Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Hardly a thing of beauty, and there is plenty to correct.
But a win is a win, and John Bonamego and his Central Michigan football team will take it.
Devon Spalding scored on a 4-yard run in the third overtime on Thursday as the Chippewas topped Rhode Island, 30-27, and then breathed a sigh of relief after surviving against the Football Championship Subdivision Rams in the season opener before 16,311 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
"I am happy with the win, very happy with the win," said Bonamego, who is in his third season as the Chippewas' coach. "I am proud of the way the team hung in there and fought. I think there are a lot of lessons that are going to be learned from this game. I don't want to diminish or take away from the fact that we won, but I am not happy with some of the execution that I saw out there."
Shane Morris, a graduate transfer from Michigan, threw for 226 yards and a touchdown in his Central Michigan debut and the Chippewas finished with 499 yards in total offense.
"Going into the game your main objective is to win and we won," said Morris, who completed 25 of his 49 pass attempts and was intercepted once. "It might not have gone the way we planned ... There's obviously a lot of things that offensively we need to do better. We need to execute better, I need to make smart decisions, I need to play better, complete more passes."
CMU running back Jonathan Ward, a sophomore, rushed for a career-high 147 yards and a touchdown.
The game featured 10 turnovers, including a program-record-tying six interceptions by the CMU defense. Josh Cox and Amari Coleman made two interceptions apiece.
"All around I thought our defensive played amazing, they did really well with (the offense) not getting into the in end zone as many times as we wanted to," Morris said. "They did a great job. Six picks. Unbelievable. I've never been part of a game like that."
The Chippewas built a 13-0 lead on a Morris-to-Brandon Childress 4-yard touchdown pass and two Michael Armstrong field goals, and then extended their lead to 21-7 after Ward scored on a 36-yard run a minute into the fourth quarter.
Rhode Island, which has won four games in the last four seasons combined, sprang to life, scoring on an 80-yard touchdown pass play and a 14-yard Tyler Harris-to-Aaron Parker TD pass to forge a 21-21 tie with just over two minutes remaining.
The game-tying touchdown came after Rhode Island recovered a Morris fumble at the Chippewa 10-yard line.
The teams traded field goals in the first overtime, and the second overtime ended with Rhode Island's C.J. Carrick pushing wide right a potential game-winning 33-yard field goal.
Carrick booted a 36-yarder to put the Rams in front, 27-24, in the third overtime before Spalding ended it by bulling in from the 4-yard line.
"When we came out in overtime, I think our guys did a great job staying composed, you know - not cracking, and thinking about what would happen if we lost to Rhode Island or something like that," Morris said. "We stayed composed and got the job done and I think that's a huge accomplishment."