CMU football survives offensive onslaught, beats Buffalo

Freshman quarterback Bert Emanuel Jr. runs to score a touchdown during a game against Buffalo, Wednesday, Nov. 9 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

After a first-half drubbing at the hands of Buffalo, Central Michigan football needed to find some life from the offense.

On the first play of the second half, that’s exactly what happened. 

True freshman quarterback Bert Emanuel Jr., who had only been utilized as a rusher in the snaps he had seen up to that point in the season, had his number called once again on a designed quarterback run. The play resulted in a 75-yard dash into the end zone for Emanuel.

However, that would just be the beginning of a staggering second-half performance statistically for Emanuel, and a record-breaking effort when it was all said and done.

On the back of Emanuel’s offensive explosion, CMU (4-6, 3-3) came out with a 31-27 victory over Buffalo (5-5, 4-2). The Chippewas need to win their final two games to be eligible for a bowl game.

“Heck of a ballgame,” said head coach Jim McElwain after the game. “Just a heck of a 30 minutes. Just can’t tell you how proud I am of this team. I’ve said from the start I love these kids, and I just want what’s best for them. To see the joy in their faces, in their smiles, in their hearts. I’m just proud of them.”

CMU was 0-5 when trailing at half before today, but managed to pull one out after trailing 24-7 going into the locker room.

Emanuel finished the day with 293 yards and three touchdowns on 24 attempts. His 293 yards on the ground were the most ever recorded by a CMU quarterback. Additionally, it was the fourth highest mark ever recorded on the ground by any Chippewa. 

Along with the 75-yard rush to open the second quarter, he also had a rush of 87 yards, in which he appeared to be stopped after about five yards, but maintained his balance and took the ball the length of the field. He is the only player in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) this season to have multiple runs of 75+ yards.

“It’s a great feeling knowing I did good with my opportunity that the coaches gave me,” Emanuel said. “What really went into it was being a younger guy, a freshman. Older guys (have taken) me under their wing, pushing me, motivating me. Talking me through things and breaking it down.”

After winning the coin toss, CMU opted to defer and lean on its defense to put its offense in a good position. However, Buffalo came out of the gates moving the ball at will. 

The Bulls controlled the flow of the game by pounding the ball time and time again, while mixing in timely passes. At the conclusion of the first half, Buffalo had 204 rushing yards to go along with 106 yards through the air. 

“I told our defense at halftime, I said ‘look, we need some stops,’” McElwain said. “They can possess the ball and hold our offense (off the field). We have to make the most of every possession.”

Meanwhile, the Chippewas couldn’t dial up much of anything on offense. They only had four first-half possessions. Of those four possessions, they managed just one score and punted three times.

However, in the second half, CMU was able to turn it on defensively as well. A large part of that was the defenses ability to bottle up the run after being run all over in the first. The Bulls recorded 36 rushing yards in the second half.

“We leaned on tackling, and (limiting) missed tackles,” said senior defensive end Thomas Incoom. “Most of their yards came from missed tackles (in the first half). We came back and adjusted it, and you saw the run game cut really short. So that first half was really about missed tackling. The play calling was good and everything, we just gotta tackle.”

Incoom ended the game with 13 total tackles - a career-high - as well as three tackles for loss, and a sack. The sack put Incoom’s season total at 9.5, which leads the FBS.

Elsewhere, sophomore safety Trey Jones led the team with a career-high 16 tackles, while sophomore linebacker Kyle Moretti had 11.

Redshirt freshman tight end Cade Conley led the team in receiving with three receptions for 61 yards. Senior receiver Carlos Carriere chipped in two receptions for 31 yards.

CMU returns to action on Wednesday, Nov. 16 as it welcomes Western Michigan to Kelly/Shorts Stadium.