LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Going into Central Michigan’s game against Kansas on Saturday, quarterback Shane Morris knew his Chippewas team wasn’t expected by many to win. But in the aftermath of their 45-27 victory over the Jayhawks, he said that doubt made it feel even better.
“A lot of people didn’t think we were going to win,” Morris said. “So coming out there and us beating a Power Five team … I think that shows a lot about us.”
On paper, it’s easy to tell why Kansas was the favorite; Central Michigan had just narrowly snuck past Rhode Island in overtime, and found themselves on the road against a hungry Big 12 team fresh off a strong performance in its season opener.
But still, the Chippewas were confident.
“We make it a point to beat the teams that we should beat,” Morris said. “We felt that Kansas was a team that we should beat.”
Morris guided the ship for Central Michigan, throwing for 467 yards and five touchdowns on an efficient 28 of 37 attempts, along with zero interceptions or fumbles.
In what was their first road game of the season, the Chippewas took control late in the second quarter after a quiet start to the game for both teams.
A Kansas field goal made the score 10-6 in Central Michigan’s favor with just under five minutes left until halftime, as the two teams seemed to be fairly evenly-matched.
Less than two minutes later, however, Chippewa tight end Logan Hessbrook took a Morris pass 40 yards to the end zone. Then, with just six seconds remaining, receiver Corey Willis snagged a six-yard score as well. Suddenly, it was 24-6 Central Michigan.
The Jayhawks would come out and respond with a quick 14 points out of the break, cutting the lead to just four, but the Chippewas drove down on the following possession and extended it back to 11 with a one-yard Devon Spalding touchdown run. From that point on, they wouldn’t look back.
The Chippewas’ ability to step up in key moments is what set them apart from the Jayhawks, and came from a number of different players. Coach John Bonamego praised his offense’s ability to step up and deliver when the team needed it most.
“We had a bunch of guys that had catches in critical situations,” Bonamego said.
Mark Chapman led the game with 168 yards on eight receptions, and reeled in three touchdowns as well. He delivered the knockout blow, turning a short Morris pass into a 75-yard dash to the end zone to make it a 45-27 game with less than 10 minutes remaining.
“I think that’s the best play in football,” Morris said. “I just got to throw a little bubble out there, and he does the rest. He made a great play. I thought he was going to get tackled on the sideline honestly, but just shot it and he went. I mean, that’s an unbelievable play.”
These big plays didn’t come by chance. According to Bonamego, they were the product of steady all-around productivity.
“You have to make plays,” Bonamego said. “The challenge to our team really this week was to go out and make the routine plays. Take the plays as they came, let the game come to us. If we make the routine plays, we’re going to keep the chains moving, and then eventually the big plays will come.”
Offense was the key for Central Michigan, racking up 590 total yards. Most of their work came through the air, but five Chippewas combined for 123 yards on the ground as well.
“Our offensive production was outstanding,” Bonamego said. “I think (offensive coordinator Chris Ostrowsky) called a good game. Shane Morris executed the offense. Our receivers ran, got open, and caught balls, and we were able to grind some yards in the running game as well.”
Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender struggled early, and while he improved, he couldn’t make up for his slow start. He finished with 323 yards on 32 of 62 passing, while failing to find the end zone and throwing two picks.
“Peyton could have played a lot better game with his accuracy,” coach David Beaty said. “I thought he needed to do a little bit better job of pulling the ball down at times, taking off and becoming a runner. It would have helped us a little bit with that game.”
Jayhawks true freshman running back Dom Williams accounted for two touchdowns on the ground, and led the game in rushing with 64 yards. Receiver Ryan Schadler also ran it in for a score on a 33-yard reverse.
Central Michigan: The Chippewas played an almost spotless game, their lone turnover coming off a punt return slip up. With just one game left before competition begins in what should be a tough Mid-American Conference, Central Michigan has reason to be confident.
Kansas: Not a good look for the Jayhawks in this one. After a strong opener against Southeast Missouri State, things seemed to be trending in the right direction for coach David Beaty’s team. But after this one, it seems Kansas could be heading for the same level of mediocrity they’ve carried in seasons past.
Central Michigan: The Chippewas will next travel to Syracuse for their final non-conference game of the season against the 1-1 Orange.
Kansas: The Jayhawks will play their first road game of the season next Saturday as they travel to 1-1 Ohio in their non-conference season finale.