CMU Opens MAC Play with Rival Western

MT. PLEASANT – Central Michigan looks to snap a two-game skid to rival Western Michigan, as the two programs open Mid-American Conference play Saturday evening at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

Saturday’s contest is possibly the most evenly matched the series has seen in years, as both program’s offensives rank in the top 40 nationally in both scoring and yards per game.

"Our focus has always been on ourselves, it’s what we can control. And that’s our level of preparation, and our effort and the intensity and enthusiasm and energy that we bring,” CMU coach John Bonamego said. "Being a former player here, you know, there is definitely an intensity to it.

"At the end of it, it counts as one game. So we’ll prepare like we always do… We do understand the importance of the game."

The Chippewas (3-1) have already moved on from last week’s 49-35 loss to Virginia, which ended CMU’s bid for its first 4-0 start since 1985.

"Our goals are still in front of us, you know, the MAC title is still there, conference play starts this week and that’s our main goal. So we’re really focused on that,” Rush said.

Rush is looking to close out his collegiate career with his second win as a starter over WMU. Currently ranked eighth in the FBS in passing yards (1,352) and yards per game (338), Rush completed 25-of-45 passing for 402 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s loss to Virginia.

"This is why you play. This is what you dream about,” he said. “You know, we want big games like this, big crowds, you know, it’s going to be a great environment and it’s what you want.

"The emotions are there. The attention to detail is a little higher, everyone is a little more focused. Intensity is really what drives it, knowing it’s a rival coming to your place. You know, everyone is locked in.”

Rush’s counterpart Saturday, senior Zach Terrell, ranked seventh nationally and second in the MAC in quarterback efficiency a year ago and has the Broncos (4-0) off to a fast start again offensively, as WMU sits 15th nationally in scoring (43.8 ppg) and 39th in yards per game (468.5).

"To me and to my teammates, this game is no bigger, no smaller,” Terrell said. “You know, we are 0-0. We’re going to play an elite football team, we know that. It is a bigger game to a lot of people because of the rivalry and because of both teams being very successful in their preseason."

The Broncos have won four of the last five meetings, including a 41-39 contest last year. CMU’s last win in the series was in 2013, WMU coach P.J. Fleck’s first year.

“The dynamics are so different every single year. So you can’t draw on different things of last year’s game and who won, who lost, who did this. That has no bearing on the outcome of Saturday,” Fleck said.

The Chippewas continue their brief two-game homestand against Ball State on Oct. 8 for homecoming.

Kickoff from Kelly/Shorts Stadium is 7 p.m.