Dan Enos looked at the tape, and it confirmed what his eyes told him on the field Saturday.
Redshirt freshman Cooper Rush is his guy at quarterback and will start Saturday at UNLV (10 p.m., Mountain West Network), the Central Michigan coach confirmed Monday morning during the Mid-American Conference coaches’ teleconference. It will be the third quarterback to start in as many games for the Chippewas.
“Cooper deserves to be our starting quarterback,” Enos said following Rush’s stellar performance on Saturday, in which he was 19-for-32 for 326 yards and three touchdowns and lead CMU to a 24-21 comeback win over New Hampshire.
“He performed very well. He’s still got a ways to go, but he put the ball in the right spot and made very good decisions for the most part.”
Enos continues to praise Rush’s durability, throwing him in midway through the second quarter with heavy rain falling and CMU trailing 13-0. Sophomore Alex Niznak struggled to ignite the offense, leading the unit to three consecutive drives that went three-and-out and throwing an errant interception on the fourth.
Rush, who had not played a snap in a live game before, came in and provided an immediate spark, connecting with sophomore receiver Jesse Kroll for 24 yards and the team’s first first-down of the game.
After falling behind 21-7 in the fourth, CMU put together a pair of lengthy touchdown drives that relied heavily on the passing game. A cool, calm Rush found sophomore Andrew Flory for a 20-yard touchdown to pull to within a possession and then found junior Titus Davis, who broke off a 97-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21.
“Having been a quarterback and coached it for a long time, it’s difficult to be the backup and come in and play sometimes,” Enos said. “Saturday, we were out of sync and it was pouring rain when he came in. I thought he was very poised, he got rid of the football, he was very accurate and then he made some really, really critical throws in the second half.
“He came in, did a really good job and provided us a spark.”
This week, however, will be a bit different for Rush. Just 10 days ago, he was third on the depth chart and unsure if he would actually see playing time this season. After an injury to junior Cody Kater and Niznak’s dismal play on Saturday, Rush finds himself taking reps with the first team and having to prepare mentally for an opponent.
The Rebels enter Saturday’s game 0-2, following two blowouts to Arizona and Minnesota, but Enos called them a “much bigger challenge” than New Hampshire.
“UNLV is going to be much more athletic on defense than New Hampshire was,” Enos said. “It’ll be a challenge for him, but he’s pretty poised, pretty collected young man. I think it’ll be something that he will handle very well.
“I tell our players all the time that every guy who comes into college football usually gets an opportunity at some point in their career, and it’s the guys who can make the most of it are the ones who are going to be successful. He’s prepared himself and I know he’ll do a good job of preparation this week as well.”
Contact Aaron McMann: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AaronMcMann.