'NCAA Football' simulates 2019 Central Michigan football season
Football is back, and the all-time great football video game simulates the Chippewas' season
I was five years old when I first dipped my toes into the popular "NCAA Football" franchise from EA Sports. I played "NCAA Football 2004" on my PlayStation 2.
The latest entry in the series came in 2013 and because of licensing lawsuits, "NCAA Football 14" was the last college football game made by EA Sports. However, the game itself has not died.
Diehard fans update the rosters annually in an effort to keep the game alive until the next game potentially comes out (watch out for 2020). These users build the entire roster, including coaching staffs, and match the game model with the actual player on the field.
I play "NCAA 14" on the Xbox 360, and a user under the Gamertag "OutrunFire0290" published the roster for the Microsoft console.
As the Central Michigan football team prepares for its season opener against Albany on Aug. 29 in Kelly/Shorts Stadium, there was only one way for me to build more excitement for football.
Run a season simulation.
Now, there were a couple of problems that arose quickly but were taken care of quickly. The roster that was built by "OutrunFire0290" was incomplete. He and his team left the CMU roster exactly the way it was last season. After realizing this, I edited the players, their skill attributes, positions (when necessary) and the projected depth chart.
Coach Jim McElwain, offensive coordinator Charlie Frye and defensive coordinator Robb Akey were all updated, but the player roster was the only part of the program left untouched when "OutrunFire0290" made changes.
Another issue I encountered was the games in the Mid-American Conference were locked and could not be changed. After regenerating the schedule enough times (roughly 20 times worked for me. I've heard of other users that did it sooner, some much longer), I was able to get the games to unlock, and I could change them to match the 2019 CMU schedule.
One final point to note was I, like everyone else, do not know start times for each game nor do I have any idea what weather conditions the Chippewas and their opponents will face each week. Simply, I had to guess.
Before the season begins, it's imperative to gander at the all-important team ratings. The developers, EA Sports when the game initially came out and the roster creators now, set skill attributes. Those attributes include pass strength, accuracy, speed, agility, catching, tackling and a vast majority of others.
Each attribute creates an overall rating for the player based on their position, and each player's overall rating is put together with other players on that unit (offense, defense) to calculate its overall rating. Those two are then averaged to show the team overall.
With the confusing part out of the way, here are the ratings for CMU and each team on its schedule. It's worth noting that EA Sports did not include Football Championship Subdivision teams in the game, so Albany was not on the original team list. I was able to find an Albany team as current as possible on the team creation server by EA Sports.
Team name: Overall rating, offensive rating, defensive rating
Central Michigan: 70, 75, 66
Albany: 65, 65, 66
Wisconsin: 86, 91, 83
Akron: 77, 72, 82
Miami (Florida): 90, 88, 93
Western Michigan: 77, 81, 75
Eastern Michigan: 77, 77, 78
New Mexico State: 70, 67, 73
Bowling Green: 74, 75, 75
Buffalo: 77, 83, 75
Northern Illinois: 77, 79, 78
Ball State: 77, 81, 73
Toledo: 79, 81, 80
Finally, a few stipulations were necessary to ensure a fair and complete simulation:
- No user games were played, games were CPU vs. CPU.
- CPU settings were set on "Heisman" difficulty, the highest difficulty.
- Quarters were played in full, 15-minute intervals on the "Super Sim" feature in the game. Some plays and sequences were watched, too.
Week 1: Central Michigan vs. Albany - Aug. 29, Kelly/Shorts Stadium
In 2018, the Chippewas' only victory came against FCS Maine. The maiden voyage in the 2019 campaign kicks off against Albany, which is part of the FCS in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Jonathan Ward opens up the scoring with a rushing touchdown on the goal line midway through the first quarter. The senior running back later took a Quinten Dormady screen pass 53 yards for another score in the opening frame. Ward ended up rushing for 87 yards and the one touchdown while gaining 143 yards and two scores through the air.
In the second quarter, Ryan Tice punched four field goals through, and Albany scored twice, capping off long drives with goal-line touchdowns. At the break, CMU led, 26-14.
Albany turned the tide and outscored the Chippewas, 18-10, in the second half, taking a 32-29 lead with just over two minutes to play. Dormady, the senior graduate transfer, led the offense down the field, 87 yards in five plays. He finished with 346 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
The final of his four touchdowns in the game fell into the hands of Ward, as he scampered in from 12 yards out with just seconds remaining.
FINAL: CMU 36, Albany 32
Week 2: Central Michigan @ Wisconsin - Sept. 7, Camp Randall Stadium
Dormady kept his arm on point against the Power Five foe Badgers.
After Wisconsin took a bobbled snap to the house to open the scoring, Dormady and company returned serve and scored on each of its next two drives – both of which were capped off by Ward from two yards out.
The first half concluded with the teams combining for 46 points. Wisconsin led at the break, 24-22. Dormady threw for 190 yards and a touchdown in the first half, including a late toss to wide receiver JaCorey Sullivan (and a two-point conversion to wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton) to put CMU within two points heading into the locker rooms.
Defense would be the theme for the third quarter as neither team put the ball in the end zone. Tice knocked two field goals through, while the Badgers mustered just one.
The final quarter might have been the craziest exchange of blows in the entire simulation. After the Badgers went ahead 44-31 with just under 10 minutes to play, the Chippewas didn't go down without a fight.
Sophomore cornerback Darius Bracy intercepted a pass from quarterback Jack Coan and took it to the end zone from 68 yards out, cutting the Badger lead down to six points with six minutes to play. Then, following a Wisconsin punt with 90 seconds to go, CMU once again drove down the field.
Again, it was Dormady who completed the pivotal toss. This time, Sullivan was in the end zone and secured the 11-yard touchdown pass with 49 seconds to play. The passing attack was more prevalent for CMU as Dormady threw for 394 yards, three scores and two interceptions and as a team, rushed for just 85 yards.
Wisconsin was more balanced as it threw for 273 yards and ran for 197, but in a shocking turn of events, was not enough to best McElwain's group.
FINAL: CMU 45, Wisconsin 44
Week 3: Central Michigan vs. Akron - Sept. 14, Kelly/Shorts Stadium
The first MAC game under McElwain had the makings of a serious let-down game for CMU after its huge victory in Madison the previous week.
Ward opened the scoring for CMU on its first drive with a 7-yard scamper. Dormady threw a touchdown to sophomore wide receiver Drayton Law but also had two interceptions, one of which went for a touchdown, to cap a mediocre first half. Akron scored on two huge passing plays to take a 21-14 lead to the break.
Once again, the defenses would stand tall in the second half. Each team was able to put together some decent scoring drives in the third quarter before the Zips pulled away late to hand CMU its first loss of the season, and further extending its MAC losing streak dating back to last season.
NOTE: Julian Hicks did not play in the game for Akron. When the simulation was played, Hicks had not been cleared for play after transferring from CMU.
FINAL: Akron 38, CMU 28
Week 4: Central Michigan @ Miami (Florida) - Sept. 21, Hard Rock Stadium
Former CMU coach Dan Enos is the offensive coordinator for the Hurricanes after working under Nick Saban at Alabama as the quarterbacks coach.
In his five seasons in Mount Pleasant, Enos struggled to a 26-36 record but led CMU to a win in the 2012 Little Caesar's Bowl and the unforgettable appearance in the 2014 Bahamas Bowl with all of the laterals at the end of regulation and the failed two-point conversion to lose.
For the game itself, Ward scored all three of CMU's touchdowns with the first a 6-yard run to open the scoring and give the Chippewas their only lead of the contest.
Miami responded with two touchdowns of its own, a 91-yard punt return and an 88-yard pass from K.J. Osborn. Quarterback Tate Martell wound up throwing for 302 yards and Osborn caught 168 of those yards and three touchdowns.
Ward had a big play of his own in the second half. He utilized the screen pass again, from Dormady, and sprinted 79 yards for a score early in the third quarter. Dormady ended the day with his fourth-straight 300-plus yard performance of the season, but the offense faltered which forced freshman punter Luke Elzinga, who started over senior Kaden Keon, to boot the ball away 10 times.
CMU kept the game competitive until the late-going when Miami scored 20 points in three-and-a-half minutes in the fourth quarter.
NOTE: The simulation was played before Jarren Williams was named starting quarterback over transfer Tate Martell.
FINAL: Miami 52, CMU 21
Week 5: Central Michigan @ Western Michigan - Sept. 28, Waldo Stadium
In the 90th meeting of the bitter rivals, and the 11th time for the Victory Cannon, CMU is rebuilding and its head coach will get his feet into the clash for the first time.
After last season's 35-10 drubbing from the Broncos at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, they continue right where they left off and earn a safety for the game's opening tally.
From there, WMU quarterback Jon Wassink and LeVante Bellamy show out throughout much of the contest. Wassink was 25-35, threw for 346 yards, four touchdowns and one interception – a Brandon Brown touchdown in the third quarter. Bellamy gained 107 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown.
The CMU offense struggled through the air but achieved its highest output on the ground to this point of the season with 133 yards. Dormady threw for 228 yards, two scores and an interception. Ward was the leading rusher for the fifth-straight week with 91 yards and a touchdown. Tice added a 52-yard field goal in the third quarter to account for all Chippewa points.
For the 50th time in the series, and the seventh time since it has been awarded, Western Michigan defeated Central Michigan. The Victory Cannon remains in Kalamazoo.
FINAL: WMU 48, CMU 28
Week 6: Central Michigan vs. Eastern Michigan - Oct. 5, Kelly/Shorts Stadium
After a frustrating road trip, CMU returns home to face off against its other Michigan MAC rival, Eastern Michigan.
The Eagles fly into the matchup coming off a win over Central Connecticut State (team was listed as "FCS East" in-game) the week prior.
As for the game itself – both teams came out flat.
EMU took the lead, capping off a long drive in the middle of the second quarter. CMU then responded with a field goal as the first half expired.
The teams each scored two touchdowns in the third quarter, after which the Eagles led, 21-17.
In the final quarter, Eastern kicked two field goals to bring its lead to 10 points. CMU recanted with a field goal of its own and recovered the ensuing onside kick with just over two minutes to play.
However, the Chippewa offense stalled, as it was unable to move the ball into EMU territory when it needed to.
To make matters worse, Ward suffered a leg injury when he was cut down immediately after taking a handoff from Dormady.
FINAL: EMU 27, CMU 20
Week 7: Central Michigan vs. New Mexico State - Oct. 12, Kelly/Shorts Stadium (Homecoming)
Now losing four-straight games (two on the road and two at home), CMU heads out of conference for the last time in the 2019 campaign to play the homecoming game against the New Mexico State Aggies.
The Aggies came out of the gate quickly, scoring on their first drive.
From there, the teams traded scores throughout the first half. NMSU kicked a field goal as time expired in the first half to take a 24-21 edge into the break.
The defenses stepped up in the third quarter for a tense yet scaled back period where neither team scored.
However, the fourth quarter was a totally different story.
NMSU extended its lead to 40-21 midway through the quarter and looked to ice the game away with about six minutes to play.
The Chippewas didn't give up.
Dormady threw his only touchdown pass of the game to Sullivan with two minutes to play.
CMU recovered the ensuing onside kick for the second time in the season and drove down the field in 90 seconds to set up Tice for a 46-yard field goal to force the game to overtime.
In the extra frame, the Chippewas started with the ball. But on their second play, Ross fumbled the ball and the Aggies recovered. New Mexico State was able to kick a field goal to secure the wild victory and spoil CMU's homecoming.
FINAL: NMSU 40, CMU 37 (OT)
Week 8: Central Michigan @ Bowling Green - Oct. 19, Doyt L. Perry Stadium
In a battle of teams toward the bottom of the MAC, CMU and Bowling Green both came out of the gates strong offensively, each scoring on their opening possessions of the contest.
After that, neither the Chippewas nor Falcons would score again until the middle of the second quarter when the home team took the lead – for good.
Midway through the third quarter, Bowling Green extended its margin to 31-6 and was set to run away with the game as the CMU offense was stagnant.
The fourth quarter, however, was the exact opposite.
Dormady and Ross led a recharge of the offense and showed a lot of life and drew to within a field goal, scoring 22 unanswered points with scores from Ross, Pimpleton and a fumble recovery from linebacker Michael Oliver. When it was on the ropes, but still had the lead, BGSU scored a late, game-clinching touchdown.
FINAL: BG 38, CMU 28
Week 9: Central Michigan @ Buffalo - Oct. 26, University of Buffalo Stadium
Last year's matchup between the Bulls and Chippewas was both close, yet not competitive.
There was more of the same as Buffalo took control of the game in the first quarter, scoring the game's first 21 points.
The second quarter showed a little promise for CMU, as Dormady was able to find Law, Pimpleton and Sullivan for quick touchdown drives. However, the Chippewas went for two in consecutive possessions and failed both times.
Buffalo continued to dominate the rest of the contest, and the Chippewas remained winless in conference play.
FINAL: UB 44, CMU 19
Week 10: Central Michigan vs. Northern Illinois - Nov. 2, Kelly/Shorts Stadium
A game of promise and intrigue, yet ultimately heartbreak, handed CMU its eighth-straight loss.
After a 68-yard pass from Dormady to Law opened the scoring on the Chippewas' first drive, Northern Illinois scored two touchdowns in consecutive possessions.
Tice kicked a 54-yarder, his season-long, to cap the first half and cut the NIU lead to four points at 14-10.
The third quarter saw the Chippewas score the only points, a 51-yard field goal from Tice, and bring the Husky lead to the slimmest of margins.
Later, CMU took its first lead of the game since the long pass from Dormady to Law. Ross took the pitch from Dormady on an option play from 23 yards out for the crowd-reviving touchdown with just four minutes to go.
The tough part for the Chippewas was the waining clock.
NIU marched down the field 83 yards in 3:45 to have the ultimate play of the game. Fourth and goal on the CMU 1-yard line.
Long story short, the Huskies punched it over the goal line.
Despite another strong performance from Dormady, turnovers plagued the Chippewas against their MAC foe.
FINAL: NIU 24, CMU 20
Week 11: Central Michigan @ Ball State - Nov. 16, Scheumann Stadium
One word can articulate the penultimate game for CMU: Finally.
The Chippewas came off their bye, after playing 10 straight games, and gathered control of the game in the first quarter by setting the tone and forcing the issue offensively.
A 357-yard passing performance from Dormady was the difference for CMU, as it never trailed against Ball State. The Cardinals ended the season winless.
Ward made his return to the Chippewa lineup, although Ross started. Ward finished the final road game of his career with 79 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries.
McElwain and company were able to secure their first win since the Wisconsin victory in week two.
FINAL: CMU 38, BSU 17
Week 12: Central Michigan vs. Toledo - Nov. 29, Kelly/Shorts Stadium
In picking up the win against NIU and then having another bye week, CMU was refreshed heading into its season finale against the Rockets. Toledo clinched the MAC West Division the week prior in its win over Buffalo.
That "refreshing" feeling was not evident early on for the Chippewas, as they committed two turnovers in the first quarter, one interception and a fumble.
The defense, however, was strong in the first half particularly. Toledo was only able to kick a field goal in the first quarter. The Rockets did add a touchdown late in the first half and went to the break leading, 10-0.
Ward was strong and found tough yards in a difficult Rocket run defense, which turned out to be one of the best in the conference. He broke through for 98 yards on 16 carries and two scores, the first of which came on the first CMU drive of the second half.
On the ensuing drive, the defense was rewarded for its stingy play as Brown took an interception 78 yards for a momentum-swinging touchdown and put CMU ahead for the first time. A blocked extra point prevented the Chippewas from pulling ahead by four and putting the score out of field goal range.
The teams traded field goals before the end of the third period, which saw the Chippewas lead, 16-13.
Toledo scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to regain the lead and appeared to have the game. The Chippewa offense began to falter, again.
This time, though, CMU put it back on the rails.
On the final drive of the game, Dormady threw the ball all over the field, and the offense was moving quickly. He eventually found Pimpleton on a back-shoulder fade from 24 yards out to regain the lead.
The CMU defense, in one of its best performance all season, forced the Rockets to stall out and fail miserably on its final fourth down chance with 14 seconds to play.
Dormady took a knee, and the Chippewas end the season with an upset victory.
FINAL: CMU 23, Toledo 20
Final observations and stats
The offense was both explosive and stagnant at times. It had the ability to move the ball and do so in a hurry with a no-huddle look, and the run-pass option/spread scheme helped that significantly. On the other hand, there were times it needed to drive quickly to win and just could not finish the job.
Overall, there was a lot of promise from the team but a few bounces went the wrong way or a couple of costly miscues hurt the Chippewas dearly.
Dormady, who played almost every offensive down, was the passing leader. He ended the season going 297-of-546 (54.3%) for 3,391 yards, 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He had a passer rating of 114.6.
In the running game, and despite missing a few games with injury, Ward had a strong final campaign. He ran for 644 yards on 167 carries, scoring 10 times and fumbling six times. Many of those yards were third-and-short or other tough, short-yardage situations that CMU just needed a small gain, and got it from Ward.
Pimpleton was a force in the passing game as he was a 1,000-yard receiver in his sophomore season. He caught the ball 75 times and scored eight touchdowns. He also added 154 yards and a touchdown in the running game on jet sweep type plays.
Adesanya led the team with 118 tackles, 14 for loss and 10 sacks. His dominance on the defensive line was huge and helped the defense keep CMU competitive in most games.
Elzinga was the man on special teams, he punted the ball an astounding 82 times at 46.8 yards per boot. He pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 13 times and had 18 touchbacks. Keon manned the kick off duties and was strong, averaging about 50 percent in touchbacks. Tice had another strong season, going 23-of-27 on field goals and making his career-long 54-yards at home against Northern Illinois
FINAL RECORD: 4-8, 2-6 Mid-American Conference
Here are the team statistics:
POINTS FOR: 336
POINTS AGAINST: 427
AVERAGE POINTS FOR: 28
AVERAGE POINTS AGAINST: 35.5