Football takes on Virginia with history on the line
Kickoff scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday
It’s been more than three decades since a Central Michigan football team started its season 4-0.
On Saturday, the Chippewas will have a chance to do just that.
CMU takes on a Virginia (0-3) squad limping into a game many UVA fans believe will be new head coach Bronco Mendenhall's last chance to get a win this season.
Although the Cavaliers have struggled, senior quarterback Cooper Rush said he doesn’t think that will matter.
“We can’t hurt ourselves,” he said. “They’re good enough where if we hurt ourselves, they’ll run us out of that stadium.”
No one on the Chippewas’ roster was alive when CMU defeated Western Michigan in 1985 to reach 4-0.
Rush hopes the team can continue its winning ways on Saturday.
“We want to keep this thing going," Rush said. "There’s no complacency. We got a good group of coaches and senior leaders who know this is rare right now to be 3-0. We want to keep it going as long as possible.”
Rush said playing Oklahoma State earlier this season and other Power Five teams in past seasons helped prepare for Virginia, of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Chippewas were a touchdown away from defeating Syracuse in 2015 during their last matchup with an ACC opponent.
“We’ve always gone on the road against Power Five (teams) with confidence, knowing that if we play our game and don’t hurt ourselves, we can hang with anybody,” Rush said.
Looking Toward Virginia
Through three games, Virginia’s offense has averaged 18.7 points per outing. UVA has scored eight total offensive touchdowns, two less than the amount of touchdowns Rush has thrown in the past two weeks.
Even though the Cavaliers are ranked second-worst in points per contest and third-worst in yards per game among ACC teams, senior linebacker Nathan Ricketts said CMU must respect the Cavalier offense.
“They have a decent quarterback," Ricketts said. "(They have) some good running backs and they’re a quality offense with some good athletes. We just have to play our style of defense and do what we’re coached up to do.”
Despite being the road team, and representing a smaller conference, the Chippewas are favored to win by 3.5 points.
“We expect this to be a very hard fought football game,” said head coach John Bonamego. “(Virginia) is a team much better than their record indicates.”
So far CMU has reached several milestones including defeating an AP-ranked opponent for the first time since 1991 and starting a season 3-0 for the first time since 2002.
Though the Chippewa coach acknowledged those achievements show the team is improving, he said they aren’t what motivates his squad.
“It feels good, but our focus is to try to stay in the present and not live in the past,” Bonamego said. “Our goal each week is to go 1-0. We have a one-game schedule this week and it has Virginia on it, and that’s what we’re focused on.”
Bonamego said the team has not allowed the added pressure of an undefeated record to distract it.
“We try to focus on the things we’re in control of and that’s our preparation,” he said. “If you don’t pay attention to what’s being said outside and when things are bad or when they’re good, you can really keep the same approach week in and week out.”