September 5, 2011

Freshmen make impact in opener

The Chippewas started the 2011 football season with a 21-6 win over the South Carolina State Bulldogs under the lights at Kelly-Short Stadium. It was not the most impressive win by any means, but it was still a win and Central Michigan was able to start the season with a 1-0 record. CMU is replacing an experienced linebacking corps from last year that was led by Nick Bellore and Matt Berning, but they did not think that that was going to be a problem with the experience that they still had within the position group. That all changed in the first half on Thursday when they their starting linebackers were knocked out of the game, including seniors Mike Petrucci and Armond Staten. But freshman Cody Lopez stepped right in and did not shy away or seem nervous when asked to fill a huge void.

"At first, I was nervous, so it was good to get those first play jitters out of the way. I hit a lineman and I got the jitters out of the way and from then on, it was just playing football. I was glad I got the opportunity to play though," explained Lopez. "It felt good going in there and I know that once you get an opportunity you have to take advantage of it. So that's what I thought of tonight. I was given a chance and I tried to do my best to take advantage of the opportunity."

Because of where he was on the depth chart, Lopez may not have thought that he would have had the impact that he did in this game, but he was still able to put together a good outing. He was still able to collect two solo tackles and four tackle assists for a total of six tackles. He also recorded one and a half tackles for loss for a total loss of three yards.

"Going into the game they told me that there was a chance I would to play. I didn't know when it was going to be and I didn't know how it was going to happen. After I got in there for my first play, the second half they told me that I was going to play the whole second half. I had to be ready to go in at any time and I think I did that," responded Lopez. "Yeah, it feels like it slowed down because we have been going through all the plays in practice. It wasn't like I was real nervous or anything. I was ready when I was put in the position to play, so it all worked out."

There was also another Chippewa freshman who made a big debut that helped determine the outcome of the game. That was 6-foot-2, 185-pound wide receiver Titus Davis. He made huge impact at a point in the game where the Chippewa offense was struggling. CMU received the ball on their 33-yard line after a Bulldog punt and the offense comes out firing. On the only play of the drive, Radcliff threw a ball downfield to Davis, who caught the ball around the 30-yard line, beat the defenders and then ran the rest of the way for a 67 yard touchdown catch. It was the first catch of his career and his first touchdown catch as well.

"It feels great. I went out there and coach called a play. It was a great play call and I did what I have been taught. Ryan threw the ball great and the offensive line gave him time to throw the ball. It was just a great play, I had the easy job," explained Davis. "My first thought was to just catch the ball because I kind of thought they were going to tackle me, so I was trying to anticipate it. I kind of stopped for a while and paused but then I saw that they flew right by me, so I just turned it up field and ran."

Lopez and Davis were not the only freshmen that saw playing time in the first game of the season. Others that saw time included defensive backs Jarret Chapman and Dennis Naylor, along with wide receiver Jason Wilson. This game allowed the Chippewas to field numerous young players, which will add experience and depth for the rest of 2011 and beyond.

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