Chippewas Roll Over EIU in Opener, 31-12

The Central Michigan University Chippewas started slowly Thursday night before 19,732 fans at Kelly/Shorts Stadium but finished very strong, beating Eastern Illinois University 31-12 to win their first season opener since 2002.

Central Michigan and Eastern Illnois traded first quarter field goals Thursday night before CMU running back Ontario Sneed got the Chippewas rolling with an electrifying 23-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

With just under 12 minutes remaining until the half, Sneed took a handoff from quarterback Dan LeFevour and broke off right tackle into the secondary where he made a spinning move that left a defender in his wake. Sneed raced to the end zone for a 10-3 Chippewa lead they would never relinquish.

"You could see the bounce in his step during practice this week," CMU head coach Butch Jones said about Sneed. "I told Ontario I thought he was going to have a good game because of the way he practiced."

Sneed finished the game with 88 yards rushing on 13 attempts (6.8 yards per carry). Sneed had only begun contact drills in practice this past Sunday after suffering a broken arm during spring practice.

"I felt good practicing all week," Sneed said.

Once the lead had been established, it was the CMU defense that stepped up to make a game changing play and help the Chippewas build a 17-3 halftime lead.

After a Chippewas drive stalled deep in EIU territory, CMU defensive end Frank Zombo corraled Panther quarterback Bodie Reeder, forcing a fumble that was recoverd by Chippewa tackle Casey Droscha at the EIU 18-yard line.

LeFevour wasted little time, connecting with wide receiver Jean Pitts, who made a diving catch in the end zone for the touchdown. It was the first of three touchdown passes on the night for LeFevour.

"I just need to settle in and get into a rhythm," LeFevour said. "Once I started making some completions, I felt I got into a groove."

LeFevour completed 21-of-31 passes for 217 yards on the night, including second half touchdown strikes to Bryan Anderson (five yards) and Sean Skergan (11 yards), his career first TD reception.

Jones was pleased with the opening night victory for his team, but still saw room for improvement.

"We need to improve our third down defense and we need to be more consistent in our running game," Jones said. "The thing I'm most pleased about is that we didn't turn the ball over. Eastern Illinois is a physical football team and as good up front as anybody we played last season."

Next up for the Chippewas is the University of Georgia, the nation's No. 1 ranked team.

"We'll enjoy this win for the next 24 hours then get ready for Georgia," Jones said.

The game at Georgia is scheduled to kickoff at 3:30 p.m. Saturday Sept. 6 and will be televised on FSN South. It will be the first of three consecutive road tilts for the Chippewas.

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