, and found themselves not really needing to do much, which reflected in the individual numbers. Three Chippewas tied for the team lead in tackles, with Kyle Moretti, Jayden Davis and Michael Heldman all picking up five each. Heldman was the highlight player for CMU, with 3.5 tackles-for-loss, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Justin Whiteside had 2.5 tackles-for-loss, while Thomas Incoom had 1.5 tackles-for-loss and a solo sack. Caleb Spann pulled down the lone interception.
The Chippewas had both their kickers attempt field goals on what proved to be a difficult day, with Marshall Meeder going 0-for-2 from 48 and 50 yards, and Josh Rolston going 0-of-1 from 44 yards out, with an additional missed PAT.
Luke Elzinga punted just twice, averaging 46 net yards per kick.
Bucknell struggled to get going on offense, with both Ethan Grady (11-of-24, 96 yards, one interception) and Tyler Beverett (6-of-12 for 57 yards) struggling to finish about 50 percent of their passes.
Christian Tate (four catches, 35 yards) and Josh Gary (two catches, 31 yards) led the Bison receivers, while the normally impressive Coleman Bennett finished with 10 carries for 22 yards. Rushawn Baker led with 31 rushing yards on eight carries.
Brent Jackson led all tacklers with 12 stops and also had two pass break-ups for the Bison defense. Ben Allen (seven tackles) and John Schlendorf (four tackles) each picked up a solo sack, while Gavin Pringle had three pass break-ups.
Ryan Schatzel finished 0-for-1 on his only field goal attempt from 44 yards out, while his compatriot Ruben Anderson will be in the ice baths just a little bit longer over the next few days after a nine-punt effort which collected 340 net yards for an average of 42.5 per kick, with a long boot of 55 yards.
Next week, CMU will hope to apply any lessons they learned against Penn State in a noon showdown in Happy Valley, while Bucknell will start conference play against Lafayette at home.