MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — Senior quarterback Cooper Rush threw six touchdown passes and Central Michigan, trailing 21-14 midway through the second quarter, scored 30 unanswered points to pull away for a 44-21 victory over UNLV on Saturday afternoon at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
Rush finished 20-of-33 for 352 yards as the Chippewas (3-0) rolled up 499 yards in total offense while holding the Rebels (1-2) to just 313. Wide receivers Corey Willis and Mark Chapman each caught a pair of touchdowns for Central Michigan while Jesse Kroll and tight end Tyler Conklin each had one.
UNLV quarterback Johnny Stanton, victimized by at least a half-dozen dropped passes, finished just 15-of-41 for 131 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown pass to freshman Darren Woods Jr. that gave the Rebels a 21-14 second quarter lead, but was also intercepted twice. Sophomore running back Lexington Thomas had the fifth 100-yard rushing game of his young career, garnering 113 yards on 17 carries, including a 85-yard touchdown run.
“We did not play a solid football game at all,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said afterward on his post-game radio show. “We were completely anemic (offensively) in the second half. We did a really poor job of ball accuracy and catching the ball. We had a lot of drops. Defensively, at times we played really, really well but we had two completely blown coverages that resulted in touchdowns in the first half. We’ve got to clean that up.”
UNLV’s other touchdown came on a blocked punt by sophomore linebacker Bailey Laolagi that freshman running back Charles Williams recovered in the end zone to give the Rebels an early 7-0 lead.
Rush had touchdown passes of 30, 13, 29, 26, 31 and 42 yards. His 26-yarder to Willis with 1:51 left in the second quarter put the Chips ahead for good, 28-21 as Central Michigan outscored the Rebels, 16-0, in the second half.
Freshman wide receiver Mekhi Stevenson led the Rebels with five receptions for 48 yards while Woods added three catches for 38 yards and touchdown. All-Mountain West wide receiver Devonte Boyd failed to catch a pass and had several key drops.
“There’s a lot of things we need to look at and a lot of things we need to get better at,” Sanchez said of the Rebels, who also had a punt blocked for a safety in the third quarter. “I was just really disappointed with our overall performance.”
UNLV, which fell to 0-11 all-time in games played in the Eastern time zone, returns to action next Saturday night when it hosts FCS-bound Idaho (1-2), a 56-6 loser at Washington State on Saturday, at Sam Boyd Stadium at 6 p.m.
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) September 17, 2016