Immediately following Oklahoma State's 24-13 win in the 2015 season opener on a rainy Thursday night in Mount Pleasant, Mich., Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy put himself in position to be the president or vice-president of the Cooper Rush Fan Club.
Gundy really liked what he saw of the Central Michigan signal caller and suggested he had a career in football past college in the NFL. Since then others, including NFL scouts, have jumped on the bandwagon. Phil Steele in his magazine has Rush ranked in the top 10 of quarterbacks in the country as far as NFL prospects.
Last week, Central Michigan opened with a 49-3 win over FCS opponent Presbyterian. Rush did not even play that well, throwing two interceptions and and a touchdown with 237 passing yards and negative eight yards on the ground. It is the threat of what Rush is capable of that makes defenses forget about the Chippewas talented running backs that ran for 255 yards and five touchdowns.
"They had some games last year where they were really, really good," Gundy said looking back at last season. "As the season went on, I think they had some games where they thought they should have played a little better at times. When you have a quarterback of that caliber, you certainly have the opportunity to score some points."
Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has all of his attention on the Chippewas and the man that makes them go. Last season against Oklahoma State he threw for 225 yards, but he also ran for 51 yards that most of the time led to first downs or one of his scampers landed him in the end zone.
"Just right off the back, personnel-wise, the quarterback is very well-respected," Spencer started in his discussion. "We saw Cooper Rush last year and he's steady. He's a senior now. He's put up a lot of yardage. He's savvy to get free on rush and he's got a great touch. He can throw the deep out cuts. Basically, besides the tight end, they've got the whole offense back, and they pretty much move the ball on everybody they play."
Cowboys defensive end Vili Leveni watched the game a year ago on television. His torn Achilles kept him out for the whole season, but he saw what was going down in the pass rush that was allowing Cooper Rush escapes through the Cowboys defense. He knows that whether Rush is scrambling to look for a receiver downfield or breaking out himself, that the Oklahoma State defensive front needs to keep their mind right and their presence in the right spots.
"We just have to be disciplined in our pass rush lanes," Leveni said. "We can't just rush all non-rushing stuff. We have to kind of be mindful of where we're going and stuff like that. So, we're more disciplined, but at the same time we have to attack. You can't just lay back and let them do whatever. We watched a lot of film from last year, and the film from this past week. We just have to be disciplined in our pass rush, and at the same time, take from what we did last week and be more aggressive. It's not a team we can sleep on, and we aren't going to take them lightly. We need to get prepared this week."
Leveni is right; last week was all about discipline and assignment football in defending the triple option. This week they can cut loose a little more, but stay in the right frame of mind and keep a nice containment net around Cooper Rush. Do that and Saturday could be a long afternoon for the real members of the Cooper Rush Fan Club.