Football remains in search of first MAC win against in-state rival EMU
Two weeks ago, coaches and players from the Central Michigan football team were devastated following a loss to arch-rival Western Michigan.
This time around, the opponent is another in-state rival – Eastern Michigan.
While the stakes do not carry the same weight as the WMU game, the Chippewas remain in search of their first win a Mid-American Conference team this season against the Eagles (4-5, 2-3 MAC) at noon on Nov. 3 at Rynearson Stadium.
“It’s gut check time,” CMU coach John Bonamego said. “They’re very good defensively. Offensively, they find ways to be explosive. It's definitely a rivalry. It's different than the Western rivalry but no less intense."
Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton brought in a graduate transfer in Mike Glass III from Southwestern College and Tyler Wiegers from Iowa to replace three-year starter Brogan Roback.
Throughout nine games, Wiegers is 126-of-190 for 1,469 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception, while Glass has thrown for 757 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. The aspect of Glass’ game that sets him apart is his ability to run the ball – 58 carries, 361 yards and six scores.
“Both of those players have played at a high level,” Bonamego said. “They have allowed (EMU) to pick up where it left off from an offensive standpoint. They’re a good football team.”
Leading the running back group is senior Shaq Vann. He’s produced 117 carries for 439 yards and four scores. Receivers Mathew Sexton, Line Latu, Arthur Jackson III and Blake Banham have all registered three or more touchdowns in 2018.
Bonamego noted the game between the Chippewas and Eagles is always physical. CMU leads the all-time series, 60-29-6, and has won seven of the last nine.
“There’s no love lost between the two programs,” CMU’s fourth-year coach added. “We’re prepared for a dogfight. Taking care of the football is going to be absolutely important.”
Winning Close Games
In three of the last four games, Bonamego’s team has come up short by 10 points or less, including a one-point loss to Ball State on Oct. 13. Once again, he put the losses on his team by blaming self-inflicted wounds.
“If we have one less penalty against Ball State, it’s the difference in the ballgame,” Bonamego said. “It’s a game of execution.”
The Chippewas (1-8, 0-5 MAC) will be without newly injured junior quarterback Tommy Lazzaro for the remainder of the season. The team will also miss defensive tackle D’Andre Dill, defensive tackle Nathan Brisson-Fast and tight end Logan Hessbrook for the rest of 2018.
In replacement of Dill and Brisson-Fast, CMU will start true freshman LaQuan Johnson and sophomore Robinson Stuart.
"He's a very hard-working kid," Bonamego said of Johnson. "That's a trait that will help someone reach their potential. He's grown in the last eight months."
Due to the injury of Lazzaro, Bonamego has turned back to redshirt sophomore Tony Poljan as the starting quarterback. Poljan started the first three games of the season before being benched for poor play.
"We have to build some chemistry with the offense," wide receiver Jamil Sabbagh said. "All the way from our offensive line to quarterback to wide receivers, it's necessary."
Redshirt freshman quarterback George Pearson will not play due to a lingering day-to-day injury. Prior to playing against Akron, Bonamego said he expected to see Pearson sometime in the final four games.
Poljan is 66-of-120 this season for 586 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. He also had 124 yards and one score on 57 carries. Redshirt freshman Austin Hergott is the backup.
"It's nice to have chemistry with him already," wide receiver Brandon Childress said of Poljan. "It's better than having a guy come in that we don't know."
Central Michigan has three games remaining – at Eastern Michigan, against Bowling Green and at Toledo – which means just three opportunities to find the win column for the first time against an FBS opponent this season.