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Cooper Rush stepped in for Alex Niznak against New Hampshire and led Central Michigan to victory in spectacular fashion.
Sometimes it’s not where you start but where you finish.
That could very well be Central Michigan and more specifically Cooper Rush‘s mantra this season. Considering the quarterback’s path en route to Central’s 24-21 victory over New Hampshire; it’s as fitting as it is accurate.
Rush helped Central erase a 14-point fourth quarter deficit on Saturday, after spending the first quarter on the bench. The redshirt freshman was third on the depth chart entering the season, but after Cody Kater‘s injury and inconsistent play from Alex Niznak, Rush took the field in the second quarter and never looked back.
“The plan was to only play Alex today,” Enos said. “But the offense was sputtering and that’s probably a kind word. We felt like we needed a spark. In the past, I’ve gotten the question about pulling Ryan Radcliff. We didn’t think any of the backups were ready at that time. The difference with Michigan last week and then this week is that we felt Cooper was ready.”
The young quarterback was impressive in his collegiate debut, racking up 326 yards passing and three touchdowns, while completing 19 of 32 attempts. Two of those touchdowns came in the fourth quarter. A 20-yard pass to sophomore Andrew Flory cut Central’s deficit to seven, and a 97-yard pass to junior Titus Davis tied up the game, 21-21, with 9:08 remaining.
Rush’s biggest play of the game however came on a third-and-15 situation in the waning moments. He would complete a 17-yard pass to Davis for a first down. That clutch pass-and-catch enabled Central to eventually set up for the game-winning 27-yard field goal by Ron Coluzzi as time expired.
“I felt like I was prepared,” Rush said. “Once you get out there, you aren’t thinking much. You are just playing.”
After seeing Rush take over for Niznak, a few things became pretty clear. The impact of Rush’s talents in the passing game far outweigh what the offense loses without Niznak’s athletic ability. No matter how much Niznak wants it, the zip on Rush’s passes and the consistency in which he completes them, are well beyond anything Niznak can muster at this point in his career or maybe ever.
Fourth quarter heroics like the kind Rush and company displayed against New Hampshire are welcomed and encouraged. But needing them against a FCS team isn’t exactly what you want to see on a regular basis. Obviously Rush’s performance should be more than enough to give him the start against UNLV next week, but Central will need that kind of play from him consistently going forward.
Even if Rush isn’t the long term solution at quarterback, he’s the best option Central has at the moment. The Chippewas need consistency from the quarterback position now more than ever and Rush looks like he can deliver just that.
Photo by Brittni Hengesbach
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