By Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
LAWRENCE, Kan. - Kansas scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns Saturday to break a 10-10 tie and hand Central Michigan a 24-10 loss at Memorial Stadium.
The Chippewas (2-2) play at Toledo next Saturday night in their Mid-American Conference opener. Kansas is 2-1.
“Exhibition season’s over,” CMU coach Dan Enos said. “We’re 2-2, we played a very difficult non-conference schedule, probably one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in our league, like we always do.”
It was the second straight loss for the Chippewas, who fell, 40-3, to Syracuse at home a week ago. They opened with a 20-16 win over Chattanooga, then won at Purdue, 38-17.
The non-league ledger: Three opponents from Power Five conferences and a very good Football Championship Subdivision team.
“I thought our guys played extremely hard, found a way to win two of those games,” Enos said. “We didn’t play well last week (against Syracuse) and we were 10-10 in the fourth quarter today with a Big 12 team on the road. I told our team afterward that I think we’ve improved and I think we’re ready for conference play.
“I told our team after the game that last week we came in the locker room and it was a different feeling. Today we were very disappointed because we had chances to win and we weren’t able to make plays, obviously. We were very proud of the effort, of the preparation the entire week, the way we bounced back (after Syracuse), and the way we bounced back from the first play of the game.”
That first play was a momentum-grabbing 74-yard touchdown run by Tony Pierson, one of two home runs that eventually did in the Chippewas.
Despite falling in that early 7-0 hole, the Chippewas hung in and eventually tied the game 10-10 on sophomore Martez Walker’s 18-yard touchdown run with under four minutes to play in the third quarter.
Kansas answered early in the fourth, when quarterback Montell Cozart hooked up with Justin McCay on a 60-yard TD pass play to break the tie. The Jayhawks sealed it on a Cozart-to-Corey Avery 30-yard TD pass play with under two minutes remaining.
“It was 10-10 in the fourth quarter and up to that point they had the big play on the first play of the game and really mounted nothing after that,” Enos said. “I thought both teams were pretty evenly matched. I thought our guys played extremely hard. They made a couple more plays than we were able to make, and that was the difference in the game.”
Walker saw the first extended action of his career, finishing with 56 yards on 10 carries, both career-highs, all of which came in the second half.
“Coach says all the time, you’ve always got to be ready, no matter when it is in a game and once you get your opportunity, you’ve got to make the most of it,” said Walker, who came into the game with just 19 yards on 12 attempts in his career.
“All the credit goes to the offensive line and the tight ends and the receivers blocking downfield,” Walker said. “Without them I wouldn’t have been able to do anything at all. Confidence comes as you get into a rhythm and once you get into that rhythm, things start to slow down and it just feels like second nature to you.”
Walker was a bright spot in a run game that finished with 101 net yards – included in that total is three sacks of quarterback Cooper Rush – and averaged 2.9 yards per carry.
Rush was 18-of-26 passing for 178 yards and one interception. The Chippewas, playing for the third consecutive game without injured standout wide receiver Titus Davis, committed three turnovers.
Brian Eavey’s career-best 37-yard field goal midway through the second quarter drew CMU to 7-3 by halftime. Matthew Wyman answered with a 27-yarder early in the third to extend Kansas’ lead to 10-3. Just over three minutes later, the Chippewas knotted it on Walker’s TD run.
“We tell our guys all the time, ‘You’re going to get an opportunity at some point and we’ve got to make sure you make the most of it,’ and he certainly did, and he earned himself some more carries,” Enos said. “It was really nice to see. He’s a great young man, he’s a hard worker.”
Cozert was 24 of 33 passing for 226 yards and one interception. The Jayhawks finished with 369 total yards, 134 of which came on their two big scoring plays.
“They score (early), and you could have seen the team get deflated,” Enos said, “but I thought our defense responded, I thought our entire team did. Our defense played well. We gave up two big plays, but other than that I thought we tackled pretty well and did a nice job.
“It was a back and forth football game, good football game. They made more plays than we did, but there’s a lot to build off of. We’ve got a good team. I’m going to be very interested to see when we get all our pieces back and we get healthy and get out guys back. How good we can be.”