Sophomore running back Saylor Lavallii was wrapped up at the line of scrimmage, one yard away from converting a fourth down and three yards away from scoring a touchdown.
The play was at the start of the second half on Saturday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, and CMU was down 13-0 against New Hampshire.
It was a moment that would have been imprinted into the memory of the Chippewas for a while if they would have lost.
But then something happened.
A pass was intercepted by CMU, and redshirt freshman quarterback Cooper Rush, who was already having success tallying yards in his first few possessions, began to rack up touchdowns.
How did he do it? It was as simple as being unafraid in his first time playing college football.
He showed it on multiple occasions, including when he was backed into his own territory.
Before he started hitting a rhythm, he made a play from CMU’s own eight yard line. It was third and 10 and the pocket was collapsing, but he had the savvy to scamper 13 yards for a first down when he saw open space in front of him in the second quarter.
At CMU’s three-yard line, he did one better. Much better. In need of a game-tying touchdown, he found junior receiver Titus Davis for a 97-yard pass play for a touchdown in the fourth.
All in all, that fearlessness he possessed led to a season-saving win and changed the trajectory of where the team is heading.
It does not seem wise to give the quarterback so much credit, but anybody who saw the game know it to be true.
Without him, the offense could not pick up a single first down in four possessions against the Wildcats, which struggled against FCS competition on defense last season, ranking 103rd in total defense among FCS teams.
With him, CMU picked up 17 first downs and 326 passing yards.
The solid receiving corps probably could not be happier by his emergence.
There was Davis, who tallied 184 yards and also accounted for the first CMU touchdown of the season and the game-tying touchdown on passes thrown by Rush.
Head coach Dan Enos was impressed with sophomore Jesse Kroll, who was another beneficiary of Rush’s performance with all three of his catches coming from the quarterback for 54 yards.
Those connections from the new quarterback to his receivers on pass plays in a game can only increase when he gets first team reps and plays full games.
What a frightening thought for Mid-American Conference opponents who might see four seasons of him.