Wednesday, October 29, 2008

CMU/Indiana: Purdue Part Deux?

(Edited 11:30 p.m. Thursday)

If you are a CMU fan, you more than likely remember the last time the football team played a Big Ten squad.

The Chippewas were on the brink of victory at Purdue, a team that scored a combined 96 points in its two 2007 wins against them. Quarterback Curtis Painter, a man who torched the CMU secondary in 2007, faced a downhill pass rush he never saw out of the maroon and gold before.

And with just 1:18 remaining on the clock at Ross-Ade Stadium, Central had the lead, 25-24.

But yet again, the first Big Ten win in 16 years and the first-ever Bowl Championship Series win eluded Central. The Boilermakers scored on one offensive play. And the Chippewas went home as 32-25 losers teased out of glory.

Another chance, however, comes at noon Saturday. The team returns to Indiana to face a Big Ten team. This time, it's the Hoosiers of Bloomington, Ind. - a team that dropped five of its last six games.

Nobody in the CMU football program is going to say it. Yeah, it is a non-conference game. It has no say on who will represent the Mid-American Conference West Division in the MAC Championship game, the team's main goal.

But if this team wants national respect, it simply has to win Saturday. No ifs, ands or buts. This is it.


1. Indiana is 3-5 overall, including 1-4 in the Big Ten. One win came against the FCS' Murray State. Another came from Western Kentucky, a former FCS team converting to FBS. The Hoosiers, despite their talent, are a mediocre BCS team, whether or not it starts fleet-footed quarterback Kellen Lewis. Yet they're still 2.5-point favorites to win Saturday, which goes to show how much respect CMU has from the Vegas betters right now.

2. A MAC team already walked out of Bloomington with a win. That would be No. 16 ranked Ball State, which routed Indiana 42-20 on Sept. 20 for its first-ever BCS win. We know the game of football is more complex than comparing common opponents. But a CMU loss here would look foolish in comparison to BSU, and would kill the little national respect it has right now.

3. That Sept. 20 loss at Purdue is looking worse and worse. The Boilermakers hosted CMU one week after they nearly toppled then-No. 16 ranked Oregon in overtime. We thought they were a good team. Not anymore. Purdue, now 2-6 overall, has not won a single game since escaping CMU, or even come close for that matter. It is a Big Ten-worst 0-4 - worse than Indiana. Central needs people to forget that loss. Winning Saturday will help that.

4. CMU needs to keep its win streak going. Because after Indiana, the team plays its two biggest games of the year - Nov. 12 at NIU (5-3, 4-1 MAC) and Nov. 19 vs. Ball State (8-0, 4-0 MAC). A loss in either game and chances are that three-peat bid will pack its bags and kiss CMU goodbye. A milestone win is a good way to go into these games, barring any letdowns.

5. If the Chippewas win out, they're ranked. You heard it here first, unless BSU enters Mount Pleasant with a loss. In this scenario, CMU would beat its first Big Ten team and first ranked opponent in the program's Division I history. And assuming the Big Ten sends a team to the Motor City Bowl (chances are, it will send either Iowa or Illinois), if CMU wins that, it will go 12-2, 9-0 in the MAC and finish somewhere between No. 23 and 25 on the AP Top 25 and/or the coaches' poll. You heard it here first.

That would do wonders for the MAC, a conference stuck in the basement of the FBS.

And coach Butch Jones, who set the goal of an AP Top 25 ranking right from the get-go of his head coaching career, would complete his legacy in just two seasons.

But, of course, it comes down to Saturday first.

Indiana. A Big Ten team.

Can CMU finally do it? We will see.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

CMU/Indiana: Kellen Lewis to start?

First of all, an update on Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis. IU coach Bill Lynch is mum on who will start Saturday, saying as much as "I don't know." Lewis missed the last couple of weeks with a high ankle sprain, paving the way for backup Ben Chappell.

Does this matter, considering Chappell led IU over a ranked Northwestern team last week? Yes, considering Lewis, with 404 yards on 57 attempts, is the team's leading rusher despite playing in two less games than starting running back Marcus Thigpen. Any team that has to deal with junior quarterback Dan LeFevour and the CMU offense can attest to this: Dealing with a running quarterback blows open a completely different dimension to an offense. While CMU already beat a mobile quarterback in Ohio's Boo Jackson, he's not a LeFevour or a Lewis. Those guys can really scramble and open holes in the secondary - a simple scramble to the outside can cause a defender to lose his man. 

Chappell is a much better matchup for Central. He's not a dominating passer, completing just 52.2 percent of his passes, but as already mentioned, he did beat Northwestern. That counts for something.

Within the next 24 hours, my hope is to get into the whole "Purdue part deux" topic a little bit - does CMU absolutely have to win this game to earn some national respect? I'll write about that on Wednesday.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday quick snaps

Good afternoon!

I never got a chance to really comment on CMU's 24-23 win last Saturday, so I'm going to do that now. I've come to realize my laptop is not all that reliable when it comes to getting an internet connection, so again, I was having trouble - plus, I had to leave pretty quick to attend that night's Journalism Hall of Fame Banquet in Mount Pleasant. I made it, albeit 5 minutes late or so.

If there's anything to take away from the win over Toledo, it's this: CMU finds ways to win. Despite having a ton of underclassmen on the team and very few seniors, as coach Butch Jones will tell you, this is the most experienced group in the Mid-American Conference, moreso than even Ball State. The Rockets are an inconsistent group, but they brought a lot of energy into the Glass Bowl. They already were 0-3 at home heading into the game and they're playing the back-to-back MAC champs. Of course they're going to bring their A-game.

But, as we've seen time and time again, CMU doesn't panic in these cases. Dan LeFevour doesn't panic. Neither does Ontario Sneed, or Bryan Anderson, or anybody on that team. They do enough to get the job done, and that's why they're a MAC-best 5-0 in the conference. The biggest margin of victory for the Chippewas in those five games is 10 points.

Ball State knows how to crush teams, but the real question is this: Does it know how to win slug-it-out or grind-it-out games? That's something it may have to prove when it comes to Central on Nov. 19. We've seen it a lot in the National Football League and even in BCS play: The best teams are those that know how to win the close ones. I'm not saying BSU can't do that, but it certainly hasn't proven it yet, especially with a schedule as weak as theirs. And at this point, the victors of Nov. 19 may very well play in the MAC Championship, unless Northern Illinois has something to say about that. WMU would have to hope CMU loses twice for it to have any chance.

Now... on to this week. Even though Indiana's not a MAC team, this game is certainly big for CMU. This is probably the greatest chance the team has had at a Big Ten victory in a long time. Although the Hoosiers just beat a very good and then-ranked Northwestern team, they're still an inconsistent ballclub that gives up quite a few points. Plus, quarterback Kellen Lewis is fighting injuries. The line right now has Indiana at -2.5, which sounds about right at this point, but I think a lot of CMU fans are expecting victory out of this game. And really, that would give Central a huge energy boost heading into critical MAC games against NIU and Ball State.

More to come this week!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dan LeFevour started... then left... and is back again (UPDATE)

TOLEDO, Ohio - As expected, junior quarterback Dan LeFevour started the game today, and drove CMU down to the Toledo 29-yard line...

...then left the game again. He took a sack, which looked like it twisted his right ankle again. He layed on the field for a couple minutes before senior Brian Brunner came in.

But after the Rockets took a 6-0 lead, LeFevour returned and looked well again. Drove CMU to a touchdown with a 22-yard throw to junior Bryan Anderson. 7-6 CMU.

If anything else happens, I'll be sure to update. Check for real-time score updates!

CMU/Toledo: Pregame

TOLEDO, Ohio - We're about 30 minutes from kickoff here at the Glass Bowl. Apparently, the weatherman was wrong when he said it was going to rain today - the sun is shining right into my eyes as I type this. It's not too cold, either - a typical fall Saturday, which is nice.

First of all, NCAA 09 (4-2 on the year) predicted CMU to win this game. Toledo had the lead for most of the game, and a 23-14 advantage in the fourth quarter, but CMU's junior quarterback Dan LeFevour (injury aside) led the team to 21 late points to secure a 35-23 win. Sophomore receiver Antonio Brown finished with 144 receiving yards, while senior running back Ontario Sneed had 104 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Speaking of LeFevour, he's fully dressed and taking reps with senior Brian Brunner. It's still unclear at this point who's starting. I'll be sure to update you whatever the case may be.

Other than that, not much else to update on here. Be sure to check back at and this blog for real-time updates from CMU's noon game at Toledo!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

CMU/Toledo: In the news

First of all, let's clear some air. ESPN's Graham Watson reports Dan LeFevour is to start Saturday against Toledo. Which is all fine and dandy, except for one thing: We expected him to start against Western, too. Guess how many snaps he got in that game? Zero.

This is why we're being so cautious about LeFevour starting: We were told one thing last week, then senior Brian Brunner played the entire game, leading us to believe the right ankle injury LeFevour suffered was more serious than originally thought. Honestly, I don't expect him to play Saturday, either, with what I'm hearing. A lot of that DOES have to do with Brunner's success as the man running the offense, but that leads me to my next point...

There is no quarterback controversy. After covering this team for the second year, I'm not quite sure how this came up. As good as Brunner played last week, LeFevour has already shattered multiple career school records as CMU's quarterback despite not even being a senior. He's 16-2 against the MAC, led the team to two MAC Championships, two Motor City Bowls and is the poster boy of the program (as evidenced by the Comerica Park billboard). He hasn't done a thing to lose his starting job and I don't expect that to change anytime soon. It's just a matter of getting him 100 percent before the toughest stretch of the season goes underway, that's all.

On another note, though, here's a story by Saginaw News' Hugh Bernreuter about sophomore wide receiver and returner Antonio Brown. In particular, toward the end, it mentions Brown's intention to play for Jones no matter what- whether at West Virginia or CMU. Again, I think this goes to show just how powerful CMU's recruiting classes are starting to get. This year's class, looking at's ratings, is looking like the best yet, with one four-star recruit and two three-star guys. I remember evaluating the 2005 and 2006 recruiting class and seeing all one- and two-star guys! Coach Butch Jones and his staff definitely know how to recruit talent and dig in the pipeline states. 

There's more to come prior to the Saturday coverage at Toledo. Expect an NCAA 09 prediction tomorrow- it's now 4-2 on the season after missing its Western pick last week. I picked CMU 41, Toledo 24... I haven't missed a single game yet (7-0), but then again, there's a first for everything.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Midweek Burning Questions

1. Will junior quarterback Dan LeFevour play on Saturday?
Honestly, even though LeFevour and the coaching staff says he's fine, I would be surprised to see him play on Saturday. I think with how good senior Brian Brunner's handling the offense right now, and with this being his final season on the team, it's a safe bet to make sure LeFevour is 100 percent before getting him back on the field. He's too physical of a quarterback, when you consider his running ability, to be rushed back out there. There's no doubt that Saturday's game at Toledo, despite the Rockets' record, is big, but 1) I would argue that CMU's next real big game is at Northern Illinois in three weeks, and 2) Brunner just nabbed MAC Offensive Player of the Week honors and had a career day against rival Western Michigan. I think he's fine to run this offense, especially against one of the worst defenses in the conference.

2. Is freshman running back Bryan Schroeder the new starter?
It's difficult to say at this point. Obviously he's going to get chances to run the ball on Saturday, and he should after his spectacular performance against WMU. But the running back position is in such a carousel right now, you don't know who's going to step up on a weekly basis. It could be senior Justin Hoskins, or Ontario Sneed, or even freshman Paris Cotton, who's had some decent runs this year. There are some days where Sneed will cut through the defense and other days where he consistently gets stuffed at the line. Hoskins has not had much of a chance to run the ball this year, but when he does, he looks pretty good. Whoever it is, they could have a big day against a Toledo defense that gives up more than 170 rushing yards per game.

3. How many times are announcers and analysts going to mispronounce Brian Brunner's name?
Good question. I stopped counting after a few dozen. The first moment of this happening was when I starting hearing the pronunciation of "Broo-ner" countless times from fellow reporters in the press box last Saturday. I corrected a couple people on it, to be polite, but later on in the press conference, they were still pronouncing it that way! And if that wasn't enough, I heard it from the ESPN Plus guys in their postgame analysis, and then again on an ESPNU College Football show where three analysts talked about the MAC West race. I don't know who on Earth started mispronouncing the name and began spreading it to other people. It's pronounced Bruh-ner. I don't consider myself a speech expert by any means, but break up the syllables. "Brun" and "ner". The double N's give it away. (And, of course, it's right in the media guide if you don't believe me.)

Tuesday Morning Quick Shots

I've noticed that my blog coverage is a bit quirky as of late. I tried starting the Power Rankings, but so far I've skipped some weeks, which I'm totally sorry about. I do Burning Questions rather inconsistently. Now, I have a new segment, simply called "Tuesday Morning Quick Shots." It's pretty self-explanatory, dealing with discussing topics dealing with the CMU football team and the MAC in general. Let's see how consistently I can pull this one off- I might do this on Mondays, too. Just to make things even more complicated.

  • The Mid-American Conference really is a tale of two divisions. On the good side, you have the MAC West, which is the strongest it's been since the glory days of Toledo and Nothern Illinois a few years back. Ball State is playing out of its mind and managed to crack the Top 25 for the first time. Both Central and Western are playing excellent football and could get points in the polls if they keep winning, especially CMU. Plus, first-year coach Jerry Kill has NIU playing extremely underrated football. This team's three losses all came to solid teams (Minnesota, Western and Tennessee) and were by less than a touchdown each.
  • But then you have the MAC East. This is easily the worst division in the Football Bowl Subdivision. When your division's only win over the MAC West comes when your top team - in this case, Akron - barely squeaks by Eastern Michigan, there's a problem. The best team in the division is Buffalo, although it has yet to take control because of close losses to CMU and WMU. Bowling Green is a true mystery - how does a team beat Pittsburgh 27-17 but lay eggs like last weekend's 27-20 loss at home to Miami (Ohio)? I haven't even gotten to Kent State yet, a team whose only win was over an FCS school.
  • Alarming statistics of the midway point: CMU's Antonio Brown is the best punt returner in the nation right now, averaging 24.4 yards per return. BSU's MiQuale Lewis is the nation's 8th best runner, averaging more than 130 yards per game. (And you all talk about quarterback Nate Davis. Bah.) Also from the Chippewas, Frank Zombo sacks the quarterback 1.07 times per game, tied for 8th in the country.
  • Speaking of Ball State... Even if this team wins out and beats the MAC East for the conference championship (which, trust me, it would beat the MAC East representative if that were the case), it's going to be extremely tough for the Cardinals to rank in the Top 12 and qualify for a BCS at-large bid. Why? A dirt easy schedule compared to the competition. The only team out of a BCS conference it played is a 2-5 Indiana team. No other win, at least as of right now, really defines the Cardinals as a Top 25 team. Now you can make a case for CMU if it happens to enter the BSU game at 8-2, but pollsters will still expect Ball State to win that game. It'll be interesting, for sure, but I'm not expecting much.
  • Which of the next three road games is the toughest? I'd say Northern Illinois, by far. Yeah, CMU gets an extra half-week to rest, but so does NIU, and I would argue that the Huskies could beat Indiana in a matchup anyway. This is a team that tore Toledo and EMU apart, came close to upsetting Tennessee in Knoxville and barely lost at WMU. Indiana, meanwhile, consistently gets smoked by Big Ten teams, even those considered mediocre. CMU has to enter Huskie Stadium as the third game of the road trip, right in the middle of the week.
  • Something interesting to note: Toledo's strength always seems to be its offense. Problem is, it's averaged nine points per game over the last four. I actually think that it has a lot to do with the defenses the Rockets are playing - Ball State's defense is among the best in the conference right now, while NIU's actually is the best statistically. The other two defenses were Michigan (which UT beat) and Florida Atlantic.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Central/Western: Postgame Notes


Today, despite also being the Mid-American Conference's biggest rivalry (at least right now), was a first in a lot of different ways.

Quarterback Brian Brunner won his first career start. Running back Bryan Schroeder scored his first two career touchdowns. Receiver Kito Poblah had a career-high 81 receiving yards. CMU now has won three consecutive over WMU since 1989-91. WMU quarterback Tim Hiller had a career-high 471 yards passing. Three WMU receivers topped 100 yards (Jamarko Simmons, Juan Nunez, Schneider Julien). Junior receiver Bryan Anderson passed Reggie Allen for first in school history with 194 career catches. The list goes on.

To me, the story was the Brian Brunner and Bryan Schroeder connection. It's pretty safe to say that nobody was expecting these two to start in the big rivalry game, and they put up incredible performances for the Chippewas. Brunner was 20-for-28 for 346 yards and a touchdown, while Schroeder led all runners with 106 yards on 25 carries. Brunner's throws were spot-on today and Schroeder displayed excellent cutback speed to elude WMU defenders. Having that balance was huge for CMU to stay ahead in this game.

Obviously, with Hiller throwing for 471 yards, the pass defense was a little off. Coach Butch Jones indicated it had a lot to do with the pass rush, and he was right: Hiller had too much time to sit in the pocket, and when you have guys like Simmons and Nunez who can get open, that's going to cause problems. And it did early on.

But here's the key stat for the defense: 2-for-5 on fourth down conversions. All three stops were critical, considering that the first two were inside CMU's red zone and the third was WMU's last-ditch effort to get within three points with just seconds left. Collectively, those plays made all the difference- that's how you give up 520 yards, yet only give up 28 points and help your team win.

That'll do it for postgame notes... next up is a three-game road trip, starting with Toledo on Saturday. Keep checking back on this blog for updates, check the Web site for even more updates and check out our coverage of this game and beyond in the paper Monday!

Central/Western: Halftime Notes

Quick points from Saturday's rivalry game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium:

The offense is running well under Brian Brunner. The senior quarterback is 12-for-18 for 176 yards and a touchdown, and his lone interception came on a jump ball in the end zone to end the half. Although junior Dan LeFevour, nursing a right ankle injury, looks fine on the sideline, I'm not sure if he will get a chance to play today if Brunner's doing well.

The pass defense is a different story. A lot of teams give up around 288 passing yards per game, but CMU did it in one half of play. Junior Tim Hiller, who is 23-for-27 already, is making good throws all around the field, mainly because no pressure is getting to him. Wide receiver Jamarko Simmons (9 catches, 79 yards) is having a great game. So is Juan Nunez (5 catches, 92 yards), who caught a couple deep balls already this game. To put it short, the Chippewas absolutely have to stop Hiller the next half if they want to keep the lead and win.

Bryan Schroeder's the player of the game so far. The true freshman running back would've seen playing time earlier this year if he hadn't been injured, but now that he's healthy again, he's performing very well. He leads all rushes with 72 yards on 13 carries. Schroeder looks like a physical runner with his build, but his cutback speed is impressive, better than I've seen all year from Central running backs. He's been critical in the flow of the offense.

The stadium's packed. Kelly/Shorts is easily pushing 30,000, although I'm still not sure if it's a recorded sell-out. People are sitting on the hills at the north side of the stadium and tons more are lining the outside of the bleachers, standing. Easily the biggest crowd I've seen here since I began reporting for team last year. It's only going to get noisier in the second half.

The run defense is doing well, although the poor pass defense is overshadowing that. WMU running back Brandon West, despite a 21-yard run to begin the game, has 23 yards on 10 carries since. Central just has to get better pressure on Hiller if it wants to hang on and win against the Broncos.

Check back at and this blog for real-time updates and postgame analysis!

Central/Western: INJURY UPDATES

A couple of injury updates were announced in the press box:

  • Junior quarterback Dan LeFevour did NOT start the game. It's senior Brian Brunner right now. LeFevour could still see playing time in this game, though- he's been using the bike on the sideline and warming up, so it's unlikely he will stay there for the entirety of the game.
  • Linebackers Matt Berning and David Lawrence are filling in for Tim Brazzel and Barron Miles. I know Brazzel's probably out with an injury, but Miles, I'm not sure about.

Central/Western: Pregame notes

The stadium's filling up, the atmosphere's getting louder and kickoff is about 20 minutes away. Sounds like a typical Central/Western weekend, something we really haven't seen in two years since last year's game was on a Tuesday. The press box is crowded, too; I have to use a smaller amount of space because of how many people are in here!

I'm not absolutely sure of a sell-out just yet, but it looks like people are going to fill the stadium from end to end. There's a crowd of black shirts already on the visiting side, which is refreshing to see since neither Buffalo nor Temple brought much of a following. (Then again, they're not in-state, either) I would guess around 28,000 to 30,000 people, easily.

There really isn't much to update on prior to kickoff. Junior quarterback Dan LeFevour was seen warming up and throwing the football and he looked like he usually does, despite his ankle injury last week. I'll be sure to update some of you if something happens, but as of right now, he's starting and should be ready.

If you're not at the game, be sure to check here and for real-time updates from today's rivalry game against WMU!

Central/Western: NCAA 09's Pick

It's approximately 9:15 on Saturday morning right now, and while I haven't been over to Kelly/Shorts just yet, I can already tell you the parking lots are absolutely packed there right now. I live about one mile away from the stadium and I could still hear tailgaters when I stepped outside for a moment. It was never that loud in the previous three games when I left my apartment about an hour and a half before kickoff... and we're about three hours away right now!

If you plan on going to the game, and you're a student or a local, I suggest walking, to be quite honest. Get some of that air in. It's very nice, albeit a little cold.

As for the NCAA 09 pick, if you're a CMU fan, you're not going to like it.


I have Western leading most of the game with Central winning it in the end; the game predicted virtually the opposite of that. CMU held a 14-6 lead at halftime, but WMU scored 16 points in the third quarter to take a 22-14 lead and eventually held onto the win. The Broncos racked up 486 yards of offense to CMU's 384. At least it was hardfought to the end, much like what everybody else is predicting.

I plan on getting to the stadium pretty soon, actually. I want to set up shop early and take the sights in. Thankfully, I have a press pass to the north lot, so parking shouldn't be a problem... I'll make sure to update one more time before kickoff, so stay tuned if you're near a computer at all!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Central/Western: In the news

Here are some headlines and stories regarding CMU's noon Saturday rivalry game with Western Michigan:

  • One prediction from MAC Report Online, and Central fans won't like it: Western 35, Central 31. But let's face the facts: This game is close enough to go either way, so really, any close pick is a good one.
  • Hugh Bernreuter of the Saginaw News reports that senior tackle Greg Wojt learned very quickly about the nature of the rivalry. "In a game like this, people always give a little bit extra," he says. "The hits are always a little bit harder. Everybody's pushing a little bit more."
  • This year's Central/Western game is an excellent opportunity for some of the team's leaders to teach the larger number of youth on the team, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette.
  • An early prognosis of the Central/Western rivalry game as per the MAC Report Online.
  • "On the Mark" of the Bleacher Report says WMU, at 6-1, is not getting enough credit from pollsters. It also calls the MAC West one of the best races in the nation with Ball State and CMU also vying for the division title. Each team is 3-0 or better in the conference. It's good to see it getting some attention, considering so many pundits consider this conference the armpit of the Football Bowl Subdivision.
  • The Central/Western week is bringing in some light-hearted paranoia for Western players and coaches, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Everything is coming together quite nicely for the Friday Sports edition, so make sure you pick up a copy of CM Life tomorrow or Saturday. Or at least read it online if you're out of the area.

I'm going to do another edition of Burning Questions, I think, before the game and will feature the NCAA 09 pick. The game is now 4-1 after correctly picking CMU over Temple last weekend, and as far as I know, WMU has better ratings than CMU. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Injury updates

A few quick offensive injuries to update on as the CMU football team practices this week:

  • Junior quarterback Dan LeFevour is "doing some things" in practice this week, according to coach Butch Jones. But obviously, the team wants to play it smart in letting his right ankle rest up enough to be 100 percent, or at least close to it, when Saturday rolls around.
  • Sophomore center Colin Miller had knee surgery last Friday and is definitely out for some time. I did see Miller snapping the ball in practice on Tuesday, but his leg was wrapped up and he was by no means doing any intense activity. Jones wouldn't rule out the rest of the season just yet, but don't expect him on the field against Western or for some time after that. Junior Joe McMahon, normally the starting right guard, looks to fill the center role until Miller returns while junior Allen Ollenburger plays right guard.
  • Sophomore left guard Jeff Maddux will return Saturday after sitting out against Temple with an illness.
One thing to consider with all these injuries: The absence of Colin Miller was more apparent than many think in the Chippewas' 24-14 win against Temple last Saturday. While neither LeFevour nor backup Brian Brunner lost a snap in the game, there were several high snaps that caused the quarterback to take off running rather than set up a play. This problem shouldn't be as apparent on Saturday since McMahon has a game under his belt at the center position, but it's worth noting because it seemed like that affected the offense's ability to create plays.

Expect another update tomorrow, and a lot of coverage in Friday's edition of CM Life. We're breaking out five key players from each team, an extended preview, breakdowns plus staff picks. And more, of course.

Rivalry trophy a... cannon?

As you can see on the left here, the CMU/WMU rivalry trophy was finally created, thanks in part to the student government associations from both schools that collaborated on the project.

Now, creating a rivalry trophy is something that really should've been done a long time ago. But I'm curious as to why on Earth there is a cannon on top of the trophy. Not a football, not a player model, not even a pair of helmets - a cannon.

The associations reason that both stadiums use a cannon, most notably after every touchdown the home team scores. Fair enough. But it doesn't symbolize the rivalry at all. CMU fires off the cannon as per the Army ROTC on campus. Many schools around the country fire a cannon for similar reasons. If the government associations knew this, then why did they take this universal symbol and try to token it as the rivalry trophy? This cannon has no historical connection to CMU/WMU, therefore it creates a new history for itself. A history that began in 2008.

Was it a disaster move? Not by any means. But there are so many better options than a cannon for your trophy. At least use something that relates to football and not just some mere coincidence between how the two stadiums celebrate their touchdowns.

On another note, here's something else I find interesting. With Western Michigan obviously prepping for a trip to Mount Pleasant this weekend, the Sports Information department chooses to advertise its Nov. 8 game against Illinois at Ford Field. Go to and you'll see the splash page above before actually entering the site. What? You would think that the Broncos would want as much fan support as possible to create a blackout section at Kelly/Shorts and to cheer them on to a win after a heartbreak loss at home last season ...

But instead, they advertise a virtually meaningless Big Ten game three weeks from now?
I guess I'm just not sure of the logic behind this one. They easily could've waited until Sunday to put up this splash page and instead concentrated on getting as many fans up to rival CMU as possible.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Central/Western: Tuesday Burning Questions

Well, the Big Week is underway at Central Michigan.

When you're a sports reporter covering an upcoming rivalry game, it seems like the preparation starts two times faster. I typically spend my Mondays and Tuesdays doing a majority of the research on opponents and such, but for Western, I began looking at them from top to bottom on Sunday. 

So expect daily updates on this blog, even though I haven't exactly kept my word the last two weeks or so, bye week and all. The goal is to maximize coverage of this game, because it's a biggie in more ways than one. But I'll get to that in the burning questions:

1. Forgetting about the rivalry factor, how big is this game for CMU?
This is obviously CMU's biggest game to date, not just because it's a rivalry. Everybody's talking about No. 24 ranked Ball State, but it's actually WMU with the better Mid-American Conference record at 4-0. If the Broncos take this game, they're 5-0, with home games against EMU and Toledo that they'll more than likely win before going to Ball State for the regular season finale. Even if BSU somehow loses two games and CMU wins out, in this situation, Western and Central would finish 7-1 and the head-to-head tiebreaker is in favor of WMU. So even though this is the MAC West opener, and even though there's still a LOT of football to play after this game, this could set the tone for the remainder of the season for both teams.

2. How's Dan LeFevour's right ankle doing?
I talked with Dan on Monday morning and he says it's just fine. He was warming up on the sideline during the second half of CMU-Temple and said he was ready to play if Brian went down. While a couple sources say he was seen wearing a crutch, I don't consider that as much of a worry - it's probably a precautionary move to assure his ankle's ready to play. Coach Butch Jones knows this game is critical and the team's going to need LeFevour's leadership, considering he's 16-2 in MAC play and 2-0 vs. Western.

3. What is the most improved aspect of Western's game from last season?
Quarterback Tim Hiller, easily, considering he averages more yards of total offense (297.3) than LeFevour and he's not even a running quarterback. Even though Saturday is the third time CMU will see Hiller, he's going to provide the CMU secondary its first big test since Purdue, when it performed very well in limiting quarterback Curtis Painter's damage. Not only that, but senior wide receiver Jamarko Simmons is going to play a factor. If you don't remember, he was ejected early in last year's game for kicking linebacker Red Keith while he was on the ground, so he really wasn't much of a factor in CMU's 34-31 win at Waldo. That's certainly going to be in the back of Simmons' mind heading into this game and will look to make a big impact. 

4. What one thing does CMU need to do to beat Western for three in a row?
Get the offense going. As well as it has played the last few weeks, we haven't quite seen the Dan LeFevour we saw late last season, the guy who could single-handedly change the game with his arm and legs. Junior wide receiver Bryan Anderson was extremely effective against Temple and is going to need that kind of presence on Saturday as well. We've seen huge improvements out of the defense in recent weeks, so if it can maintain that sort of confidence, preventing too much damage shouldn't be a problem. But the offense needs to come together now, with five of the next six against MAC West opponents and yet another three-game road trip on the horizon.

5. What kind of atmosphere can we expect at Kelly/Shorts Stadium on Saturday?
The best game day environment seen in the Mid-American Conference in years. A sell-out. More than 30,000 people and a LOT of maroon, although WMU will have its usual blackout section. With last year's game on a Tuesday, I could imagine that a lot of alumni who couldn't make it out for that game will make sure to attend this one. Then you have the more-than-usual number of students who will attend. Two years ago, Kelly/Shorts managed to fill up to 30,000 on a Friday night in the rain. I would be extremely surprised if there isn't a sell-out, even if it doesn't occur until game day.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

CMU-Temple: Postgame notes

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - No Dan LeFevour, no problem for the football team tonight.

CMU beat Temple 24-14 facing another form of adversity - having to play without its star quarterback. But that's the beauty of having an experienced No. 2 guy like Brian Brunner on the sideline - that's a luxury few teams have these days. The way Brunner walked into the conference room, it was like his birthday today, getting a chance to play again and leading the team to a huge win. Although a couple of his throws were a bit off, he did what he had to do and made the right plays, including with his feet, to lead CMU to a win. With Ball State and Western Michigan winning as much as they are, every game in the MAC is huge these days.

But I think the unsung hero tonight was the entire defense. I talked a lot about the defense and its tendency to give up big plays late, especially against Buffalo and Purdue the last two games, but it clearly corrected that today. It held Temple to 108 yards of total offense in the 2nd half and no points. The four turnovers were the biggest part, though - two of them came on tipped passes that landed into junior safety Eric Fraser's hands.

Overall, this game was about the little things a team needs to do to win. CMU won the field position battle, putting the Owls on their one-yard line twice in the first half and returner Antonio Brown making big plays on punts. That fired up the Homecoming crowd of 22,114 and gave CMU extra energy. Creating turnovers was huge, as well as limiting them. Plus, you can't ask for a much better response to adversity with LeFevour leaving the game. Even if he wasn't ready for Western, having guys like Brunner as backups is so crucial to this team with injuries mounting up. The offensive line played well with its injuries, despite some high snaps from center Joe McMahon, who normally plays right guard.

Obviously, though, there's a big game coming next week. WMU enters next week's game 6-1, also 4-0 in the conference, and will pose a huge hurdle for CMU, even though it's the first MAC West game of the season for the Chippewas. But obviously, we'll cover all the bases this coming week. Have a good night, and feel free to comment on this game or the next!

CMU-Temple: Halftime notes


MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Six quick points during halftime of CMU's Homecoming game against Temple at Kelly/Shorts Stadium:

  • LeFevour out, Brunner in. Nobody's sure yet on the extent of junior quarterback Dan LeFevour's injury, but it's obviously in his leg because he limped off the field both times he left the game late in the second quarter. Although the team couldn't score on the last possession of the half, Brunner looked solid, his first pass going for a 37-yard gain (to receiver Bryan Anderson). We'll update you on and here if there's any more details on the injury.
  • Antonio Brown looks pretty good today. That's a bit of an understatement for the sophomore wide receiver, who looked dazzling on a 52-yard punt return in the first quarter. That set up a touchdown from LeFevour to Brown himself to make it 14-0. He's already got two touchdown receptions today and is showing a lot of flair in the return game. Speaking of wide receivers, though...
  • Bryan Anderson's back. The junior wideout who was out two weeks ago against Buffalo is looking like his former self this week. He's got 6 catches for 99 yards and is getting open looks in the secondary. This is critical for CMU to exploit in the second half.
  • Field position won early. Although Temple got going in the second quarter, three of its possessions started inside their 20, two right on the one-yard line. That was critical in keeping the Owls off the scoreboard and giving CMU solid field position. Both of the Chippewas' touchdowns came on drives of 32 yards or less. That's probably going to be what it takes to win this game against a stingy Temple defense - win the field position battle.
  • Despite some big plays, the defense looks solid. Especially early on, the defense swarmed the running game and kept the Owls one-dimensional. But on some plays, the coverage broke down, leaving several wide receivers wide open, particularly on a 58-yard completion from Chester Stewart to Jason Harper. Harper ran right past CMU defenders and found himself wide open down the field. The Owls' second touchdown drive, however, started at CMU's 18-yard line because of a backwards pass that went incomplete (and, therefore, is a fumble). Temple has 193 yards of total offense thus far - a high number, but for the most part, Central is doing fine in containing the point total.
  • The injury-laden offensive line? Not bad, either. Left guard Allen Ollenburger and right guard Kyle Curtis are filling in for center Colin Miller and left guard Jeff Maddux this week (right guard Joe McMahon moved to Center). With Temple's strong D-Line, this unit is playing solid, opening up holes for freshman Bryan Schroeder and senior Ontario Sneed to run through. Schroeder, with his first career carries, has 23 yards on four runs.

Be sure to check and this blog for more updates, especially on LeFevour.

CMU-Temple: Pregame Notes

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - I don't think anybody could have asked for better weather, and that's saying a lot considering we're in Michigan. For mid-October in this state, it feels like July! That's really the only drawback of writing sports - when you cover a football team, sometimes you'd rather enjoy the weather than sit in a press box working!

Good thing is, I'll get a chance to take some photos for a quarter or two of this game, so that'll even things out on my end. Homecoming at CMU is looking packed, as usual. I actually had to go around the stadium to get to my parking lot this time because of how packed it was. But with it being so nice outside, I'm not surprised at how many people are coming out. It's an excellent day for football.

Two quick notes to point out:

  • Quarterback Dan LeFevour is 85 yards of total offense away from 10,000 for his career. Barring any injury or suffocating Temple defense, he should easily get that today. We'll also update you on other milestone numbers that are attained in this game and throughout the season
  • Toledo 13, Michigan 10. Not quite sure what to make of that one- I got to watch some of it and the Wolverines, again, looked extremely sluggish while Toledo played very strong on defense. I'll analyze this game more this weekend.

    There's very little to update on here, other than that- I'm going to have halftime notes up, as long as the internet cooperates in the press box, and be sure to stay tuned after the game as well for some extra postgame notes!

Friday, October 10, 2008

CMU-Temple: NCAA 09's Prediction

(NOTE: I apologize for the lack of updates- apparently, an update I wrote on Tuesday didn't post when it should have, so nobody saw it until today (Friday). It's up now if you want to read it, and again, pitch in with your opinions if you wish. I greatly appreciate it!)

This is one of those weeks in which I don't trust the score that NCAA Football 09 gives me. If any of you have played it, you might know that Temple is pretty awful on the game. Fellow football writer Justin Berndt and I talked somewhat about Temple's defense and how it's going to pose a bigger challenge than either Ohio or Buffalo did.

Further complicating the matter are a couple of injuries on the offensive line front. It's looking like center Colin Miller is out for a little bit with a knee injury and left guard Jeff Maddux is out because of illness. Joe McMahon, CMU's starter at right guard, will move to center, Kyle Curtis will fill in for Maddux and Allen Ollenburger, who was backing up McMahon at right guard, will take that spot Saturday. With Temple's defensive line as good as it is, it's going to get even more difficult to contain it with a loss of depth up front.

(Good news is, Bryan Anderson looks ready to go for Saturday. I'll keep you guys updated on all that before the game Saturday, though.)

But, the problem with NCAA 09 is, it's not updated to how the team actually looks during the season and it doesn't take any injuries into account. It's pretty much based on last season's projections and nothing else. Therefore, CMU pretty much trounced them in this week's pixellated matchup:


The game did suffer its first loss last week when it picked Buffalo to win by a close margin. The game is 3-1 (didn't pick the first game) and I'm 5-0 at this point. Both of us picked CMU, so if history suggests anything, this bodes well.

Another thing the game didn't take into account, although it probably didn't need to, is that it's CMU's Homecoming. That should bring in more than 20,000 people to Kelly/Shorts, an excellent crowd for a home Mid-American Conference game.

Be sure to keep updated tomorrow for pre-game, halftime, and post-game coverage of CMU-Temple at 4 p.m.!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kalamazoo Gazette: CMU fourth?

To some people, going 2-0 in the Mid-American Conference after winning consecutive conference titles means little. In light of WMU's 42-20 shellacking of the Ohio Bobcats, Graham Couch of the Kalamazoo Gazette says CMU will finish fourth place in the division. In front of it? Ball State, an obvious choice. Western Michigan, not-so-obvious. And NIU - what?

Let's start with Western Michigan. Yes, they're 5-1, and 2-0 in the conference, despite the fact they're playing a bunch of cupcake squads. And I predicted early in the season this team was going to contend for the MAC Championship this year. To me, that part's a no-brainer.

But better than CMU at this point? I'm not too sure about that one, even if one team that WMU beat - NIU - happened to come close to beating Tennessee. The Vols were using a new starting quarterback for one thing and obviously weren't at their best. As for common opponents, try this one: If Oregon needed overtime to escape Purdue and CMU nearly beat Purdue the following week, does that mean CMU and Oregon are on the same competitive plane? A lot of people would disagree with that.

The beauty of football is that anything can happen on any given week. Appalachian State proved that last year in Michigan, and on a smaller scale, North Dakota State proved that when it trounced CMU last season. Really, it all comes down to wins and losses, and what your team does to win or lose games.

So back to Western Michigan. Yes, they're winning games, but none of those wins were impressive enough to say they're the 2nd best team in the division right now. The only team they beat with a .500 record or better is 3-3 Tennessee Tech, and they're FCS. In my eyes, if WMU wants to win people over, it's going to have to beat CMU next week. Ball State already won people over by beating Indiana and clocking every other team it has faced so far. While CMU hasn't won many people over yet, either, they're still the defending champions and will stay that way unless another team really proves otherwise. CMU could coast through the MAC schedule with one loss, beat Ball State at home even if they enter the game 10-0 and STILL make the conference championship.

Really, it just goes to show that every game is important and it's going to come down to those head-to-heads.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The weekend around the MAC

Mid-American Conference Scores
Akron 30, Kent State 27 (OT)
Western Michigan 41, Ohio 20
Temple 28, Miami (Ohio) 10
Eastern Michigan 24, Bowling Green 21
Tennessee 13, Northern Illinois 9
Ball State 31, Toledo 0

I can't say there's much of a surprise here in terms of the winners and losers, but some of the results caught my eye this weekend. NIU put up a heck of a fight against Tennessee, even though the Vols were running a new starting quarterback, Nick Stephens. Either way, the Huskies are a real dark horse candidate in the MAC West right now. They've always been a great team and last year is looking more and more like just a bad year. Coach Jerry Kill, in his first year, has those guys working. Yeah, they're 2-3, but those were three tough losses on the road against Minnesota, WMU and Tennessee. Give them a year and they're correct most of that.

The other surprising result was Ball State and Toledo, in which the Cardinals blanked the vaulted Rockets offense. As good as Ball State is, how does Toledo go from scoring 54 against Fresno State to scoring NOTHING on Saturday? BSU outgained UT 482-157 in yardage in the win and managed to break the Associated Press Top 25, finally. (And some of you thought I was crazy for thinking this team was going to go into CMU 9-1 or better. That's my moment of gloating for now.)

One player to watch: Ball State junior running back MiQuale Lewis. This guy is making a serious case for MAC Offensive Player of the Year. He has 802 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in six games, including 166 and four against Indiana a few weeks ago. Yikes.

Obviously this Ball State team is the class of the MAC, as I've said before. But the way I see it, it has to beat CMU next month unless the Chippewas manage to lose themselves out of the race. I don't see that happening with a home game against Western and a road game against somehow-lowly Toledo. There is no bias speaking here. Realistically, they could lose at NIU the week before the BSU game, but even in that situation, a win against Ball State would give CMU the head-to-head tiebreaker.

One other thing to keep an eye on: Temple enters CMU this week with a 28-10 win over Miami (Ohio.) That'll give the team a better confidence boost after rolling off four consecutive losses.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Green Bay's Jenkins on Injured Reserve

Another former CMU football player went down this week. The Green Bay Packers placed former Central Michigan defensive end Cullen Jenkins on injured reserve Tuesday. He apparently suffered a chest injury, possibly a torn pectoral muscle.

Prior to the season, former end Dan Bazuin was released by the Chicago Bears, ending his short tenure after having injury problems of his own. No one else has signed him yet.

For Jenkins, it was a sad sight to see, too, because he was playing extremely well to begin this season. He already tallied 18 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 10 quarterback pressures and a forced fumble.

While we're on the topic of injuries, though, I thought I'd update on former Ball State receiver Dante Love's situation (wow, that "former" had a very somber ring to it). Coach Brady Hoke said Love is "gushing" about the Cardinals' fifth win last weekend over Kent State, and is keeping up with the team despite staying in a rehabilitation center in Indianapolis.

As for the CMU football team, I haven't had a chance to talk to players after practice yet, so I don't have much of an update at this point. I'm hoping to find out more about receiver Bryan Anderson's progress and whether he'll be back for Temple next week. Keep posted, though!