MT. PLEASANT – As Central Michigan prepares to host its biggest game of the year against Western Michigan in the Mid-American Conference opener for both programs on Saturday, it does so without some talented standouts.
Sixth-year senior wide receiver Jesse Kroll (knee) and junior receiver Eric Cooper (foot) will both undergo season-ending surgery, bringing an end to Kroll’s collegiate career.
Junior right tackle Derek Edwards (ankle) and junior defensive end Mitch Stanitzek also remain on the sidelines, while senior safety Tony Annese is a game-time decision.
“Been dealt a lot of adversity over the past two years and they’ve handled it well,” coach John Bonamego said. “What we need to still focus on and improve on is handling success. Success is a lot more difficult to handle than adversity.”
WMU (4-0) enters the matchup as one of two remaining undefeated MAC schools (Toledo), having recorded marquee wins over Big Ten schools Northwestern (22-21) and Illinois (34-10). The Broncos have won four of the last five meetings in the series with CMU after dropping five in a row from 2006-2010.
The Chippewas (3-1) are looking to shake off last week’s 49-35 loss to previously winless Virginia, a game in which CMU trailed 15-0 after the opening quarter and rallied from a 28-0 deficit to tie in the fourth quarter. CMU continued the trend of being a second-half team, scoring 21 points over the third and fourth quarters. The Chippewas have now outscored opponents 92-31 in the second half,
“You know, that’s what every football team goes through. We’re a good second-half team,” senior quarterback Cooper Rush said. “We’ve just got to start playing well from the first quarter. It’s been a struggle for us all year. So we look to start fast.”
Rush and receiver Corey Willis were two bright spots offensively for the Chippewas in the loss to the Cavaliers, with Rush completing 25-of-45 passing for 402 yards and two touchdowns. Willis netted a career-high 145 yards and two scores on six receptions.
The Chippewas continue their brief two-game homestand against Ball State on Oct. 8 for homecoming.
Kickoff Saturday from Kelly/Shorts Stadium is 7 p.m.
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