Central Michigan was within the grasps of an upset last week at Syracuse. The contest was sent into overtime after an incredible 27-yard touchdown pass from Cooper Rush to tight end Ben McCord in the final seconds. Unfortunately, the Chippewas were forced to settle for a field goal, and Syracuse was able to punch it in for the deciding score. However, John Bonamego's team showed great resilience, coming back from a 14 point deficit. Cooper Rush was fantastic, throwing for 430 yards and 2 TD's. Sophomore running back Devon Spalding had his coming out party, rushing for 83 yards and a score, while also catching 10 passes for 102 yards receiving. The Chippewa defense was able to slow the Orange passing attack, but the same could not be said for the running game. The effort against the ACC opponent was admirable, and Central Michigan was a play or two away from taking the victory.
The Chippewas are preparing for yet another game against a power conference opponent, the #2 ranked Michigan State Spartans out of the Big Ten. Sitting at 3-0, Michigan State is coming off a 35-21 victory over Air Force, where senior quarterback Connor Cook threw four touchdown passes. The Spartans have already faced the #MACtion once this season, in week one, against Western Michigan on the road. Sparty took care of business in a closer-than-expected game 37-24.
Michigan State split the majority of carries between their two feature running backs, Madre London and LJ Scott. The duo combined for 63 yards on 28 carries, not a great stat line for the Spartans, who are usually strong in the running game. It is also notable that there were no rushing touchdowns against the Falcons by any Michigan State player.
The Michigan State passing game was a much different story. Led by potential first-round draft pick Connor Cook, the Spartan aerial attack was a strength against Air Force. Although only four receivers caught passes, the unit scored four touchdowns through the air. Cook ended the game having completed 15 of 23 passes for 247 yards. His new favorite target, senior receiver Aaron Burbridge, caught 8 passes for 156 yards and 3 touchdowns. The veteran quarterback will be a definite challenge for the Chippewa secondary, and, despite a strong showing against Syracuse last week, there will have to be more improvement in the defensive backfield if Connor Cook is to be stopped.
Last week, Michigan State was out-gained in total yards by the Falcons. The Spartan defense struggled with the dangerous rushing attack of Air Force, allowing 279 rushing yards and 2 TD's. They did not allow the Falcons much success through the air, however, giving up 6 completions for 149 yards and a touchdown. Michigan State also forced an interception from Air Force quarterback Karson Roberts, which was one of three turnovers the Spartan defense caused.
This is the last non-MAC game for the Chippewas, and this is most likely the toughest opponent on their schedule. Playing on the road in East Lansing is not an easy task, but if Central Michigan plays at all like they did last week, the game will competitive for both squads.
The overtime defeat at the hands of the Syracuse Orange was a clear indicator of the potential of some facets of this Chippewa football team. The offense was able to excel, with the help of the running game. Devon Spalding was finally able to contribute, and he did so, in a major way. His big plays in the running and passing games were greatly needed for his team and for his own confidence. The first couple of games were not great displays of his talent, but last week he was finally able to impress Chippewa fans.
Secondly, tight end Ben McCord emerged as a reliable target for Cooper Rush, leading the team with 10 receptions for 147 yards. This is comforting news, because his role in the offense had been unclear through the first two games.
Central Michigan's defense showed promise in the defensive secondary against Syracuse. That unit of the defense is going to have to play lights-out in order to slow down the Spartans. Every bit of preparation will be put to the test against one of the best passing teams in the country.
Be sure to tune in to this game, which is schedule for 12:00 P.M. EST, on Saturday, September 26, in East Lansing, Michigan.