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Kentucky Wildcat Football – Know Your Enemy: Central Michigan Chippewas



SEPTEMBER 10, 2011, 12:00 PM






9/30/2006:  KENTUCKY  45  Central Michigan 36

One thing is for certain when Kentucky faces the Central Michigan Chippewas on Saturday.  There will be more than 17 points scored in this game.  Central Michigan will bring their travelling air show into Commonwealth Stadium to test Kentucky’ stingy defense.   Last time these two teams faced, it was quite the show indeed.

In that game, Dan LeFevour and Andre Woodson combined for 626 yards passing and 8 touchdowns as Kentucky won a frenetic 45-36 game.  Kentucky got out to a 28-7 lead and then had to withstand a furious rally as CMU cut the lead to just 38-36 with 6:38 remaining.  LeFevour is gone of course, but Central Michigan is still a team that loves to throw the ball.

Both teams enter the game well rested, as Central Michigan defeated South Carolina State 21-6 on last Thursday night, the same night Kentucky survived the WKU Hilltoppers.  Kentucky has a lot to prove in the game and you have to hope that they were able to work out some of their problems with the extra practice.  If not, Central Michigan is a mid major that has taken some big schools down — most notably Michigan State in 2009.  That team was 10-2 and had LeFevour.  Without him, the Chippewas fell to 2-10 but with a good air game can sneak up on a team that does not take them seriously.


Here’s a brief recap of CMU’s stats against South Carolina State last Thursday:

• 13 first downs (9 rushing / 4 passing)
• 35 rushing attempts for 88 yards (2.5 YPC)
• Passing: Ryan Radcliff was 14 of 27 with two INT’s
• Fumbled twice, but recovered both
• Had 8 penalties for 86 yards
• Converted 3rd down 3 of 14 times

Junior Ryan Radcliff  took over the LeFevour mantle last year and had a pretty solid season with 3358 yards passing and 17 TD’s.  On the negative side, he threw 17 picks last year as well.  He had a somewhat rocky start this season against South Carolina State, passing for 168 yards and two touchdowns and two picks.  The big difference between LeFevour is the mobility.  LeFevour rushed for almost 3000 yards in his career while Radcliff had negative 99 yards rushing last year.  Radcliff is also dangerous for a deep ball however and had touchdowns of 45 and 67 yards last week. That “quick strike” ability is something Kentucky needs to be concerned with.   For now, Radcliff has a secure handle on the job, but he can be extremely erratic at times and was pulled from a few games last year.  However, the three backups behind him on the depth chart, AJ Westendorp, Alex Niznak, and Brandon Fricke have just 33 yards career passing.   So expect to see Radcliff all day, boom or bust. 

Zurlon Tipton emerged as the leading ball carrier last season when he had 4 TD’s in the last two games of the season.  He had an OK game versus South Carolina State with 73 yards and a TD.  He’s not a player to break the 70 yard run on you and he averaged just 3.6 a carry last season.  He is effective near the goal line and is a better than average receiver for a halfback.  5’5, 162 pound RB Tim Phillips shared carries with Titpton in the first game and had a horrible  25 yards on 11 carry performance.  I’m assuming he has the speed to break some longer runs, but that has not been proven on the field yet.  He had 10 carries for 57 yards in 2009.  Senior Paris Cotton was the starting RB for most of last season and had 651 yards and 6 TDs.  He had a respectable 4.6 yard per carry average last year but lost his job to Tipton due to fumbles.  He carried just 4 times for 6 yards last Thursday, but I have a feeling we may see Cotton more in the mix versus Kentucky. 

WR Cody Wilson was the team MVP last season with the third most receiving yards ever in CMU history with 1137 yards but found the endzone just five times.  Wilson, at 5’10 and 186 yards is Radcliff’s favorite target with 83 catches last year.  He caught just 4 balls for 53 yards last week, but one of those was a 45 yard TD.  Wilson is used to getting the ball a lot, as he had more than 10 reception in four of last five games last season.  He has the speed to break the occasional long catch, and he occasionally rushes the ball.  Freshman Titus Davis just had one catch last week, but he got loose for a 67 yard TD reception. Jerry Harris and Cedric Fraser should definitely get more attention than they did in week one.  Both are are experienced receivers with good size (6’3).  Harris had 332 yards receiving and 3 TD’s last season while Fraser had 210 yards last year.  Freshman TE Jarrett Fleming is huge (6’6) but just had one catch for 7 yards last week.  Although the production was not there last week, this is a group that could give Kentucky some trouble.    


Here’s how CMU’s defense did against SC State:

• Held SC to 137 yards of total offense
• Didn’t force a turnover
• Held SC to 59 yards on 43 attempts for a 1.4 ypc

CMU’s defense was its biggest weakness last year, primarily their running defense, which ranked 11th
in the MAC last year. 8 of CMU’s 12 opponents last year scored over 30 points, including 52 points to
Eastern Michigan, so UK has a chance to get their offense clicking if they can execute.

CMU switched to a 3-4 defense last year and it was kind of a disaster.  They allowed 172 yards rushing per game, almost 50 yards higher than the previous season.  Last year was also a 6 year low in sacks with just 21.  The Chippewas return three starters from last year and seem improved based on the numbers from last week.  NT Steve Winston led the team with 7 tackles while Joe Kinville had 4.  The DL was pretty active against South Carolina State with 7 tackles for a loss.&nbs
p; Keep in mind this was against a FCS school.  It could be a telling stat that CMU had just two sacks. 

The LB unit is a bit unsettled this year, having to replace their top tacklers from las season.  Freshman Cody Lopez and Armond Staten had 6 tackles last week.  Mike Petrucci was also busy with 4 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss.  There does not seem to be a standout player in this corps, but they played well as a unit last week and accounted for 5 tackles for a loss. 

The DB’s are more experienced, but that may not be a good thing as this unit picked off just 4 passes all year last year.  Jahleel Addae had 80 tackles last season and 6 last week, but no picks and has just defensed 5 passes in that time.  John Carr had 5 tackles last week.  The secondary doe have decent size with Avery Cunningham, Lorenzo White, and Carr all being over 6’0 tall.  But takeaways are a huge part of the game and the CMU seems deficient in creating turnovers. 


Jason Marcum:  UK will rely heavily on its running game to see if CMU’s poor run defense has truly improved. Morgan Newton will have a good, not great game passing. Raymond Sanders will prove why he’s the #1 running back by burning CMU on the ground and on screen passes. UK’s defense will blitz Radcliff heavily and focus coverage schemes on Cody Wilson. CMU’s running game will be know match for UK’s d-line and linebackers. Martavious Neolms and Winston Guy will be UK’s biggest play-makers on defense. UK will come out fired up for Heroes Day and looking to get the bad taste of last Thursday’s game out of their mouth. The Cats will lead by double digits for most of the second and third quarters, but will struggle to pull away until late in the fourth quarter. Kentucky grinds out a 27-10 win.

Paul Jordan:  It’s hard to expect a huge game from Kentucky’s offense after last weeks performance, but I am going to expect a vastly improved team.  Yes, Kentucky struggled, but CMY beat a FCS team by just 15 points as well.  I think being at home will cure a lot of ills and after a long week, Kentucky will want to show last week was a fluke.  Radcliff is a better QB than Jakes but he has not proven thus far that he can throw for more TD’s than INT’s so Kentucky’s DB’s should be able to create some turnovers.  On the other hand, CMU’s defenders are a bit soft and Morgan Newton could have a very good day picking them apart.  I look for Kentucky to air it out early and often with Morgan looking for King on a few long passes.  If he connects, Kentucky will build a big lead and they will look to establish the running game a bit more.  If CMU scores, it will be of the quick strike type.  I don’t forsee CMU being able to put together any long drives on Kentucky.  This is what the doctor ordered for Kentucky heading into the Louisville game.  Kentucky 31  Central Michigan 10.

WBN Writer Jason Marcum also contributed to this preview

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