Sunday, September 7, 2014

Central Michigan Rolls Past Purdue, 38-17

From the start, the Central Michigan football team asserted itself.

The Chippewas built an early 14-0 lead behind two big plays - one from the defense, the other from the offense - then took command behind another big rushing day from Thomas Rawls Saturday in beating Purdue, 38-17, before 36,410 at Ross-Ade Stadium.

"We played a good game today, we executed well," said CMU coach Dan Enos, who both played and coached at Michigan State. "I thought our defense played very well and we were very physical. We knew we were going to have to be to win.

"It's tough to win on the road anywhere, but to come into a Big Ten stadium - I was in that league for a while - and it's very difficult."

CMU is 2-0 for the first time since 2002 and Saturday's victory was its first over a Big Ten foe since a 32-31 win at Iowa in 2012. The Chippewas are 6-23 all-time against Big Ten opponents, but 4-4 in their last eight meetings with teams from that conference.

Cornerback Brandon Greer returned an interception 57 yards for a touchdown to give CMU a 7-0 lead before the game was five minutes old, then quarterback Cooper Rush connected with Anthony Rice on a 65-yard TD pass play to extend CMU's lead to 14-0 with 7 minutes, 29 seconds to play in the first quarter.

"I just played the ball and it goes back to practice," said Greer, who later forced fumble that he recovered. "You practice hard, you play hard. Once I saw it up there, I just focused on it. The bonus was the six."

Rawls continued his early season surge with 155 yards and two TDs on 31 carries, all career highs. The senior, who is in his first year at CMU after transferring from Michigan, ran for 123 yards a week ago in a 20-16 season-opening win over Chattanooga.

"I'm one of those running backs where if I catch my rhythm that's when I'm at my best," said Rawls, who also caught three passes for 50 yards. "Coach did a great job with the game plan and those big guys up front, they blocked their tails off. Just like last week, I felt that rhythm."

Rush completed 11-of-16 pass attempts for 172 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception, but that came in the fourth quarter with the Chippewas holding a 31-10 lead.

"He had the bad pick at the end, but I thought he was very efficient and he got the ball to the right guys," Enos said of Rush, a sophomore. "He played very soundly and did what we needed him to do."

Central Michigan's defense surrendered 326 yards, but it forced three turnovers - cornerback Jason Wilson also had an interception - and never allowed speedy Purdue running back Raheem Mostert to get on track. The Chippewas were also credited with six pass breakups, and they recorded two sacks.

Mostert, a Big Ten sprint champion in track, finished with 53 yards rushing on 19 carries, and had 31 yards on five receptions. The Boilermakers finished with 122 yards on the ground, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry.

Quarterback Danny Etling was 17-for-32 with 126 yards. Austin Appleby, who relieved Etling in the fourth quarter, was 7-for-17 for 78 yards and a TD.

After CMU built its 14-0 lead, the Boilermakers (1-1) drew to 14-7 on Etling's 4-yard TD run early in the second quarter.

The Chippewas counter punched on their next possession, marching 73 yards in five plays with Rawls scoring on a 2-yard plunge. That re-upped the lead to two scores, 21-7.

"When they got it to 14-7, that next drive was key and we went down and scored another touchdown and I thought that was a good sign for our football team," Enos said.

A 42-yard Paul Griggs field goal capped Purdue's first drive of the second half and drew the Boilermakers within 21-10, but the Chippewas again answered, this time going 75 yards in seven plays with Rush hitting Ben McCord with an 11-yard TD pass to extend the lead to 28-10.

Redshirt freshman Brian Eavey's 23-yard field goal, the first of his collegiate career, increased CMU's lead to 31-10 early in the fourth quarter.

The game unfolded in much different fashion than did CMU's opener, when the Chippewas rallied from a 16-0 first-half deficit to top Chattanooga. This time, CMU seized the early lead and built on it.

"Every football game's going to be different," Enos said. "You're going to be up, you're going to be down. Sometimes you've got to come back, sometimes you've to protect a lead. That's just another step for our football team.

"I think we were really uptight last week when we started the game. The guys put too much pressure on themselves to not make a mistake because they wanted to play well for their teammates.

"I think today they came out and just turned it loose and played."

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