When Titus Davis spun to break a tackle and turned a punt return from nothing into something last week against Miami, he knew he had to do more.
The Central Michigan offense, like so many times before – the first half against New Hampshire, the second half against UNLV and the entire game against Toledo – was crashing and burning. They needed a spark, a big play to set the wheels in motion.
Fifty-four yards later, CMU had the ball inside the Miami red zone. Two plays after that, they found the end zone.
“When things are going bad, I think I need to step it up and make plays in order to be a leader on offense,” Davis said. “It’s about leading by example, and that’s what I try to do each game. Just give our team that first step, give them momentum.”
That’s nothing new for Davis, who has, dare it be written, shown glimpses of Antonio Brown-like playmaking abilities in his three seasons with the Chippewas. Statistically, the junior from Wheaton, Ill., is right there too. Davis ranks second in the nation among active players in yards per catch (19) and ninth among receiving yards per game (71).
Those numbers are even more impressive given that defenses are beginning to tilt coverage to Davis, to the point of double-covering him, said head coach Dan Enos. He added that Miami and North Carolina State both did and he anticipates that continuing this season.
“The guy gets open,” Enos said. “Even against North Carolina State, we had a third-and-8 and he got open. We couldn’t get him the ball, we got sacked but he was open — and they had two guys on him. He’s a tremendous player and he’s very competitive.”
Ohio coach Frank Solich knows Davis well. In November 2011, CMU’s last game against Ohio — a 43-28 loss in Mount Pleasant — Davis, a freshman, caught six passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns. The Bobcats had a tough time defending him and Courtney Williams, who caught six passes for 133 yards and a touchdown, something they look to improve upon on Saturday (2 p.m., ESPN3).
“He’s the kind of guy that you have got to know where he’s at on the field every second,” Solich told reporters earlier in the week. “You can’t let him just take over the football game because he’s capable of doing that.”
For Davis to do that, like he has in the past and has shown the capability of this season, he needs help. Enos credited Davis’ big year last season due to the piece around him. Receiver Cody Wilson and tailback Zurlon Tipton provided quarterback Ryan Radcliff options in case opponents doubled up on a receiver and stacked the box against the rushing attack.
With Tipton out for the season and a receiving corps that has proven less than reliable, it has been difficult. Last week was the first time since the second half of the home opener against New Hampshire in which Rush was able to get freshman Anthony Rice and junior tight end Deon Butler involved.
And then there’s the hit-and-miss run game.
“When we can run the ball really well like we did, we can win the game,” Davis said. “We came out in the second half and ran the ball better than we did in the first half, opening up some things in the passing game and came out on top.”
Contact Aaron McMann: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @AaronMcMann.