Opinion: Brutal loss to Kansas shows football’s offensive stagnation
Sept. 12, 2009.
That date was the last time Kansas football won a game on the road. That is before they travelled to Kelly/Shorts Stadium Sept. 8 2018, almost nine years later.
Conservative play-calling and a stagnate offense provided only one first down in the first half for Central Michigan football. Tony Poljan, the 6-foot-7, 235-pound sophomore quarterback, finished the game with 177 yards on 18-for-32 completions, four interceptions and one touchdown.
CMU’s loss to Kansas is more than just the second of the season. It’s a stark look at what this year’s offense may have to offer.
At Kentucky, CMU’s defense forced four turnovers in the first half. The Chippewas still trailed at halftime. The underlying theme of that game was CMU’s offense couldn’t score. Against Kansas, everyone would have liked to see the offense put up some yards and more importantly — some points.
Because Kansas is one of the worst Power Five teams in the country and has an overall record of 3-34 over the last three seasons, offensive production wasn’t a burdensome request. Instagram wasn’t even a thing last time Kansas won an away game.
Instead, Poljan hesitated on each throw longer than 10 yards, including a wide open Jonathan Ward late in the third quarter, which he underthrew. Instead of airing it out, Poljan would often stare down one receiver and tuck it for three yards.
In the first half alone, CMU punted six times with only one first down. They had 60 offensive yards.
The Chippewas finished with nine punts and only one scoring drive.
The defense can only stand for so long, especially when they are on the field constantly. Late in the second quarter, Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender found a wide open Kerr Johnson Jr. in the end zone. Then to start the second half, CMU receiver Brandon Childress fumbled a short slant route. On the next CMU drive, receiver Cameron Cole committed unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play to guarantee another punt.
CMU started conceding penalties in the second half, which helped Kansas widen their lead. Kansas running back Pooka Williams bullied his way to a 20-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
By this time, the game was as good as over with. Poljan tried to pass downfield for the first time all game, and got picked off by the Kansas defense. Then Kansas really started to pile it on.
Poljan hit Sabbagh down the sideline for his first career touchdown pass late in the third. The fans who remained in the stands past the first half gave a good cheer, but at this point, they weren’t going to come back.
Poljan made a bad decision and threw it up while being sacked in the fourth quarter. This resulted in a pick-six from Kansas’ cornerback Shakial Taylor. It was one of three fourth quarter interceptions thrown.
"(We were) too inconsistent on offense. Especially on third down," Bonamego said after the 31-7 loss. "It's obviously very difficult to win a game when you turn the ball over six times."
If CMU doesn’t get their offense going, the Chippewas could be in for a long, losing season.