Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – The Central Michigan football team faced the best passing offense in the Mid-American Conference on Saturday.
Turns out, Toledo is pretty good at running it, too.
The Rockets rolled up 399 yards in total offense – 310 of it on the ground – in handing the Chippewas a 30-10 loss in front of a homecoming crowd of 15,572 at rainy Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
Ultimately, it was CMU’s inability to move the ball on the ground and its inability to stop it that spelled doom for the Chippewas, who slipped to 3-4 overall, 1-2 MAC.
The game was played in a steady rain, making any the passing game inconsistent. CMU quarterback Shane Morris completed 17 of 37 pass attempts for 182 yards and was intercepted twice.
The Chippewas finished with 62 yards on the ground, an average of 3 yards per run play. The Rockets averaged 5.5 on the ground and ran the ball 56 times, leading to 15-plus-minute advantage in time of possession.
The left the Chippewa defense on the field for long stretches.
“I don’t know if we necessarily got worn down, but we were losing the line of scrimmage battle,” senior defensive end Joe Ostman said. “We were definitely prepared for more passing from them. You never know what the weather is going to be like, though, and they ran the ball more because we weren’t stopping them. … If we don’t stop it, they will gladly run the ball all game.”
Bonamego said flatly in his post-game remarks that he did not do a good enough job of preparing his team to run the ball.
“Our inability in the early parts of the game to get any kind of offense going and drive the football, hurt us,” he said. “Ultimately, as the head football coach, the responsibility falls on me. I told the team that. When I saw what the weather was going to be like, I should have insisted that we make a greater, stronger commitment to keeping the ball on the ground and running it.”
Bonamego admirably stood up and shouldered the responsibility. His players stood by him.
“We aren’t going to sit here and point fingers at whose fault it was,” Ostman said. “We are a team, and we are behind our coaches 100 percent. Us as players, we have to be better. Defensively and offensively we have to be better.”
Toledo’s first two touchdowns came on fourth-down runs, the first from the CMU 48-yard line, the second from the Chippewas’ 22.
“That’s inexcusable, but overall I thought our defense did a really good job in the early part of the football game of stopping drives,” Bonamego said.
The rain unquestionably cost the Chippewas several times on the day. Their no-huddle, up-tempo offense that relies heavily on the passing game was handcuffed by the rain and CMU receivers dropped at least a half dozen passes.
“Our guys in our receiving group are mentally tough,” Chapman said. “The drops come on a day like today, but it didn’t bother us mentally. We remained confident through the whole game. We just have to roll with the punches on a day like today.”
Chapman led the Chippewas with five catches for 71 yards, while tight end Tyler Conklin had three for 48.
Conklin scored the Chippewas’ lone touchdown on a 26-yard pass from Morris with 1:06 to play.
Malik Fountain and Michael Oliver led the CMU defense with 12 and 10 tackles, respectively. Both made eight solo stops.
Linebacker Alex Briones and safety Josh Cox finished with nine stops each.
Defensive end Joe Ostman was credited with a sack, his sixth of the season and the 20th of his career. He is the fifth player in program history to have recorded 20 in a Chippewa uniform.
Sharing the punting duties
Zach Oakley and Cooper Mojsiejenko shared the Chippewa punting duties, each punting four times.
Oakley averaged 49.2 yards with a long of 55 and two inside the Rocket 20-yard line. Mojsiejenko averaged 29.8 yards.
The Chippewas go to Ball State next Saturday (3 p.m.) for a MAC game. The Cardinals are 2-4, 0-2 MAC. They were idle this week.
Saturday’s loss deals a severe blow to the Chippewas’ hopes of winning the MAC West and playing in the league championship game at Ford Field.
“There’s nothing I’m glad about right now,” Bonamego said. “I think it’s a missed opportunity. When you look at the MAC, it’s hard to go down two games and end up in the MAC Championship game. That’s just the flat truth.
“For me to say anything else – anything different – it would be fantasy. So now, the challenge is we have to come in (Sunday) and understand that we have another game next week. So, we cannot afford to let one (loss) lead into to two.”