Freshman quarterback Cooper Rush’s success on Saturday did not just benefit the players on the receiving end of his passes.
It also aided those who he handed off to, and the team hopes to continue to have success with a balance of run and pass plays that it had at the end of the New Hampshire game against UNLV on Saturday.
It was difficult for the run game to gain traction at the start of the game against New Hampshire’s defense, because it was aware that CMU was starting a new quarterback in Alex Niznak.
“In the first half against New Hampshire, they tried to dare us to throw the ball,” sophomore running back Saylor Lavallii said. “But other than that, we’re back there. We hear the play call. We’ve just got to do our job. We can’t focus on what other people are doing.”
Central Michigan rushed for 82 of the 104 yards it gained in the last 22 minutes of the game as Rush got a rhythm passing the ball.
“When you’re a one-dimensional team; I don’t care who you play, they’re going to be able load the box and stop you,” said head coach Dan Enos. “You’ve got to keep people off balance. I think in the second half we did that. We had them on their toes.”
Lavallii led a rejuvenated run game with a 42-yard rush on the game-winning drive after finding more space than he did all day. It was due to the much-talked about reflection at halftime, he said.
“We were like, we need to get back on track, get this ‘W’ We’re not playing like us. We’re not playing how we usually play,” Lavalli said. “The O-line picked it up. The receivers picked it up, (Rush) picked it up, and then it was just my turn to do my share.”
Lavalli, who did not gain more than four yards until later in the third quarter, failed to gain a first down on a few short yardage situations, including the fourth and one from New Hampshire’s 3-yard line right after halftime.
Enos said on one occasion the coaching staff called a play that was not suited for the way the defense was set up and on the other near the end zone on fourth down, Lavallii missed a cut.