Next football season offers Saturday games, rule changes

Kids interact with the CMU football team before the spring game on April 21 at Kelly/Shorts stadium.

Football is back on Saturdays and the Central Michigan football team couldn't be happier. 

During the CMU spring game on April 21, fans got a chance to check out the football team on head coach John Bonamego's favorite day of the week — Saturday. 

“I just want to first off thank everyone who made it out (April 21), shoot it’s probably more than some of our midweek crowds,” Bonamego said. ”Hopefully it is a sign of things to come (next season)."

The attendance at the spring game totaled 4,251 people. During the 2017-18 season, Kelly/Shorts Stadium saw 13,504 fans per game over five games, according to box scores.

Three of the Chippewas' five home games last season were weekday games. CMU only played in six Saturday games, including the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

This year, 11 of the Chippewas' 12 games are scheduled for a Saturday. All six home games are on Saturdays — including the Western Michigan rivalry. 

“Generally, football is played on Saturdays and I think our season ticket holders and fans would agree it is a good day to play on,” Bonamego said. “We will get a good showing this year.”

Senior linebacker Alex Briones said the energy at the spring game felt a lot different than previous years. He described the event as "more alive" and wants to keep the excitement for next season. 

Season breakdown

In the nonconference schedule, the Chippewas take on Kentucky, Kansas, Maine and Michigan State. CMU will match up with MSU for the first time since 2015. 

Central Michigan has earned three wins in 10 games against MSU. 

CMU's most recent victory came in 2009, when it topped MSU 29-27. Former CMU star quarterback Dan LeFevour threw a touchdown pass to come within one point with only 32 seconds left. After a failed attempt to Antonio Brown in the two-point attempt for the win, CMU corralled an onside kick and converted a 42-yard field goal to win on national television. 

The Chippewas' largest margin of victory was a 20-3 win against MSU in 1991. Only one game in history between MSU and CMU has been in Mount Pleasant. The 2018 game will be played in East Lansing. 

Rule changes

The NCAA decided to change rules for kickoffs that will give returners an option to call for a fair catch anywhere before the 25-yard line — resulting in a touchback for the returning team. 

Since player safety is a primary concern, Bonamego respects the decision of the NCAA in making severe changes to kickoffs for the 2018 season. 

"It's a good start in the right direction," he said. "Anything that makes the game more safe to play without dramatically changing the game — I'm all in for it." 

Previously, returners could only call for a fair catch in the end zone in what may be considered the most dangerous play in football.

"There's still more things that we can do to make it a safer play," Bonamego said.