Cornerback Dishon McNary starts, shows potential in Central Michigan debut
Central Michigan was without its starting cornerbacks on the field in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Both sophomore Darius Bracy and freshman Kyron McKinnie-Harper were dealing with injuries, first-year coach Jim McElwain announced Tuesday, and didn't participate in the New Mexico Bowl.
While redshirt freshman Montrae Braswell had one side locked down, the question of McKinnie-Harper's replacement was still up in the air. The two leading candidates for the job were sophomores Brandon Brown and Norman Anderson, both of whom had struggled mightily early in the season.
Enter junior college transfer Dishon McNary.
A first-year Chippewa who spent his last two seasons at Independence Community College under the tutelage of Jason Brown, McNary trotted out with the starting lineup during pregame warmups after it was announced that he was officially eligible for the contest.
McNary had been ineligible for the entirety of the fall semester for academic reasons, causing him to miss the entire regular season and the Mid-American Conference championship game. However, once final grades were announced, McNary was cleared to play.
The Chicago native started in his Chippewa debut, playing a majority of snaps throughout the first half before the Aztecs ran away with a 48-11 victory. However, it was far from a flawless debut.
It was just a rough day all around, but perhaps the Chippewa secondary felt it the worst.
The onslaught started early when Braswell was beaten for a 22-yard touchdown connection between quarterback Ryan Agnew and receiver Jesse Matthews. After Braswell both missed a tackle and got beat in coverage again, the two corners flipped sides of the field before the start of the third defensive series.
Things never really got better.
McNary showed flashes of his talent in his debut, defending a fade route near the end zone well and breaking up another pass with a well-timed hit. He was also called for pass interference after diving in late on a timing route early in the third quarter and also got burnt on a curl route on a pivotal second quarter third-and-long.
Playing soft coverage on a 3rd-and-12 in the second stanza with the Chippewas down just 10-3, McNary gave sophomore receiver Elijah Kothe just enough cushion to make the catch for the first down. The Aztecs would get a field goal on that drive to extend their lead to double digits.
That second-quarter play stuck out to McElwain.
"He played bail and ran about 20 yards past the sticks and gave up a critical third down," McElwain said, "which is something we talked about going in that you can’t do."
Despite the struggles, McNary projects as a contributor on next season's team. The only way he'll be able to do that, however, is if he takes care of everything on the field as well off it.
"It was good to get him in the game," McElwain said. "Now, he’s got some work to do here in the offseason, both as a player and as a student, and we sure hope to have him next season.”