We're going back to The Hustle Belt with DOUBLE SHOCK POWER this week as James Jimenez is the guest blogger this week. He writes about all things Central Michigan for the Hustle Belt and he was kind enough to answer my questions concerning the Chippewas in advance of Saturday's game:
T-Mill: What happened to Titus Davis and is he a go on Saturday?
James: Titus Davis was injured after recovering a pooch punt by Chattanooga. He slid feet first after the live ball, and got absolutely decked by a gunner, whose impact directly affected Titus' left knee. Coach Dan Enos has him listed as "day-to-day" with a knee sprain. This leaves a lot of murkiness in regards to just how serious the injury is. Coach Enos is usually pretty up-front about injury news, so for him to only say day-to-day and provide no further detail is odd. I was at the game and right on the sideline when the injury happened and Titus seemed to be in serious pain. In my opinion, he is a no-go for Saturday, although something tells me that given the WR situation, he might make an appearance.
T-Mill: What were the reasons behind the struggles with Chattanooga?
James: There were a lot of reasons, and most of those reasons could be found in the first half. First off, the Chippewas offense was stagnant at best against the Mocs' defense. Cooper Rush was overthrowing all of his receivers, and there was a lack of timing; every play looked sloppy and was executed poorly. Saylor Lavallii, the starting running back, contributed virtually nothing, and was pulled out of the starting spot a couple series into the game in favor of Thomas Rawls. The defense is not entirely blameless in this. Until the second half, the defense just did not create opportunities for success, especially against the rush, where they looked confused against Chattanooga's zone read offense, where they gave up over 200 yards, resulting in a 16-0 deficit late in the second quarter. CMU sealed the game in the second half with fervour, giving up only seventeen yards and intercepting the Mocs three times. Special teams (aka Ron Coluzzi and ten people running in a straight line) was also a disaster, with Coluzzi missing a field goal and an extra point. The Chips got it together on all sides of the ball in the second half, but most of those struggles were discovered in the first half.
T-Mill: Central wants to play tough up front and Purdue is coming off its best rushing performance in almost two years. What will give?
James: My Central superfan self wants to say that Central's run defense, which includes the likes of Justin Cherocci, Jabari Dean, and Leterrius Walton will hold off the Boilermaker rushing attack. But after Central's dismal showing against Chattanooga, and taking into account that Purdue is a B1G team, I have to say Purdue. I expect that the numbers for Akeem Hunt and Rakeem Mostert will be similar to the numbers that they gained against Western Michigan, since apparently bad run defense is a "Directional Michigan" thing.
T-Mill: Who are the offensive standouts aside from Davis?
James: Offensively, the Chips are really reliant on Titus. However, this does not mean the offense starts and stops with him. Look out for Thomas Rawls, the Michigan transfer running back. After coming in for Lavallii as the primary back, he amassed 121 yards, most of them after first contact. Jesse Kroll will probably be a target for Rush to throw to in the absence of Davis. Andy Phillips and Nick Beamish anchor the offensive line and will give the Boilermakers defense plenty to handle.
T-Mill: What is CMU's best chance for a win on Saturday?
James: There are two scenarios here: with and without Davis. If Titus can play, the key will be for Central to find a balanced offensive attack. Rawls, or whoever the starting primary back will be, must produce enough of a threat to get Davis open. When healthy and ready, Davis has electric speed and professional hands, fielding comparisons to fellow Chip and Pro-Bowler Antonio Brown. If Davis is ineligible, the Chippewas will have to lean on their defense in order to win out the day. Purdue looked vulnerable at times against the Broncos, and the 4-2-5 is a look that B1G teams don't see often, so the Chips must take advantage and exploit the Purdue offense in order to take home a payday and a win.