By Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewa.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - The one-two punch of Titus Davis and Thomas Rawls, coupled with a staunch defensive effort, was exactly what the Central Michigan football team needed.
Rawls carried 40 times for 229 yards – both career highs – and Davis caught 10 passes for 181 yards as the Chippewas snapped a three-game losing streak with a 28-10 Mid-American Conference win Saturday over Ohio on Homecoming at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
“We didn’t play perfect by any means, but I thought we played extremely hard and I thought our defense was dominant and we were able to run the ball and create some explosive plays in our pass game,” CMU coach Dan Enos said.
Both teams are 3-3 overall, 1-1 MAC. CMU goes to Northern Illinois next week.
Davis and Rawls scored two touchdowns apiece and CMU’s defense set the tone, holding Ohio to 24 yards and two first downs in the first half.
“Any time you lose three straight games, that’s rough,” said Davis, whose 10 receptions matched his career high. “We needed this W and we needed everything from everyone. It was something we said the last couple days, it was ‘fourth-and-goal.’ Which is, just play every play like it’s fourth-and-goal. We did that and it showed.”
CMU quarterback Cooper Rush completed 17-of-27 pass attempts for 233 yards. He connected with Davis on first-half touchdown passes of 4 and 32 yards, staking the Chippewas to a 14-0 lead before the Bobcats had even produced a first down.
“He’s a tremendous player,” Enos said of Davis, who returned last week after missing three games because of an injury. “He’s a difference maker. He’s not 100 percent, and he’s working every week to get to that. He’s explosive, he has a good knack for running routes, creating space.
“When we have him out there he helps the run game, he helps the offense. People respect him because they know he can run by them, and that makes everything else better.”
The Chippewas rode Rawls and his career-best performance to a dominant day on offense.
CMU finished with 234 yards on the ground, 467 total yards and 24 first downs, all season-bests. The Chippewas dominated time of possession and ran 79 plays to the Bobcats’ 44.
“I didn’t know how many carries I had until the end of the game, but I can tell you one thing I’m feeling every bit of it,” said Rawls, whose previous career-highs – 31 carries, 155 yards – came earlier this season in a 38-17 win at Purdue. “I’m a tough guy and I have some tough boys up front and we tried to grind it out.”
The game plan did not call for Rawls to tote it 40 times, Enos said, but Rawls made it difficult on the coaching staff to bring him off the field.
“It’s hard to take him out,” Enos said. “He’s got great lower-body power and he’s very determined, very competitive when he runs. He’s kind of a unique guy. At the end of the day, we’re trying to get the ball into his hands as much as we can because if we do that, there’s going to be some explosive plays.”
Ohio managed a Josiah Yazdani 24-yard field goal with 13 seconds left in the half to cut CMU’s to 14-3. The play was set up by an Ohio fumble return – the game’s only turnover – to the CMU 6-yard line.
The Chippewas responded, opening the second half with a 15-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped by Rawls’ 15-yard TD run which increased the lead to 21-3. The drive consumed 7:26, CMU’s longest drive, time-wise, of the season.
Ohio came to life in the early in the fourth quarter, when Tim Edmond capped an 86-yard, eight-play drive with a 1-yard TD plunge.
CMU answered with a seven-play, 68-yard drive with Rawls scoring from a yard out for the final margin.