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What We Learned from Central Michigan’s 58-44 loss to Oklahoma State

Early miscues put CMU at a disadvantage, but there’s plenty of potential in the roster which spells danger for opponents.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Central Michigan at Oklahoma State Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Central Michigan vs. Oklahoma State rubber match was a much-anticipated matchup on a Thursday night— to the point where it was given the national television treatment. It did not quite live up to the close reputation the unexpected rivalry had produced in the previous two games, but there was still a lot to be gleaned from the action.

If you missed the game, you can catch the recap at this link, then return back for the observations.

Here’s some of what we learned about the Chippewas during Thursday night’s action:

CMU will be just fine at receiver

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Oklahoma State Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

There were some initial concerns about the state of the receiving room after the departures of Kalil Pimpleton and JaCorey Sullivan left the Chips without a lot of options along the outside numbers.

Dallas Dixon did return at the slot, but other experienced on-roster options, such as Lavar Gumms (transfer portal) and Remi Simmons (graduation) also departed, leaving CMU devastatingly shallow in spring camps.

The staff got aggressive in recruiting transfers, picking up six new faces, including former Ball State Cardinal Jalen McGaughy and former Maryland Terrapin Carlos Carriere. Carriere (six-foot-five, 205 lbs.) and McGaughy (six-foot-four, 225 lbs.) immediately won the starting jobs, as they’re both strong, physical presences with the speed to break the top of the defense.

They showed up in a major way against a verifiable OK State defense, with McGaughy (six receptions, 126 yards, two touchdowns) especially being a revelation, while Carriere (five receptions, 75 yards, one touchdown) also proved to be a handful.

Not to be forgotten is Dixon, who had about 10 yards per reception on five catches for 53 yards out of the slot. There’s also a lot of belief on the staff that the six-foot-five, 209 lbs. rdshirt freshman Finn Hogan, who had three catches for 31 yards will be a key player down the line, giving CMU four reliable receivers— even before factoring in tight end Joel Wilson.

If the receivers continue to replicate this performance on a weekly basis, CMU will be well on the way to being a Top 25 offense once again.

Daniel Richardson is dangerously good

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Oklahoma State Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Richardson won back the starting QB job with a fury during the 2021 contest with FIU, and he has proven why he never should have sat since, leading CMU to a 7-2 record last season as a starter while also throwing up some incredible numbers in just eight starts with 11 appearances.

Even in a loss to Oklahoma State, Richardson proved why he’s one of the MAC’s best quarterbacks in the 2022 campaign, winning MAC West Offensive Player of the Week honors for his Week 1 performance, going 36-of-49 for 424 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions against a defense which was a Top 5 total unit in 2021.

The Chips could have folded after falling behind by a 36-point gap, but instead, Richardson and company damned the torpedoes, scoring 29 points in the second half (and almost had 31 were it not for a failed two-point conversion) to give the ‘Pokes no choice but to put their starters back into the game to preserve their victory.

Richardson has shown a lot of touch in the short game, and no hesitation to toss it deep as well, showing a knack for placing the ball right where the receiver can catch it.

As discussed above, with seemingly no drop-off in receiver talent, Richardson will have all the tools he’ll need to help the Chips make another deep run at the MAC West division if this pace of offense continues.

The offensive line will need some time to gel

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Central Michigan at Oklahoma State Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One of the storylines most CMU fans will be tracking this season is the development of the offensive line after the departures of first-team all-MAC tackles Bernhard Raimann and Luke Goedeke to the NFL.

Those tackle spots were where the major position battles took place, and it wasn’t until the week of the game we knew how the situation resolved itself.

The interior of the line returns intact, with Deiyantei Powell-Woods, Jamezz Kimbrough and Tyden Ferris occupying those spaces left-to-right. The bookend tackles, however, are brand-new, with six-foot-five, 289 lb. sophomore Braden Swartout and six-foot-seven, 296 lbs. redshirt freshman Davis Heinzen occupying the right and left spots, respectively.

They had a handful in front of them for a first assignment, and we’ll need a few weeks to know the true state of the team, but if the first week is an indication of anything, there’s some work to be done.

The Chippewas allowed 13 tackles-for-loss, two sacks, four QB hurries and— worst of all— a safety against a stout OK State unit, contributing in part to CMU’s early struggles, as screens were blown up due to lack of downfield blocking and the zone runs were initially limited in effectiveness.

Give credit where it’s due, though, as they bowed up in the second half to put up some great pass protection reps for Richardson as the Chips attempted a massive comeback effort. We haven’t seen them at their full strength yet, but they did show some flashes of brilliance along the way, which should be promising as the schedule gets more favorable over the next few weeks.

The big play is still a problem for the defense

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Central Michigan at Oklahoma State Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For all the positives to be had from the game, there are still some major questions surrounding the Chippewas defense.

The normally havoc-causing defense probably met their toughest test, picking up just one sack and five tackles-for-loss for a team which was a Top 5 unit in both statistics in 2021. The secondary and linebackers also had their share of issues, often getting beat in coverage or leaving zones open.

Some of the issues could be pinned down to game flow, as the OK State safety certainly placed the defense on its heels, but even then, the CMU defense looked complely overwhelmed by a faster, stronger Cowboys offense.

The Cowboys posted five plays of 20+ yards in the first half, all of which contributed to scoring drives, including the first Cowboys touchdown of the game, when John Paul Richardson got behind the secondary for a 45-yard scoring strike.

The other first-half explosive plays went for 41 yards, 28 yards, 23 yards (Spencer Sanders touchdown run) and 42 yards, with plenty of other plays going between 10-19 yards to continue drives. It was as if the defense had not anticipated Oklahoma State’s tempo in the passing game, which is a bit of a concern.

It looked like OK State would continue to pull off explosives at the start of the third quarter, with another 45-yard pass from Sanders to Braydon Johnson on the first play from scrimmage leading to a touchdown on the next play.

To their credit, the Chips buckled down and forced a lot of limited drives in the second half, with the Cowboys only scoring 14 points, but a key penalty for offsides on an interception by Jayden Davis allowed OK State an opportunity to extend their lead. If the interception stood, it could have been a whole different game flow.

The defense will certainly have opportunities to avail itself over the rest of the non-conference season, but they’ll have to acknowledge some of the issues from the 2021 season have carried over into 2022 during film study this week.

CMU will begin their 2022 home campaign by hosting the Sun Belt’s South Alabama in a Saturday afternoon game on Sept. 10.