It wasn’t an ideal situation.
In fact, head football coach Dan Enos said after the team’s 24-21 win against New Hampshire Saturday, it was almost unfair.
The pressure, a two-score deficit and heavy rain falling at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. But it appears like Enos has found his quarterback.
His name? Cooper Rush.
You know, the guy who was the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart 10 days ago. The guy that was technically always part of the starting quarterback discussion, but never brought up in a serious tone.
“You’ve got to give Cooper a lot of credit,” Enos said of Rush’s 19-for-32, 326-yard, three-touchdown performance. “To be a backup quarterback, it’s pouring rain and things aren’t going well.
“But you find out about guys’ makeup and character. … I’ve had to do it as a player, and obviously as a coach. It’s not easy.”
Rush, a 6-foot-3, 216-pound redshirt freshman, hadn’t played a snap at the Division 1 level. He was in the discussion for the starting quarterback role for much of preseason camp, but never appeared to be in a serious position to take over.
After Saturday’s game, he even admitted that.
“It was kind of up in the air,” Rush said. “I didn’t know for sure, but I had a lot of support and just stayed ready. And it paid off.”
He entered the game with 8:01 remaining in the second quarter, after sophomore Alex Niznak led the offense to three consecutive, uninspiring three-and-out drives and hurled a pass right into the hands of New Hampshire freshman defensive back Keith Parkinson on the fourth. The Chippewas had also fallen behind, 13-0, on the scoreboard.
On his second play, Rush connected with sophomore receiver Jesse Kroll on a 24-yard pass, marking CMU’s first first-down of the game.
In the third quarter, Rush pulled CMU to within a touchdown with a seven-play, 61-yard drive that included a 17-yard pass to junior receiver Courtney Williams, 27-yard pass to Kroll (three catches, 54 yards) and capped off by a 9-yard lob to junior receiver Titus Davis.
During the game, he connected with Davis six times for 184 yards and two touchdowns, including a 97-yard play that tied the game at 21 with 9:27 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I felt like I was prepared well,” Rush said. “Coach Watts and coach Enos did a good job with that. Once you’re out there, you don’t think too much. You’re just going off what you know.”
Enos said Rush will likely start next Saturday at UNLV, but fell short of officially declaring him the starter, citing the need for him and the coaching staff to watch tape from today’s win. But it was clear to him, and everyone else watching, that Rush performed better.
“He was ready,” Enos said. “I felt like he could go in and give us a chance to win and understand what we’re doing. That’s the big thing.”
Contact Aaron McMann: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AaronMcMann.