CMU punter Jack Sheldon was named the Mid-American Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after averaging 44.2 yards on nine punts in CMU's 35-28 victory at Western Michigan last week.
Nov. 7, 2017
| CENTRAL MICHIGAN
|5-4, 3-2 MAC
||3-6, 1-4 MAC
Wednesday, Nov. 8 | 8 p.m.
Kelly/Shorts Stadium | Mount Pleasant, Mich.
Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - One game does not a season make.
Even if it that one game was a win over your biggest rival, in dramatic fashion, in said rival's stadium, and it was your first in the series with that rival in four years.
"Hey this is no time to relax," CMU football coach John Bonamego said as he prepared his team to play host to Eastern Michigan on Wednesday (8 p.m.) at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. "We haven't accomplished anything yet. We still have a lot of important football in front of us starting with the one coming up.
"As fun as (the Western win) was, it's just one game. And there's still a lot to play for, a lot bigger things on the horizon to play for. That's where our focus has to be."
The Chippewas' 35-28 victory a week ago over Western Michigan - when they scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for their first win over their bitter rivals since 2013 - was CMU's third in its last four starts and it lifted the Chippewas to 5-4, 3-2 MAC.
Eastern is 3-6, 1-4 and could well make a case as the nation's hardest-luck team. The Eagles have lost three overtime games this season and another when they were turned away on a two-point conversion attempt with under a minute remaining in a one-point loss to Army.
The Eagles' six losses have come by a combined 23 points. They snapped a six-game losing streak with a take-out-the-frustration 56-14 win last week over Ball State.
The Eagles are led by quarterback Brogan Roback, the second-leading passer in program history. Roback has completed 202-of-332 pass attempts this season for 2,347 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has thrown eight interceptions.
Roback has tossed 52 career TD passes, one shy of Charlie Batch's program record. He leads a passing game that ranks second in the MAC at 276.8 yards per game.
The Eagles' leading rusher is Ian Eriksen, who has run for 537 yards (4.4 per carry) and five TDs.
Eastern ranks second in the MAC in total defense at 352.7 yards per game. The Eagles are allowing just 180.2 passing yards per game, which ranks second in the league and 19th nationally.
The Chippewas would appear to have discovered their run game over the past two weeks. They collected a season-high 256 yards on the ground in a 56-9 route of Ball State two weeks ago, and they finished with 166 on the ground against Western in a game played for the most part in a driving rainstorm.
CMU picked up 136 of its 166 rushing yards - the total was CMU's third highest this season -- against Western in the second half.
Jonathan Ward, who led the Chippewas with 132 yards rushing and a TD against the Broncos, credited patience and discipline to CMU's newfound success on the ground.
"In practice we have little periods where we dedicate it strictly to running and we take that very seriously and that transfers over into the game," said Ward, who is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. "As a running back you're sometimes tempted to bounce it to the outside when it's foggy inside. But we've just really been emphasizing staying on our tracks and trusting our linemen and our linemen trust us that we'll see the hole and hit it."
The Chippewas, Eagles and Broncos play annually for the Michigan MAC Trophy, which goes to the team with the best record in the head-to-head matchups between the three schools.
Eastern lost to Western, 20-17, in overtime earlier this season, so the Broncos finished the year 1-1 versus their in-state rivals. If the Chippewas win on Wednesday, they will be 2-0 against Eastern and Western and will claim the trophy for the first time since 2013.
If Eastern wins on Wednesday, all three schools will be 1-1 and Western, because it won the trophy last year, would retain it.
The Chippewas reclaimed the Cannon Trophy in Kalamazoo last week after Western had held it for three consecutive years.
"That's not the main emphasis and it won't be the main emphasis during the week," Bonamego said of the Michigan MAC Trophy. "Just like last week, the emphasis wasn't on the trophy, it was on the game and doing what we have to do to win the game.
"The trophy's a byproduct of winning the game."
The Chippewas took a 21-20 lead on the Eagles in Ypsilanti with under three minutes to play only to see Eastern come back and score the game-winning TD with 21 seconds left as CMU fell, 26-21.
The winning TD came on a 24-yard pass, which is something that is not far from the Chippewas' memory, particularly the secondary.
"Last year we let Eastern off the hook," senior safety Josh Cox said. "They passed the ball on us in the fourth quarter, so we sort of have a chip on our shoulder for this game. To flip the page after Western, we feel like it's pretty easy as a defensive back corps because we feel like we have something to prove against Eastern."