MOUNT PLEASANT— The Central Michigan Chippewas will jump on a bus Tuesday afternoon with their equipment, and a whole lot of pressure, as they head to Kalamazoo for their rivalry game against Western Michigan.
This year not only is the typical Victory Cannon Trophy on the line, but also the Michigan MAC Trophy as both Central and Western walked away from their games against Eastern victorious. And if two trophies aren’t enough on the line, CMU is currently 5-4 on their season, meaning one more win makes the Chippewa squad bowl eligible.
“We don’t really want to quiet the noise. We want to hear everything. You want to be able to use all the fuel to anyone’s talking about within the coaching staff outside, inside, just bundle it all up. And make sure that us as players, we know the importance of this game. Like you said, it’s bowl eligibility,” CMU running back Marion Lukes said.
“You just got to just maintain yourself. Like, I mean, this is a big week, huge week, but if I change who I am and how I play, you know, I’m not confident that I will play well, you know? So just keep maintaining who I am and we just going to get through it,” defensive back Da’Raun McKinney said.
The Chippewas have struggled this year on the road, winning just one of five away games. They’re also still struggling to put a complete, four quarter, game together. Last week against Northern Illinois, the Chippewas were up 24-3 at the half, but ended up winning the game by just one score, 37-31.
“We have to be able to have all phases of the team just working well with each other. Offense, defense, special teams. In the games that we haven’t won, it’s always been, you know, one or two of those phases might be working while one’s not doing their thing. And we just got to be able to put the whole game together. And this is, you know, rivalry week. So, I feel like everyone’s going to have their, have their nerves up. Everyone’s going to have that chip. So, I feel like we’re going to be good,” Lukes said.
One phase of the game that clicked last Tuesday against the Huskies was the run which tallied a season-high 331 yards. Leading the Chippewas in that phase was Marion Lukes with a career-high 202 rushing yards.
“We’re going to impose our will on them,” Lukes said of Tuesday’s game. “We have to. We got to run the ball down their throat. We got to be able to throw the ball. We got to just show them that we’re a little bit better than them.”
Head coach Jim McElwain enters Tuesday’s meeting 1-3 against the Broncos. But WMU head coach Lance Taylor will be experiencing The Battle for the Victory Cannon for the first time.
“I’m sure when Lance got the job, one of the first things they said was make sure you beat Central. Uh, just like when I got the job is, uh, make sure you Beat those circle W’s, it’s great. And I think it’s what makes college football so great are the rivalries,” the head coach said.
Kickoff for this year’s 95th Central Michigan-Western Michigan rivalry game is set for 7 p.m. at Waldo Stadium. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.