Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Cooper Rush threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns Saturday and John Bonamego got his first win as Central Michigan’s coach as the Chippewas manhandled Monmouth, 31-10, before 21,092 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
“It (was) definitely in the back of my mind before the game started, we really wanted to get (Bonamego) his first ‘W,’” said senior middle linebacker Tim Hamilton, a team captain. “At the end we got to dump the Gatorade on him.
“It was just a nice moment for everything he’s been through and how hard he’s worked. Just to get him his first win. We are grateful for that.”
Rush completed 25 of 36 attempts and was nearly perfect in the first half, leading CMU to a 31-3 advantage at the break and making the final 30 minutes nearly academic.
Rush’s TD passes, all of which came in the first two quarters, went to Ben McCord (83 yards), Corey Willis (27) and Joe Bacci (1). His 328 yards passing is the highest regular-season total of Rush’s career, surpassing the 326 he posted in his first collegiate game, when he came out of the bullpen to lead the Chippewas to a dramatic victory over New Hampshire in 2013.
“That’s what we want (Rush) to do, and that’s how the offense is designed,” Bonamego said. “I mean we don’t have a (former CMU standout) Titus Davis, but we do have a lot of quality players, a lot of good depth in the receiving corps.”
CMU scored on five of its six first-half possessions. Mark Chapman capped the Chippewas’ opening drive with an 11-yard touchdown run, and Brian Eavey kicked a 30-yard field goal.
The Chippewas held a near 2-to-1 edge in time of possession in the first half, gained 336 yards while holding the Hawks to just 27, and converted 10 of 12 third downs.
“It wears them down,” Bonamego said of holding the ball for such long stretches and continually converting on third down. “It’s frustrating being on the sideline when you’re on defense and you can’t get someone off the field. To be able to convert on third down, we knew it would be a factor, it usually is.”
Despite a run game that sputtered for the second consecutive week, CMU dominated the Football Championship Subdivision Hawks, finishing with 402 total yards and holding the Hawks to 181, gaining 22 first downs and holding decided edge in possession time.
The Chippewas finished with 74 rushing yards and averaged just 2.2 yards per carry. Martez Walker led the Chippewas with 34 yards on eight attempts. Last week in the season-opner against Oklahoma State, the Chippewas finished with 78 yards on the ground.
“About the only thing we didn’t do quite well was run the football,” Bonamego said. “It was a little bit better, showed some spurts, but overall we still need to be able to run the ball better.”
Three of the Chippewas’ five interior starting offensive linemen – J.P. Quinn, Derek Edwards and Austin Doan -- were making the second start of their respective careers.
“They were loading the box on us,” Rush said. “It was tough to run the ball the way they were loading the box. They wanted to take the run away from us, which they did for the most part in that first half.”
The Chippewas go to Syracuse (2-0) next week. The Orange, who defeated Wake Forest, 30-17, on Saturday, handed CMU a 40-3 loss last season at Kelly/Shorts.
“That’s a big one,” Rush said. “That still stings from last year and we didn’t think they were that much better than us. They beat us and kicked our butts and we want that one back and we’re excited to go into that game.
“It’s going to be a tough. We’re going to have to execute extremely well and it starts with a good week of practice.
We go into every game thinking we are going to win.”