Andy Sneddon, cmuchippewas.com
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Not that there was ever any doubt about Shane Morris’ talent or leadership, but Saturday’s 45-27 victory at Kansas perhaps served as a validation of sorts.
Morris, a graduate transfer from Michigan, completed an efficient 28 of his 37 pass attempts for 467 yards and five touchdowns in leading the Chippewas to what might well be considered a mild upset of the Jayhawks, who play in the Big 12.
Who the Chippewas beat and where it happened were peripheral factors as CMU looked back, ahead, and in the mirror.
“I have nothing but faith in Shane,” said CMU senior wide receiver Mark Chapman, who finished with eight catches for 168 yards and three touchdowns – all career-highs. “As soon as he stepped on campus I knew he was a baller. Shoot we went to quarterback camp way back in the day and I knew he had a rocket arm.
“I was excited when he stepped on campus, and it was nice to see him come into his own and he was playing with swagger, making plays, directing the offense.”
Morris’ 14-yard touchdown pass to Chapman early in the second quarter put the Chippewas up, 10-3, and they never relinquished the lead after that, though things did get a little tight early in the third quarter when Kansas cut a 24-6 halftime deficit to 24-20.
CMU, led by Morris, responded with back-to-back scoring drives to re-up its lead to 38-20. The first drive covered 73 yards, the second 91. Morris capped the second scoring drive with a fourth-down 7-yard TD pass to Chapman.
“It’s a very emotional win for me,” said Morris, who started two games during his four years at Michigan. “For where I came from and everything that has happened in college, coming out here and having these guys trust me and trust me to be their quarterback, and coach Bono trusting me to be the quarterback. It means a lot to me to be able to go out there and get a win and be able to have a good day.”
Chapman, a fifth-year senior, had the best day of his career. His catches, yards and TD were all career-highs, and his 75-yard TD pass play with 9:50 remaining iced the game. He took a short pass near the sideline from Morris, then outran the secondary down the sideline to the goal line.
Fellow wideout Corey Willis tied his career high with eight receptions and finished just five yards shy of his career-high with 140 receiving yards.
“The ball found those two guys,” said CMU coach John Bonamego. “We had a bunch of guys that had catches in critical situations. Those two are seniors and we expect more from them. They’re leaders in the room and they kind of set the pace for the rest of the guys. I thought across the board everybody caught the ball well. Last week I think we had eight drops and I can remember two tonight. So that’s a good night.”
Sophomore tight end Logan Hessbrook, an Ithaca native who transferred to CMU from Saginaw Valley State, had four catches for 61 yards and a TD in his second game as a Chippewa.
The Chippewas committed just one turnover, and it came on a Kansas punt that came down, hit the field, and bounced into a CMU blocker, making it a live ball. The Jayhawks recovered the ball in a scrum.
In CMU’s 30-27 triple-overtime victory over Rhode Island in the season opener a week ago, CMU committed four turnovers, but offset that by making six interceptions.
On Saturday, the Chippewas intercepted Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender twice, bringing their season total to eight. Last year, the Chippewas made 13 interceptions.
“You can’t give an opponent, any opponent, extra possessions especially an extra possession with field position,” Bonamego said. “It’s something we’ve stressed from day one, taking care of the ball and trying to be opportunistic defensively, got to take the ball away. Every team in the country talks about it, every team in the country works on it.
“There aren’t many teams that are good enough to lose the turnover battle and overwhelm somebody and find a way to win the game.”
Homework pays off
Senior Josh Cox and junior Tyjuan Swain made the CMU interceptions. It was third of the season for Cox, and he leads the Mid-American Conference in that category. It was the first pick of Swain’s career.
The Chippewa defense did its homework in preparing for Kansas’ uptempo spread offense. Jayhawk quarterback Peyton Bender threw 37 passes in the Jayhawks’ 38-16 season-opening victory over Southeast Missouri State. On Saturday against the Chippewas, he threw 62 passes.
Cox pointed to the prep work under defensive backs coach Archie Collins, who is in his fifth year on the Chippewa staff.
“Coach Collins is really hard on us any time we face a quarterback who slings it all over the yard,” Cox said. “Coach Collins always says ‘pressure busts pipes’ so we put some pressure on (Bender) today and it paid off.”
Alex Briones led the Chippewa defense with 10 tackles, while Darwyn Kelly added seven and Da’Quaun Jamison added six.
Defensive ends Mike Danna and Mitch Stanitzek combined for one sack, and fellow end Joe Ostman also had a sack, the 15th of his career. Ostman is tied for seventh in program history in career sacks.
The Chippewas finished with 590 yards in total offense, and lead the Mid-American Conference in total offense through two weeks.
CMU takes on another opponent from a Power Five conference on Saturday, Sept. 16, when it goes to Syracuse of the ACC.
The Orange is 1-1 after falling on Saturday to Middle Tennessee, 30-23. Syracuse opened the season with a 50-7 victory over Central Connecticut State.
CMU is 0-3 all-time against the Orange. Syracuse won the last meeting, 30-27, in overtime in 2015.