Limiting mistakes the focus as football prepares for Kansas

Sophomore running back Jonathan Ward runs with the ball during the football game against the University of Rhode Island on Aug. 31 in Kelly / Shorts Stadium.

Make no mistake about it, Central Michigan football head coach John Bonamego isn’t messing around. 

The voice of the third-year coach echoed through the stands at Kelly/Shorts Stadium when he drilled into his team. 

Bonamego was not happy with his team’s performance or preparation last week against Rhode Island in the season opener. 

After escaping the triple overtime thriller with a 30-27 victory, CMU now has a different challenge on its hands this Saturday as it takes on Kansas at Memorial Stadium.

Ahead of the Chippewas' (1-0) showdown with the Jayhawks (1-0), here are a few storylines surrounding the team this week in practice. 

Fixing Mistakes

While URI gave CMU everything it could handle, it was self-inflicted wounds that ultimately kept the Rams in the game. 

Missed snaps, dropped passes, poor throws, ball security issues and communication errors resulted in four turnovers and nine penalties in the season opener. 

Limiting mistakes has been the talking point at practice this week, Bonamego said. While the Chippewas were fortunate to come away with the victory last Thursday, Bonamego knows that kind of performance won’t bode well in a road game against a Big 12 team. 

“We need to take care of the football,” he said. “You can’t have fundamental mistakes with snaps. It’s unacceptable. It’s just attention to detail, focus and concentration. It won’t be tolerated and cannot happen anymore.

“We should have shut that team out. No discredit to Rhode Island, they’re a much-improved team. But that game was way too close — way closer than it should have been.” 

Playing Poljan

It was graduate senior Shane Morris who ultimately won the quarterback battle in camp and started the first game, but redshirt freshman Tony Poljan remains a part of CMU’s game plan. 

Poljan played just two series in the second half of the opening game, completing 3-of-5 passes for 27 yards. However, Bonamego insists Polajn can bring something to the offense. 

University of Michigan transfer Morris remains the starter, but Poljan is the program’s future, Bonamego said. Getting Poljan more reps is important in case Morris doesn’t produce this year, and in the future seasons. 

“We want to play Tony (Poljan) where we can,” Bonamego said. “He can have a role and can help our football team. I think it will be important for his development to get him involved somewhere in the game plan.”

Morris completed 25-of-49 passes against Rhode Island for 226 yards and a touchdown. He also had an interception and fumble in his CMU debut. 

Ward Building Confidence

At this time last year, Jonathan Ward was learning the playbook and trying to find his spot in a crowded backfield behind Devon Spalding and Jahray Hayes. Last Thursday, the sophomore from Illinois carried the Chippewas’ offense behind a career-high 147 rushing yards and added a 36-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. 

Whether it was catching passes or breaking ankles, Ward looked comfortable with the ball in his hands. The 194-pound running back said working with Spalding has boosted his confidence. 

“I feel like I’m more prepared this year,” Ward said. “Last year I was getting accustom to the speed of the game and I just feel like I’m more mentally ready. I’ve became more of a student of the game, rather than just running like in high school. I’m identifying pressures and understanding the gap scheme.” 

Next In Line

The Chippewas take on the Kansas Jayhawks at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9. 

Kansas participates in the Big 12 conference. The Jayhawks won their first game of the season 38-16 against Southeast Missouri. 

Kansas head coach David Beaty commented on facing CMU. 

"This is the most important game that we will ever play here in our mind, and it simply is because it's the next one," Beaty said. "I don't care about the rest of the schedule right now."

The Kansas game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Network. 

Follow Central Michigan Life on twitter at @CMLifeSports for live tweets and game coverage. 


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