Football Notebook: Building the program, road game dominance, Senior Day
Following a 42-23 win over Kent State last Tuesday, Central Michigan football looks to pull off five straight wins to close out the regular season when it takes on Northern Illinois at noon Friday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
CMU (7-4, 5-2 Mid-American Conference) has leaned on the poised play of graduate transfer quarterback Shane Morris during its winning streak. Morris has a MAC leading 11:1 touchdown to interception ratio over the past four games.
The opportunistic Chippewas' defense continues to be the backbone of the team. The unit forced two turnovers against Kent State to bring their total up to 29 for the season, which is tops in the nation.
Ahead of the Chippewas matchup with the Huskies, here are the top story lines out of practice this week.
Building the Program
With their seventh win of the year over Kent State, the Chippewas guaranteed themselves a bowl game for the third time in the three years John Bonamego has been head coach.
The 20 wins in three years are the most in a three-year span for CMU since 2007-2009 and this year’s team can add on two more wins this season.
Bonamego said while the team has had success recently, the program has much higher goals than to just partake in bowl games.
“We’re not satisfied with just attending bowl games, as a program the goal is to compete for and win championships,” Bonamego said.
The Chippewas are getting healthier as they enter the last game of the regular season.
Senior defensive end Joe Ostman played last week against Kent State after missing two straight games. He didn’t lose a beat, recording 11 total tackles and 1 sack against the Golden Flashes.
Senior defensive lineman Michael Steinhauer remains questionable for Friday’s game with an undisclosed injury.
The only injury listed for NIU is backup quarterback Ryan Graham, who is questionable with an elbow injury.
Road Game Dominance
With its win over KSU, CMU finished 4-0 on the road in conference play for the first time since 2009.
Bonamego said he prefers away games from the perspective that the team is together for the entire day, rather than home games where a player could be in class until 3 or 4 p.m. for a weekday game.
MAC Conference Standings
To win the MAC West division, CMU needed Toledo (9-2, 6-1 MAC) and NIU (8-3, 6-1 MAC) to lose last week. Both teams won, which eliminated the Chippewas' from contention.
The Chippewas can finish in second place in the MAC West with a win Friday.
A Toledo win over Western Michigan or a NIU loss on Friday would clinch the Rockets the MAC West Division title.
Ohio (8-3, 5-2 MAC) leads the East Division over second place Akron. (6-5, 5-2 MAC) An Ohio win or an Akron loss on Friday would place Ohio in the MAC Championship game for the second consecutive year.
Seniors Last Home Game
Twenty-six CMU seniors will take the field at Kelly/Shorts Stadium Friday for the final time in their careers.
Morris said he wants his final home game of his lone season at CMU to end on a high note.
“I want to see us finish 8-4 and have the opportunity to win nine games, something that hasn’t been done here in a while,” he said.
Senior wide receiver Corey Willis said the team has plenty of motivation for the final regular season game.
“For me it’s just finishing strong and realizing that were playing for a good bowl game,” he said.
The defense will have its hands full containing the versatile Huskies' rushing attack that utilizes four different ball carriers.
The CMU offense will go up against a stout defense that ranks 20th in the nation in total defense.
Bonamego said he’s proud of the leadership and culture the seniors have established this season.
“They (seniors have) set the bar higher for next season’s seniors," he said. "While we didn’t accomplish our ultimate goal, the seniors reestablished a standard for how we practice and prepare,” he said.