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2022 MAC Football Week 1 Game Recap: Oklahoma State 58, Central Michigan 44

It was a tale of two halves for Central in a game which showed how much potential the team has when the lights are on— but a loss is still a loss.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Oklahoma State Sarah Phipps-USA TODAY Sports

The Central Michigan Chippewas (0-1) and the #12 Oklahoma State Cowboys (1-0) met in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Thursday night to settle an old score in a series which spanned seven years of history and two games— split nicely down the middle with the road teams winning both contests.

Thursday night was the first time the schools had met since 2016, when the Chippewas came into town and took the ranked Cowboys squad down to the wire before fate intervened and gave college football fans one of the most famous moments in the history of college football.

Early on, it looked like it could be a repeat of the prior two games, as both teams exchanged early touchdowns in the first quarter, with Oklahoma State striking first on a 45-yard connection from Spencer Sanders to John Paul Richardson before CMU answered back with a 15-yard connection of their own from Daniel Richardson to Maryland transfer Carlos Carriere.

The Central Michigan defense forced a punt on OK State’s next possession, and the Chippewas showed off perhaps one of their best drives of the day, going 55 yards down the field over eight plays, but couldn’t quite get to the end zone. Marshall Meeder trotted on for the 50-yard field goal, but missed wide to the left.

The CMU defense would show up once again to give Sanders a fit, with the erstwhile QB at one point going 2-of-6 on passes, including 0-of-3 three straight attempts to force a punt.

That’s where the problems would start to arise for the Chips, as Aussie punter Tom Hutton pinned CMU down to their own two-yard line on a fortunate bounce for the coverage team.

On the first play of the new drive, CMU opted for a heavy set to try and get out of the endzone, but Oklahoma State’s defensive line won the rep, as Lamont Bishop would meet Lew Nichols at the goal line to force a safety.

OK State found a rhythm, scoring on the ensuing safety punt possession and immediately adding 21 more points to the run from there, scoring both at will and unanswered from the 55 second mark in the first quarter to 43 seconds remaining in the first half.

The Pokes extended their lead to 37-7 on the strength of Spencer Sanders’ historic first-half performance, as the senior QB threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for two more scores to build a fairly sizable gap.

The Chippewas would finally stop the bleeding with a four-yard touchdown run by Lew Nichols to cap off a 10-play, 75-yard drive lasting well over three minutes to cut the deficit to 37-15 thanks to Jalen McGaughy catching the two-point conversion.

Oklahoma State did not grant CMU the mercy of kneeling out the clock to end the half, opting instead to go for points with the hurry-up offense, gashing the Chips for 61 yards on three plays (with an additional 13 yards on a defensive pass interference penalty) to push the score up to 44-15 with a one-yard Dominic Richardson run.

Upon resumption of play, the Cowboys once again opted to put the pedal to the metal, scoring on a two-play, 52-yard drive assisted in large part by a 45-yard toss from Spencer to Braydon Johnson. Bryson Green would haul in the touchdown which put Oklahoma up by a 51-15 margin with 14:23 remaining in the third quarter.

The Chippewas answered the call once again on the next drive, with Jalen McGaughy capping a seven-play, 80-yard drive with a goal-line receiving score to pull the score to 51-21 after the failed two-point conversion.

The teams would play some football which could be charitably called “workman-like”, with five of the next seven combined possessions picking up 17 yards or less, a streak of futility which would be broken by another Central score, this time on a beautiful 18-yard lob pass from Richardson to backup running back Myles Bailey to bring the score to 51-27.

Oklahoma State, who still had their starters in the game, once again took the field to try and stop the sudden comeback bid, but a Spencer Sanders pass seemingly found its way into CMU safety Jayden Davis’ hands on a toe-tapping effort, which was put under review before ultimately being confirmed— alongside a penalty for offsides on a member of the defensive line.

The Cowboys would score a few plays later on a one-yard Zach Middleton rushing touchdown, to put OK State up 58-27 with 9:17 remaining.

CMU responded by damning the torpedoes downfield, string together a five-play, 70-yard drive ending in a Lew Nichols 15-yard rushing score with a two-point conversion and another six-play, 72-yard drive which saw the most explosive play of the night for the Chippewas in an amazing 54-yard catch-and-run score for Jalen McGaughy— which was immediately followed by another successful two-point conversion.

Suddenly, OK State head coach Mike Gundy had no choice but to insert the starters back into the game after pulling them out on the previous drive. The Chippewas bowed up and forced a three-and-out, giving the offense the ball once again.

Their luck ultimately ran out though, as the Chippewa offense would be unable to get anything going on a four-and-out effort, bringing the game to it’s oddly thrilling conclusion.

For the CMU offense, Daniel Richardson had a quiet 424 yards on 36-of-49 attempts, with four touchdowns and just one interception on the day. Debutante transfer receivers Jalen McGaughy (six receptions, 126 yards, two touchdowns) and Carlos Carriere (five receptions, 75 yards, one touchdown) led the way through the air, while Lew Nichols was keyed in from the beginning, limited to 72 yards and two scores on 26 attempts (though he did also have six catches for 26 yards.)

The CMU defense had it rough, but safety Trey Jones ultimately led the Chips in tackles (9), while former running back De’Javion Stephney (eight tackles, two pass break-ups) and Ronald Kent Jr. (five tackles, pass break-up) also topped the charts. EDGE rusher Thomas Incoom had CMU’s lone sack and tackle-for-loss, while linebacker Nick Apsey forced a fumble.

Marshall Meeder missed his only field goal from 50 yards out, but hit both extra points. Luke Elzinga had five punts for 197 net yards, with one punt inside the 20.

For Oklahoma State, Spencer Sanders would finish the day 28-of-41 for 406 yards and four passing touchdowns, while also finishing second on the rushing charts with 11 attempts for 57 yards and two scores. Braydon Johnson emerged as the leading receiver, with six catches for 113 yards and two scores, while Brennan Pressley (five catches, 83 yards), and John Paul Richardson (four receptions, 74 yards, one score) were also contributors in the passing game. Bryson Green and Jayden Nixon also had receiving scores.

Dominic Richardson would have just nine rushes for 61 yards, as the run game didn’t see much action in this one.

The Cowboys defense had two tacklers in double-digits, with Mason Cobb (11 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss) and Kendal Daniels (11 tackles, one tackle-for-loss, one interception) pacing the table. At least nine players registered .5-tackles-for-loss or more, as the unit accumulated 13 total along with two sacks. Tyler Lacy and Cobb tied for 2.5 TFL’s each to lead the Pokes.

Kicker Tanner Brown converted all eight PAT’s, while punter Tom Hutton had seven punts for 288 yards and five punts downed inside the 20.

The game was, overall, one where questions lingered around both rosters by the game’s end.

Central showed they could exchange punches with a Top 25 team in the country in spots, and the overall stats showed the Chips actually outgaining the Cowboys in total yards, passing yards, completion percentage, first down conversions and time of possession— but they also showed a distressing reaction to some early adversity, falling into a 30+ point hole which was hard to dig out of.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, will be left to wonder what happened to a defense which was a Top 5 unit in the country in 2021, as they gave up 546 yards and 44 points in this contest to a Group of Five team, over double the yards and points per game allowed they averaged the season before. They’ll have to go back to the drawing board before a tough matchup next week,

CMU will take the next nine days to prepare for their home opener on Saturday, Sept. 10 against South Alabama at 1 p.m. Eastern,

Oklahoma State will prepare to host Arizona State, also for a contest scheduled on Saturday, Sept. 10, though kickoff for that game will be at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.