Chippewas thump Robert Morris in home opener

Detroit freshman Lew Nichols III runs over a defender against Robert Morris, Saturday, Sept. 11.

For the first time since Nov. 29, 2019, fans were allowed to watch the Central Michigan Chippewas play in Kelly/Shorts Stadium. 

Students filled their section and general admission fans lined the nearby bleachers, creating a raucous environment that was not felt at all during the pandemic-shortened six-game 2020 season. The Chippewas, who expressed during the week an excitement for the anticipated return of fans, put on a show. 

CMU scored four first half touchdowns behind a bruising rushing attack and efficient downfield passing. Not to be outdone, the Chippewa defense allowed just one third conversion and 10 yards passing in the first 30 minutes of action. 

The Chippewas (1-1) never let up, beating a shorthanded Colonials (0-1) team 45-0 Saturday afternoon. It was the team's first shutout since Nov. 23, 2013 -- a 37-0 win over Massachusetts.

"What a great day out there," said head coach Jim McElwain. "What a great crowd. I tell you what, it's a lot of fun to play at home. I don't care who you're playing against, if you get a shutout, our defense played great."  

Key plays

CMU began the game with good field position when Robert Morris punter George Sounders III shanked an eight-yard punt following his team's three-and-out. The Chippewas went 41 yards in 10 plays to begin the game with a score behind a one-yard scamper from redshirt freshman Lew Nichols III.

Sophomore quarterback Jacob Sirmon, making his second collegiate start, led the team on two more touchdown drives. The Bothell, Washington native fired touchdown passes to seniors Hunter Buczkowski and JaCorey Sullivan on consecutive drives to put CMU up three scores in the second quarter. 

Sirmon was pulled following the Sullivan touchdown in favor of Daniel Richardson, who promptly went 3-for-5 on his first possession. After long completions to senior Remi Simmons and junior Dallas Dixon, Richardson floated an excellent pass over the outstretched hands of an RMU defender to Dixon in the end zone. 

"We're gonna need 'em all," McElwain said of the quarterbacks.

Sirmon returned to start the second half and led another touchdown drive. He notched his third touchdown pass of the day when he hit a wide-open Dixon on a corner route from six yards out. 

"I've got the mindset where, yeah I can celebrate it for now, but we've got to move forward and get ready for our next opponent," Dixon said. 

Junior wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton made an impact as well, taking an end around 20 yards to the end zone to make it 42-0. 

The Chippewa defense was stout, forcing nine punts and allowing just one third down conversion. CMU held the ball for more than 30 minutes, a credit to the defense's ability to get stops. 

Greyshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Pape made his CMU debut in the fourth quarter. Bailey Smith, a former Army Ranger who led the team onto the field on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, made his Chippewa debut at quarterback on the team's final possession. 

"To have Bailey lead us out, he's truly a great teammate and he's important to this team," McElwain said. "Then, him being able to go in, man it was great." 

Key players

Sirmon finished his day 12-for-16 passing, totaling 110 yards, three touchdowns with no interceptions. Richardson led two scoring drives off the bench. 

On the ground, Nichols led the attack with 79 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. The Chippewa ground game was a multi-headed attack, as Darius Bracy, Marion Lukes, Myles Bailey, Stepney and Jake Tafelski all contributed as well. Stepney, a true freshman seeing his first action as a Chippewa, led the team in rushing with 81 yards on nine carries. 

Dixon was the leading receiver, catching five passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns.  

RMU starting quarterback George Martin was just 5-of-8 passing, totaling 13 yards through the air.

Up next 

CMU will hit the road to take on LSU (0-1), who took on McNeese State Saturday night.