Army hosts Central Michigan today

MOUNT PLEASANT - The curtain closes on the non-conference portion of Central Michigan University football schedule this weekend as the Chippewas (2-3 overall, 2-1 Mid-American Conference) visit Army (0-4). ESPN Classis will televise the contest live to a national audience.

The Chippewas are fresh off a come-from-behind 31-17 win at Akron on Saturday. Central Michigan scored 24 unanswered points after trailing 17-7 at halftime. The defense was nearly flawless in the second half, allowing Akron just 47 yards of offense over the final two quarters. Meanwhile, freshman running back Ontario Sneed was putting together the best game of his young career, rushing for 183 yards and catching six passes for 77 yards. He scored three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter.

"We knew that, offensively, we had to control the football," said second-year head coach Brian Kelly. "The message we gave the kids in the locker room was that the next score would win the game. If Akron scored on that first possession of the third quarter, they would have been in front 24-7. That, to me, was the most important possession of the game because we forced a three-and-out and then went on to score."

Twenty-five of the 50 players who saw action during the win were either freshmen or sophomores. While those players may be short on game experience, Kelly and his staff expect those underclassmen to play beyond their years.

"We set a standard for every player to strive for in terms of what we expect from them," Kelly said. "For example, Ontario Sneed cannot be a true freshman. We need him to perform like a veteran for us. We set a standard for what we expect and we need guys to step in and perform with no excuses. We just need to get it done."

The fact that those youngsters are experiencing some success early in their careers is an added bonus.

"It helps in every way," Kelly said. "It helps with their confidence, it helps when they're working with the strength coach during the offseason, and it helps in developing inexperienced players. We've created a mentality of `next man in,' and our players have bought into that philosophy."

The Chippewas are back on the road this weekend, closing out a stretch of four road games in five weeks at Army. The Black Knights enter their Homecoming contest 0-4 overall.

"We have a great amount of respect for the academy and the program that Bobby Ross is running there," Kelly said. "It's exciting for us to be able to play a football game in the midst of their great tradition, and it's a great opportunity to compete in one of the finest venues in the country in Michie Stadium."

The Chippewas, who have now won consecutive road conference games for the first time since 1994, are eyeing road wins in consecutive games for the first time since 1993.

"I've said before that teams win on the road when they gain a certain level of maturity," Kelly said. "We are growing and maturing as a football team, and I thought that as a team we handled ourselves over the weekend. There were a lot of distractions with the 6 p.m. kickoff and being around the hotel all day, but I thought we showed a maturity in how we handled ourselves in preparing for that game."

CMU closes the season with five MAC contests, including three in a row at home beginning next weekend. The Chippewas host Ohio for Homecoming next Saturday at 1 p.m.


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