OXFORD, Ohio — It wasn’t pretty, but they got the job done.
Central Michigan scratched, clawed and found a way to pull away from Miami University, 21-9, on Saturday before an announced crowd of 22,750 at Yager Stadium, snapping a three-game losing skid while getting itself back on track. At least temporarily.
“We knew this game was going to be huge, it’s on the road, this league’s so close talent-wise,” head coach Dan Enos said. “To go on the road and overcome a couple turnovers … it just feels good to win.”
After falling behind 9-7 early in the third quarter, CMU (2-4, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) turned a stagnant offense into a play-making one with two touchdowns to beat the RedHawks (0-5, 0-1 MAC) for a second consecutive year.
CMU was outgained in the first half, 184-80, but turned it on in the second half behind career-high numbers from sophomore tailback Saylor Lavallii.
Lavallii rushed for 151 yards on 25 carries, both career highs, and two touchdowns, both times giving CMU the lead. The second, with 7:46 to go in the third quarter to put the Chippewas up 14-9, was good enough to secure a win.
“Our offense picked it up, our offensive line started moving guys around,” Lavallii said of the Chippewas’ second-half performance. “We hit some holes and hit some lanes.”
Not to be outdone, Enos inserted redshirt freshman running back Maurice Shoemaker-Gilmore into the offense early in the second half, hoping to motivate Lavallii. Shoemaker-Gilmore helped launch a 16-play, 84-yard drive that ended in Lavallii’s game-winning touchdown run.
More importantly, however, it opened it up for the pass-game which struggled mightily in the first half. Redshirt freshman Cooper Rush threw an interception on CMU’s first drive of the game and fumbled on the second. He finished the half 3-for-11 for 28 yards, appearing frustrated after several poorly-thrown balls.
With Lavallii and Shoemaker-Gilmore, who rushed for 51 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown, helping jump-start things in the second half, Rush was able to settle down, hitting receivers Titus Davis, Anthony Rice and tight end Deon Butler on several key pass plays.
Rush finished the game 11-for-21 for 110 yards. But the key? No more turnovers.
“That’s what we need him to do,” Enos said. “We need him to be efficient – he can’t turn the ball over, and he’s got to make plays on third down.”
CMU hits the road again next week, traveling to East-favorite Ohio for a 2 p.m. kickoff Saturday in Athens, Ohio.
-The game was delayed 49 minutes in the second quarter for lightning.
-Junior defensive tackle Matt Losiniecki (shoulder) sat out his third consecutive game due to injury. His replacement, redshirt freshman Kelby Latta, had assisted on two tackles. Enos said last week he hopes Losiniecki can return next week.
Contact Aaron McMann: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @AaronMcMann.