Monday, October 18, 2010

Offense falls short, defense fails to keep pace with Miami

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || October 18, 2010

There were seven minutes left in the first half.

The Chippewas were down, looked out and trailed Miami in front of a homecoming crowd.

There were missed kicks, dropped passes, an interception and a fumble. The offense couldn’t move and the defense couldn’t stop.

“They made plays when they needed to,” said head coach Dan Enos. “And we didn’t execute.”

And just a football field away, a tailgate was dying in Lot 63.

The biggest pregame crowd in two years was dispersing, lines at the Port-O-Potty restrooms disappearing and blood-alcohol levels declining, as a student body spilled from a parking lot into a football stadium.

But the Chippewas couldn’t come alive.

“It’s very disappointing,” Enos said. “The guys are frustrated, I’ll tell you that.”

Not after a Paris Cotton five-yard touchdown run moments later, not after the half, not in the third quarter, and not in the fourth when two red-zone field goals just weren’t enough to top the RedHawks.

They tried.

Miami led by 10. CMU cut the lead to three. Miami led by six. CMU cut the lead to three. Miami led by three. And then, CMU erased the lead.

But as the Chippewas tried to keep pace, responding to an early second half Miami touchdown with a Carl Volny touchdown run here, and to an early fourth quarter Miami field goal with two David Harman field goals there, something was missing.

You could see it on the field, where the RedHawks gained more yards, took care of the football and made the most of their scoring opportunities. You could see it on the opposing sideline, where Zac Dysert stood between running confident drives, making plays and passing a yard short of 400 yards.

And you could see it in the stands, as the once-packed student section began to thin out near the end of the third quarter, and you could certainly see it wherever Dan LeFevour was — in the stands, on the sidelines or wherever else at Kelly/Shorts Stadium the former quarterback was — in his return to Mount Pleasant, a sign that the high-scoring, never boring offensive days of the past had, well, passed.

With 19 seconds left in regulation, freshman defensive back Avery Cunningham drifted off of Miami receiver Andy Cruse. Cunningham peeked and Cruse streaked, 71 yards down the field.

Dysert would find him, wide open, feed him, wide open, and the game was over, a 27-20 Central Michigan defeat while the remains of a student section dissolved in a quiet hush.

The Chippewas are 2-5. They have lost four in a row. Three conference games for the first time since 2005. Homecoming for the first time since 2004.

“We can still make a bowl game,” said senior linebacker Nick Bellore. “As a senior that’s what I want to try to do. That’s what we do here, is go to bowl games.”

“I can’t go to Detroit now,” he said. “And that’s tough enough to take.”

That, and that there is no time left in the first half.

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