Let’s be realistic for a moment.
This Central Michigan team didn’t stand a chance on Saturday against North Carolina State. Not with a freshman quarterback who has been inconsistent, not with injuries mounting on both sides of the ball, and definitely not with this team’s inability to prove it can win on the road.
Instead, I was just looking for improvement. Something to validate head coach Dan Enos’ statement earlier in the week that this team is “real close” to turning the corner on the season.
We got none of that.
Quarterback Cooper Rush’s turnover total hit nine after he had three more interceptions on Saturday, the first one returned for a touchdown on CMU’s second offensive play of the game. Just like his mistake-riddled performance against Toledo, it was another errant pass – one that he shouldn’t have thrown.
While I would like to give him a pass by saying he’s only a freshman and those things happen, it’s becoming too routine. Not only that, but the coaches have said over the last week these are mistakes Rush should not be making. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that Rush has not improved the last three weeks.
In fact, I’d argue he plateaued during the first half against UNLV and has since regressed. That’s on the coaches, to immerse him in as many situations as possible during preparation and tailoring the offense to suit his ability and experience. Key word here is experience, of which he has little. So while the coaching staff would probably like to throw the ball more – Rush’s arm is definitely his strong suit – they need to be able to rely on the run-game.
Leading me to the breakdown of the run-game, held under 100 yards on Saturday for the third time this season. Sophomore Saylor Lavallii proved ineffective, rushing 14 times for a whopping 27 yards. Those aren’t the numbers you want to see out of your starting tailback.
If CMU is going to win, they need to strike a balance offensively, something Enos has hammered home ever since he arrived. He’s right — there’s no way this team is going to win strictly on the arm of their freshman quarterback. Maybe a year or two, but not now.
And then there’s the defense, arguably the weak-point of this team. The unit allowed a season-high 483 yards on Saturday, including 239 on the ground. N.C. State did what it wanted when it wanted on Saturday, making the defense look like a junior varsity team.
The worst part? CMU knew what it was getting with the Wolfpack attack but still couldn’t stop them.
That’s what makes this loss even worse. Even in 2011, during Enos’ second consecutive 3-9 season, the Chippewas went into Raleigh and played competitively. Yes, quarterback Ryan Radcliff was a junior. Yes, they were relatively healthy compared to this team.
I get it, injuries make a difference. I’m convinced things would have went differently, this season headed in a better direction, with a healthy Cody Kater and Zurlon Tipton.
That doesn’t excuse a lack of depth at running back or a defense giving up an average of 432 yards per game. That doesn’t excuse breakdowns on special teams.
Even with all the injuries, I expected some sort of silver lining to come out of this game. Something to point to and say, ‘Yes, the injuries are real but I can see some improvement there.’
Now it just seems like this program is stuck in a spiral. Where it lands, nobody knows.
And in year No. 4 under Enos’ direction, that’s not realistic.
Contact Aaron McMann: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AaronMcMann.