Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – A chance to reset, recharge and move forward.
The Central Michigan football team is eyeing its first victory of the season on Saturday when it entertains Bucknell in a nonconference game on Kramer/Deromedi Field at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 pm
The Chippewas (0-2) are coming off a 38-24 home loss to South Alabama. CMU opened with a 58-44 loss at then-No. 12 Oklahoma State.
Certainly, there was disappointment in CMU’s performance against South Alabama. Yet the Chippewas can’t live in the past but only move forward.
“Still licking our wounds a little bit from our performance last week,” CMU coach Jim McElwain said during his weekly press conference. “Like I said, I take total responsibility for that (performance). There’s a lot of lessons that we can learn from what transpired.
“It’s my responsibility to get us to play better and obviously I’m taking everything on that performance. That’s on me. Our team knows that, but they also know it takes all of us to go out there and be successful so let’s go do it.”
The Chippewas will look to avoid the slow start that has hampered them in their first two games. They fell behind by 30 points in the first half at Oklahoma State and were down 31-7 with under two minutes remaining in the half against South Alabama.
“I like the way we practice,” McElwain said. “I do like the resolve of this team and I really like this football team. Got a bunch of good people in that locker room and we’re going to make it right.
“Looking forward to getting out and playing again. That’s something we’ve got to do, get out there and play the game of football the way it should be played. I really feel like this group’s going to respond.”
Highs and Lows
CMU ranks No. 1 in the Mid-American Conference in passing offense (340.5 yards per game), in total offense (442 ypg), and first downs (54).
On the flip side, CMU ranks 10thth in the MAC, and 127th nationally, in total defense (516.5 ypg) and 12thth in the league and 131St in the country in passing yards allowed (380).
The Chippewas have struggled to move the ball on the ground against defenses designed to limit running backs Lew Nichols IIIlast year’s NCAA rushing leader.
McElwain said the game plan last week against South Alabama called for the Chippewas to throw early and loosen up that defense and create running room for Nichols.
But the CMU quarterback Daniel Richardson’s first five passes fell incomplete and the offense didn’t find its footing until the second half.
“Part of playing the position of quarterback is it’s important that you get some rhythm, get some layups, and then move forward from there,” McElwain said. “(Richardson has) had a really good week of practice, he’s accepted it and that’s where you really move forward. The reason you study history is so you don’t make that same mistake in the future.”
Above and above that, McElwain said, is the Chippewas need to play with more energy and be more physical
“We’ve got to come back and get that remedied this week and going into the remainder of the season,” he said.
Senior Dallas Dixon, the Chippewas’ top returning wide receiver, was injured against South Alabama and is out for the season. He had six catches for 96 yards in the Chippewas’ first two games.
“You feel horrible for any (injured player) but in Dallas’ case, being a senior, and a big part of what we do … offensively we’re going to have to get some guys to step up at that position,” McElwain said . “Let’s go in and see what the heck we can do. Here’s the chance, take advantage of it.”
Carlos Carrierea first-year transfer who has nine catches for 144 yards and a TD in the Chippewas’ first two games, will miss Saturday’s game as will cornerback Dont Kenta freshman All-American last year.
The Bison play in the Patriot League and are coming off a 24-14 nonconference loss at VMI. They opened with a 14-13 home loss in overtime to Towson.
Bucknell has lost nine consecutive games dating to last season. Its last win was a 21-10 victory over Cornell on Oct. 2, 2021.
The Bison are allowing an average of 168 yards per game on the ground and 153.5 per game through the air.
Sophomore Ethan Grady has started at quarterback in both of Bucknell’s first two games. Junior Nick Semptimphelter relieved Grady last week and threw two second-half touchdown passes against VMI.
After rushing for 158 yards against Towson, the Bison finished with just 34 on the ground against VMI.
Success against FCS programs
Bucknell is a Football Championship Subdivision program. CMU has won 13 consecutive games against FCS opponents. The Chippewas’ last loss to such a team came in 2007, when they fell, 44-14, to North Dakota State.
Not only is Saturday’s game the first meeting between the Chippewas and Bucknell, it marks the first time CMU will play against a current member of the Patriot League.
It is the first meeting between Central Michigan and Bucknell and Saturday’s game marks the first time that a Bucknell team has played in the state of Michigan since 1936.
The Chippewas go to Penn State on Saturday, Sept. 24 (noon). The 22n.d-ranked Nittany Lions (2-0) go to Auburn (2-0) on Saturday.
The Chippewas open MAC play at Toledo on Saturday, Oct. 1 (3:30 p.m.).