The Central Michigan football team spent all week preparing for the 15th ranked rushing offense of the Navy Midshipmen.
Navy used seven different ball carriers to gain 238 yards Friday night, but it was the passing game that did most of the major damage in its 31-13 win over the Chippewas.
On the first play of the game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Navy freshman quarterback Kennan Reynolds completed a 26-yard pass down the middle to senior slot back Bo Snelson.
The play would become a recurring theme.
The Midshipmen, who made their first–ever trip to CMU, scored three times via the pass after scoring only one time through the air in its previous five games.
“It’s real simple,” head coach Dan Enos said. “It’s option offense; they put your safeties in run-pass conflict, and we talked all week about reading your keys. Our true freshman safety peeked in the backfield, and the guy ran by him. Kavon (Frazier) will learn from that.”
The Chippewas scored their only touchdown with 56 seconds to go when senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff connected with sophomore wide receiver Titus Davis on a 29-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-10, Navy.
“That was a big drive to cut it to a one–possession game,” Enos said. “We knew we were getting the ball to start the second half. We had the ball down on the four–yard line twice. If we score touchdowns there instead of field goals, it’s a different game.”
On their first drive of the second half, senior kicker David Harman made a 22-yard field goal to make it 17-13.
Navy responded with an 11-play, 61-yard drive on its next possession, capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by senior fullback Prentice Christian to make the score 24-13 with 4:08 to go in the third quarter.
On CMU’s next drive, Radcliff dropped back to pass but fumbled the ball and recovered it for a nine–yard loss. Following a drop by Davis, an overthrow by Radcliff and a 35–yard punt, Navy took over on the Chippewas 41–yard line.
On the first play, Reynolds hit senior slot back Gee Gee Greene on a seam route for a 41-yard touchdown pass to give the Midshipmen a 31-13 lead with 2:53 to go in the third quarter. Greene finished with seven rushes for 39 yards and two catches for 60 yards and two touchdowns.
In the first half, Navy made it 7-0 on its first drive when Reynolds completed a 23-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Brandon Turner.
On the ensuing kickoff, CMU freshman running back Saylor Lavallii returned the ball 69 yards to the Navy 22-yard line. The return set up a 29-yard field goal by senior kicker David Harman to make the score 7-3.
“Saylor Lavallii is going to be a great football player,” Enos said. “He’s tough, he’s thick, he’s explosive, and he’s a gamer; he likes to play. Any game we put him in, the environment has never been too big for him. He’s had that look in his eye since he’s been here. His role will continue to grow as the season goes on.”
On Navy’s next drive, another breakdown in the defensive backfield led to the second Navy score of the game; a 19-yard touchdown pass from Reynolds to Greene to make it 14-3 with 3:49 to go in the first quarter.
Radcliff threw for 139 yards and a touchdown after throwing for only eight yards in the first quarter. He was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of redshirt sophomore Cody Kater. The Chippewas were outgained 372 yards to 221.
“We were trying to get a spark by bringing in Cody,” Enos said. “We hit a lull on two straight offensive possessions. He practices very well, but he went in there and wouldn’t set his feet and throw either.”
The Midshipmen were five for five on fourth downs.
“If you can get that team in third–and–five, that’s third–and–long,” Enos said. “They choke you; they eat the clock up, and they make you feel like you need to score on every possession.”
Junior running back Zurlon Tipton had 11 carries for 55 yards.
Davis caught two passes for 48 yards and a touchdown. The sophomore wideout has five touchdowns in four games.
Senior linebacker Shamari Benton and sophomore linebacker Justin Cherocci each recorded 14 tackles for CMU.
“We have to look at these next games one at a time,” Enos said. “We’re good enough to win any of them, but we can lose any of them. We have to play, execute and play with great effort.”
The Chippewas (2-4) host Ball State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.