Football Notebook: Chippewas Head West

Coach John Bonamego and his CMU football team will take on Wyoming in the Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 22.
Dec. 3, 2017

Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - The Central Michigan football team will play Wyoming in the Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 22 in Boise, Idaho at Albertsons Stadium on the campus of Boise State University.

The Chippewas accepted the bowl invitation on Sunday afternoon, shortly after the team resumed practice at Kelly/Shorts Stadium following their 31-24 victory over Northern Illinois in their regular-season finale nine days ago.

CMU (8-4) takes a five-game win streak into the bowl game, and has won six of its past seven starts. Wyoming is 7-5 and finished 5-3, tied for second, in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference.

The Chippewas are playing in their fourth consecutive bowl game and their ninth in the last 12 years. It is the program's first appearance in the Idaho Potato Bowl and it will play in Boise for the first time since 2001, when the Chippewas lost to Boise State, 26-10. Boise was also the site of a CMU victory in a quarterfinal playoff game en route to its Division II National Championship.

The Chippewas' last Mountain West opponent was UNLV. CMU defeated the Rebels, 44-21, at home last season. It will be CMU's first road trip west of the Mississippi River since it played at UNLV on Sept. 14, 2013.

"We're really excited for the opportunity to play a Mountain West opponent," CMU coach John Bonamego said. "I've heard nothing but great things about this bowl game. Don't know much about Wyoming at this point. I know they have an outstanding quarterback, they're a good football team. Coach (Craig) Bohl, I know he's done an outstanding job everywhere he's been. We're really looking forward to the matchup and the preparation."

The Cowboys

Wyoming will be making its second consecutive bowl appearance. It lost to BYU, 24-21, in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego last season.

The Cowboys dropped their final two regular-season games, 13-7 to Fresno State and 20-17 to San Jose State.

Bohl is in his fourth season as the Cowboys' coach. He was previously at North Dakota State, where he led the Bison to consecutive Football Championship Subdivision titles from 2011-13. He was an assistant at Nebraska from 1995-2002, and he was part of the coaching staff when the Cornhuskers claimed two national championships.

Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen was touted as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate prior to the season. He has thrown for 1,658 yards and 13 touchdowns while completing 56.2 percent of his passes. He was injured in the Cowboys' 10th game, a 28-14 victory over Air Force and did not play in Wyoming's final two games.

There was no word on Sunday as to Allen's status for the bowl game.

What to Expect

The weather in Boise is similar to that of Michigan, with the average daily high temperature in December in the 30s.

That's a departure from CMU's three most recent bowl appearances in the Bahamas, in Miami, and indoors at Ford Field in Detroit.

"Being a team from Michigan, from the Midwest, we're about as prepared as any team can hope to be (for the weather)," Bonamego said.

CMU quarterback Shane Morris said he is looking forward to playing in weather to which the Chippewas are accustomed. CMU is 6-1 this season in the months of October and November.

"Football is football no matter where it's played, indoor, outdoor," he said. "I like playing in the cold so I'm happy about it. I like throwing the ball in the cold. I think the ball's a little bit tackier. Sticks to my fingers better. I've just always liked it. Playoff weather. End of the season weather. Important games are played in the cold, in Michigan. I've been playing in it my whole life."

Starting Assignment

Morris made one of his two starts during his four years at Michigan in the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. The Wolverines lost, 31-14. Morris completed 24 of 38 passes for 196 yards in the game.

Morris was a true freshman then and said he didn't expect to start. The Idaho Potato Bowl will be markedly different for the graduate transfer.

"Kind of being the established starter, and being in the bowl game I helped lead the team to, I'm really excited for it," he said. "It's an awesome opportunity. To go out there and be able to get nine wins, that's something this team hasn't been able to do in a while."

Last Chance

None of the current Chippewas has been on the winning side in a bowl game. CMU's last bowl victory came in 2012, when it defeated Western Kentucky, 24-21, in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Ford Field in Detroit.

"That (a win) would be huge for us," senior captain Joe Ostman said. "This is a big game for us, we're really excited for the opportunity. We feel like we're in a great place as a team."

Ostman said the team was well aware that the Chippewas were candidates to play at the Quick Lane Bowl, along with several other games. He said the game locale and the opponent were never huge concerns. Simply winning a football game is.

"Our mindset's more about winning," he said. "We're not too focused on where the game is or who the game's against necessarily, but that we need to win, that's what we need to do. Our focus is on winning the game rather than the location. We're excited to go out to Idaho. It'll be a new experience for us."

Benefits

The opportunity to play yet another game is important on several levels, Bonamego said, including the fact that bowl-bound teams are allowed 15 on-campus practices before they depart for their game destination.

"Those are very valuable to your program," he said. "You want to use them to prepare for the game, but you also want to use them to continue to develop some of your younger players. That's a big benefit to being in it."

Sustained Success

The Chippewas will play in their fourth bowl game in four years, and their ninth in the last 12. The Chippewas have been bowl eligible in 10 of those 12 years. Bonamego, who is in his third year in charge of the program, said that not only helps boost the morale within the program, but it also helps in recruiting.

"Being bowl eligible and knowing you're going to be playing in bowl games, whether it's the Bahamas where we've been, Miami, Detroit and now Boise, I think it says a lot for the sustained success of our program," he said.

Tickets
Purchasing tickets through CMU is the easiest way fans and alumni can show support for the Chippewas during the bowl season for two key reasons:
1. Obtaining tickets through Ticket Central's special Famous Idaho Potato Bowl line at 989-774-1921 directly helps CMU football student-athletes enjoy the best possible bowl experience. Fans can also go online to buy from Ticket Central.
2. Buying tickets through CMU is the only way to ensure seating in CMU sections. More ticket information will be added to this post when it is available.

Tickets cost $55 plus an ordering and delivery fee, and they go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday. Fans can purchase tickets in person at Ticket Central, by calling 989-774-1921 or visiting cmuchippewas.com. Tickets ordered by phone or online also carry a mailing fee, and a will-call window pickup option is available.

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