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Jim McElwain, Quinten Dormady welcome challenge of high altitude at New Mexico Bowl


Mountains are seen outside Albuquerque, New Mexico Dec. 20 outside Isleta Resort and Casino.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. –  Jim McElwain said he felt like John Elway. 

As the quarterback at Eastern Washington, McElwain led the Eagles into a game at Northern Arizona. 

In the warmup before the game, McElwain was throwing passes further than he normally did, and he said he felt like the two-time Super Bowl champion with the Denver Broncos. 

Northern Arizona is located in Flagstaff, Arizona, and sits at about 7,000 feet above sea level.

McElwain also spent three seasons as the head coach at Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colorado, which sits at 5,003 feet above sea level. He said increased elevation helps the ball fly further. 

But McElwain doesn't always relate that to football. 

"I love to play golf here," McElwain said. "That ball goes forever. It's a great thing." 

McElwain is now in charge of Central Michigan. The elevation in Mount Pleasant is 771 feet above sea level, so the ball does not fly as well or quite as far as it does at altitude. 

After an 8-5 season for the Chippewas, the team is in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the New Mexico Bowl where it will play San Diego State at 2 p.m. Saturday in Dreamstyle Stadium. 

Since Albuquerque sits at 5,312 feet above sea level, the elevation would normally pose a challenge for a team from the Midwest.

Not McElwain's team. 

"We've been here long enough now that we've acclimated ourselves," McElwain said. "Obviously, the hydration and other things to go along with it. For me personally, it's great to be back in the mountains."

CMU senior graduate transfer quarterback Quinten Dormady has completed 67% of his passes while throwing for 2,148 yards and 14 touchdowns. He missed four games this season with a knee injury suffered Sept. 7 against Wisconsin.

Dormady, who played at Tennessee and Houston before making his way to Central Michigan, has not had much experience playing at altitude like he will Saturday against the Aztecs. 

He said it was strange at first, but the adjustment did not take too long for him when it comes to throwing the football. 

"Coach was spot on," Dormady said. "That was kind of the joke going into practice, and once I started throwing, it's different. The ball flight is tighter; it travels farther. It was huge to get out there Thursday to throw it. 

"Definitely changes things a bit, so I'm excited for Saturday."