How bad was quarterback Cooper Rush’s day on Saturday?
Central Michigan coach Dan Enos had to go back to his younger days, some 30 to 35 years ago, to try to explain Rush’s two interceptions.
“I remember when I was in the fifth grade, seventh grade at times,” Enos said. “As soon as it leaves your hand, you’re like, ‘oh, man.’ Because things get lost in there.”
The learning curve continues for Rush (14-for-24, 214 yards, 1 TD), whose mistakes proved costly in CMU’s 38-17 loss to Toledo on Saturday.
His first interception, by Toledo linebacker Chase Murdock on the third play of the game, gave the Rockets favorable field position that resulted in a touchdown and 7-0 deficit seven plays later. His second pick, by backup linebacker Ray Bush with 6:40 left in the third quarter and CMU trailing 24-14, negated a scoring opportunity after CMU had driven to the UT 26-yard line.
“We were on the bad side of that (Saturday),” Enos said. He forces the ball and we turn it over. You can’t beat a good team turning it over four times, that’s the bottom line.”
Toledo’s linebackers proved problematic for Rush and the CMU offensive line all game. After the Chippewas responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive and forced the Rockets to punt, Rush was sacked by UT linebacker Junior Sylvestre on third-and-6 at the CMU 30-yard line and fumbled.
Sylvestre subsequently picked the football up and returned it for a touchdown, giving Toledo a 14-7 first-quarter lead.
Rush’s second fumble, with 9:51 remaining in the fourth quarter and CMU trailing 31-17, essentially put the game out of reach. It came on a Murdock sack on second-and-goal from the Toledo 11-yard line, with Sylvestre also recovering this one.
“It was a five-man protection, they brought six,” Enos said, describing both blitz plays from Toledo. “He’s got to learn. You got to get rid of it.”
With a 38-17 deficit late in the fourth, Toledo responded with a 74-yard drive on the back of running back David Fluellen (32 carries, 197 yards, 2 TDs), Enos inserted sophomore Alex Niznak, pulled in the second quarter of CMU’s win against New Hampshire.
After, sophomore running back Saylor Lavallii and senior linebacker Shamari Benton expressed support for Rush, who has six turnovers in the last six quarters.
“I have 100-percent confidence in Cooper Rush,” Lavallii said, who had a career day rushing (24 carries, 144 yards, 1 TD). ”People are always going to make mistakes, he’s only a redshirt freshman. We’ve just got to get back to work in practice and fix what we did wrong.”
Enos echoed that, reiterating the need for better play behind center.
“He’s a freshman, it’s his second start,” he said. “We need a quarterback to play well in this offense, it’s how it works. Every offense needs a quarterback to play well, but we need a guy to make some plays.”
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