Cullen Maksimowski, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. -- When John Bonamego was announced as the new head football coach of Central Michigan University last March he said it was his dream job.
Bonamego, a former CMU walk-on, lived that dream Thursday as he led his team into Kelly/Shorts Stadium for the very first time in a 24-13 loss to Oklahoma State.
It was an emotional night for Bonamego, 51, who, just months after becoming CMU’s head coach, was diagnosed with tonsil cancer that eventually spread to his lymph nodes. He completed radiation and chemotherapy treatments two weeks ago.
“I just really want to say something about our crowd, especially our student section,” Bonamego said. “I’m proud of all of you, I really appreciate you showing up. The student body was outstanding and I’ve been told in years past that they left at halftime and that didn’t happen today and I want to thank each and every one of you.”
The crowd was announced at 19,717 and the student section, stationed behind the CMU bench, was particularly strong.
“It was emotional,” Bonamego said in reflecting on the evening. “I’m very proud to be here and I’m proud of these players, I love them, I love this institution.
“I’m just disappointed we didn’t come away with the win because we really felt like we could compete with them, we felt like we had a good plan. ... I would’ve liked to be sitting here after a win that would’ve been pretty sweet and it would’ve made it a lot better.”
The Central Michigan defense played well for most of the game, holding the up-tempo Cowboys offense to just 10 points and 141 yards in the first half.
“I think maybe we just got worn down at the end, but I thought our guys made a tremendous effort,” Bonamego said. “You have to give credit to them, they executed and made plays they needed to make down the stretch and we didn’t.”
Senior safetly Kavon Frazier finished with a career-best 13 tackles, including two big hits on punt coverage.
“ I was just trying to run around and make a play the whole game,” Frazier said. “That’s mainly what it is. I was just trying to make a play the whole game.”
Sophomore Josh Cox played well in extended playing time at cornerback. He was credited with eight tackles.
The Cowboys took control of the game in the fourth quarter as their uptempo spread offense appeared to wear down CMU. The Chippewas also couldn’t get a break as OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph twice fumbled snaps that were recovered by teammates.
“If Oklahoma State made a few mistakes, if we get one of those fumbles in the fourth quarter, who knows, anything could happen,” Bonamego said.
The Chippewas recorded two sacks, one each by Joe Ostman and Louis Palmer.
Spread the wealth
CMU junior quarterback Cooper Rush threw for 225 yards on 28-of-41 passing. He was sacked three times and intercepted once.
The Chippewas finished with 265 passing as receiver Jesse Kroll took a lateral from Rush and found sophomore Mark Chapman wide open for a 40-yard gain.
Nine CMU receivers caught at least two passes in the game. Chapman led the way with six catches for 72 yards, and both numbers were career highs.
Tight end Ben McCord matched his career-best with four catches for 59 yards. The 59 yards was tops in his career.
Solid kicking game
Junior placekicker Brian Eavey and punter Ron Coluzzi both turned in solid performances.
Eavey, a junior walk-on, made both of his field goal attempts, connecting from 31 yards and 26 yards.
Coluzzi averaged 39.6 yards on his seven punts with a long of 58. Four of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. Coluzzi kicked off four times for an average of 63.2 yards with two touchbacks.