South Alabama shocks CMU football in home-opener
On a day that figured to embody the spirit of celebration, Central Michigan football walked out of Kelly/Shorts Stadium on Saturday undoubtedly feeling short-changed.
The Chippewas lost 38-24 to South Alabama in a matchup that the Jaguars controlled for a majority of regulation. USA ground out 148 yards on 46 carries, as they held the ball for 38 minutes of the game.
“We’ve been pretty good at this stuff in the past year,” McElwain said. “It’s no secret it’s about gap integrity, it’s about staying where you’re supposed to be at. But yeah, we’ll keep working. Like I said, we’ve got ten games left of the season, disappointing where we’re at right now, but we’re going to come back and get better.”
While the Jaguars managed to make life difficult for CMU’s front seven, they exploited issues in the Chippewa secondary. The defensive backfield surrendered 354 yards through the air, with nearly 250 of it coming within the first 30 minutes.
After the game, McElwain said the fix is simple.
“I think the adjustments are, quite simply, do your job,” said McElwain. “Put your guys in the right spot. I think we got the guys that need to be there, we just need to finish the plays. There again, I take the responsibility, we gotta get that secured.”
Looking to cut into the deficit, CMU's offense took a hit as senior wide receiver Dallas Dixon exited the game with about two minutes left in the first half. Due to an apparent shoulder injury.
“Yeah, he'll be out,” McElwain said regarding Dixon’s injury. “It's his shoulder, which means we're gonna miss him. I feel horrible for him, just all the things he's been through in life to get to where he's at, you know. But it's next man up, we've got to move forward and get somebody to fill that void.”
In Dixon’s absence, Saddleback College transfer Sam Hicks assumed his role as the primary slot receiver but didn’t record a reception on the day.
After losing receivers Kalil Pimpleton and Jacorey Sullivan in the offseason, Dixon was the only returning starter from last year’s receiver room.
On the flip side, the running back room features three returners. However, the performance of the group in this one didn’t mirror the typical results of last year.
For the second week in a row, last year’s FBS leader in rushing yards Lew Nichols III struggled to get it going, as he finished the day with 15 carries for 35 yards and a touchdown. McElwain knows he’s going to need more from the unit to find success moving forward.
“Yeah, I am concerned, because we’ve got great running backs,” McElwain said. “And as you can see, we’ve got a couple of other ones too. And yet, they were again loading the box. And quite honestly, we had an opportunity to hit passes and missed some wide-open guys. But there again (is) something I gotta get corrected.”
At the end of the day, the players know it’s on them to make the necessary adjustments. Junior tight end Joel Wilson echoed the sentiment after the game.
“We lost a game that we shouldn’t have lost, no excuses for that,” Wilson said. “(We) started to make a run back in the second half of the fourth quarter and we should have had our foot on the gas the entire game. That’s something you can look back on and regret it but we can’t change it. So our mindset at this point is we’re going to win next week. It’s essential for us.”
Looking for their first win, the Chippewas welcome Bucknell to Kelly/Shorts Stadium at 1 p.m.