Kentucky football’s upcoming matchup: Central Michigan scouting report


Kentucky Wildcats running back Benny Snell Jr. (26) is tackled to the ground during the Governor’s Cup game against Louisville at Kroger Field on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

UK football looks ahead to its season-opening matchup against the Central Michigan University Chippewas at Kroger Field at 3:30 this Saturday.

These two teams have not met since the 2011 season. Kentucky defeated Central Michigan 23-17 at Commonwealth Stadium.

Last season, the Chippewas finished 8-5 overall with a 6-2 conference record in the Mid-American Conference (MAC), and had a 5-2 record when playing on the road. The Preseason Media Poll picked them to finish fifth in MAC West Division.

John Bonamego enters his fourth season as the Chippewas’ head coach. He’s compiled a 21-18 overall record at CMU. Bonamego led the Chippewas to a bowl game every season he’s been at CMU, and one of those bowls included a Quick Lane Bowl victory in 2015.

Despite losing several stars on an offense that finished fourth in MAC scoring offense last season, the Chippewas return several other key players.

Junior running back Jonathan Ward finished with 1,489 total yard and 13 touchdowns last season– the first 1,000-yard rusher for CMU since 2014. The Chippewas’ receiving corps is filled with returning yet inexperienced faces that look to step up in big roles.

Junior receivers Brandon Childress, Jamil Sabbagh, Damon Terry, and fifth-year senior Devon Spalding look to replace last season’s top receivers: Corey Willis, Tyler Conklin, and Eric Cooper.

At the helm at quarterback is redshirt-sophomore Tony Poljan, who has big shoes to fill as he replaces Shane Morris, who just graduated. Morris finished as the No. 2 passer in the MAC after throwing for 2,908 yards and 26 touchdowns.

On the other side of the ball, CMU returns its leading tackler and a two-time All-MAC selection, linebacker Malik Fountain. His counterpart, Alex Briones, was also a top five tackler for CMU last year. Both seniors are expected to fill the spot left by Joe Ostman– the CMU co-defensive player of the year.

In the secondary, the team suffered a big hit when defensive backs Amari Coleman and Josh Cox both graduated. They helped lead the Chippewas to having the top pass defense in the MAC last year.

Junior cornerback Sean Bunting, who had five interceptions last year, looks to fill that void, along with Oregon State transfer Xavier Crawford.

The potential chemistry on this new offense could be uncertain and the defense has had major holes filled. Nonetheless, the Chippewas will look to defy their preseason expectations against the Cats.