‘Defend Kelly/Shorts’: CMU football prepares for home-opener

Central Michigan wide receiver Dallas Dixon scores a touchdown during a home game against Kent State on Wed. Nov. 10 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

After dropping its first game to Oklahoma State, Central Michigan football heads into its home opener looking to flip the script on its season. 

On Saturday, the Chippewas welcome South Alabama to Kelly/Shorts Stadium at 1 p.m. 

In Week One, CMU’s defense struggled to slow down the Cowboys’ offense. Entering its matchup with the Jaguars, sophomore safety Trey Jones said it showed the Chippewas they can compete. 

"I think we learned that we can be a very good defense when we play how we know that we can play," Jones said. "But of course, when we don't do our assignment, don't key our keys and get off track, we can get gashed and ran on and thrown on just like any other defense can.” 

Although the CMU defense tightened up in the second half, Oklahoma State senior quarterback Spencer Sanders ended the night with 406 passing yards and four touchdown passes. For Jones, that’s an immediate area of concern with the Chippewa secondary. 

"The mindset in the DB room, you know just coming back off of a game where we gave up a lot of yards, we have to refocus on little details,” Jones said. “Being smart downfield, not being too handsy, knowing our job, knowing our assignment, and just eliminating the big plays.” 

In addition to eliminating big plays, Jones wants to sure up his hands going forward. 

“I dropped an interception, I'm really hard on myself with that, so going into this week I'm really focusing on improving on catching that pick, high-pointing the ball like I should," Jones said. "But beside me, overall, the whole defense we're looking to build on last game and do what we know we can do.” 

While Jones believes the Chippewa defense can turn things around, emotions will be running high as he makes his first start at Kelly/Shorts Stadium on Saturday. Jones’ first start at CMU came against Washington State in the Sun Bowl. 

"With this being my first start at Kelly/Shorts, this really will mean a lot to me," Jones said. "Just getting a win at home you know, Coach (McElwain) preaches to us, that we don't lose at home we always win at home. So that is a big goal for us. Defend our home stadium, defend Kelly/Shorts.” 

Maintaining Offensive Pressure 

Heading into its matchup against South Alabama, CMU will look to its offense to help right the ship as its defense finds its way. 

After struggling to reach pay dirt in the first half, the Chippewa offense came to life against Oklahoma State as quarterback Daniel Richardson had a career day. 

For senior wide receiver Carlos Carriere, Richardson's performance under pressure wasn’t unexpected. 

"We know he's a great leader," Carriere said. "He kept telling us to just keep fighting, and you saw what happened. He just kept making plays and kept getting the ball where it needed to be. And we started scoring a lot of points. So, we believe in him. He's led us all summer since I've been here, so we have the utmost faith in him. And we're just going to do our job and try to make plays for him.” 

Although the result wasn’t in favor of CMU, battling back from a 36-point deficit instilled confidence in the wide receiver room. 

"It's all about execution and controlling what we can, and I think whenever you do your job and execute, you can make plays against anybody," Carriere said. "So, we have confidence going in and we're going to continue that and try to just be sharp and not beat ourselves.” 

While Carriere’s success in Week One helped with his confidence. He is aware that there will be nerves associated with his first start at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. 

"I'm definitely excited, looking forward to it," Carriere said. "My parents will be there. This is my first home game. So, I'm really excited and I want to put on a good performance. And get our first win under our belt.”