Chippewas bring MAC’s No. 1 defense to Ford Field

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Detroit — The name of Cooper Rush usually comes up when Central Michigan’s football team is brought up, thanks to the third-year quarterback’s impressive numbers for the Chippewas.

Senior defensive lineman Blake Serpa wants it known the Chippewas defense has reason to be proud as well.

Serpa, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound end, played in his final game with the Chippewas Monday night in the Quick Lane Bowl against Minnesota at Ford Field.

He made it known the Chippewas led the Mid-American Conference in defense, limiting opponents to 328.2 total yards of offense. It ranked No. 1 in pass defense (190.5) and third in stopping the run (137.7). Central also was second in red zone defense.

“Last year as a junior we were the top defense in the MAC and I just wanted to come in my senior year and help lead so that would happen again,” Serpa said. “Our identity is definitely toughness. We want to just be a team that people flip on the film and see a bunch of physical guys running to the ball.”

Serpa wanted to play at Ford Field earlier this month in the MAC championship game, but still believes the Chippewas had a good season while earning a share of the West Division title.

“It was nice to get a share of the MAC West, obviously we didn’t get the tiebreaker to play in Detroit (for MAC championship game), missing that by like seven points, so that was tough to swallow,” he said, “but overall I think our season went pretty well. It was definitely a big step forward from what people thought we’d do.”

The Chippewas were picked to finish fifth in the MAC West by media members this past summer during the MAC Media Day at Ford Field.

Serpa was thrilled to get the chance to play at Ford Field, competing against a Big Ten team.

And, he came up with some big plays, too, including a first hit on Minnesota tailback Shannon Brooks to limit him to 2 yards on a third-and-6 play from the CMU 7. The Gophers had to settle for a first-quarter field goal.

Deromedi, Kill honorary captains

Herb Deromedi and Jerry Kill were honorary captains for the bowl game.

Deromedi was head coach of CMU from 1978-1993, compiling a 110-55-10 record, including a pair of wins over Michigan State. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

Kill, 54, resigned earlier this season as head coach of Minnesota due to health reasons. He was head coach at Saginaw Valley State from 1994-98, Emporia State (1999-2000), Southern Illinois (2001-07), Northern Illinois (2008-10) and the last five seasons at Minnesota.

Claeys has high praise for pair

Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys had praise for defensive backs Dior Johnson and Ray Buford, who played last year at Southfield High. The players practiced while being redshirted this season and got more time in during practice for the bowl game.

“They will be contributors (in future), no question,” Claeys said. “Towards the end of the year with our injuries we considered playing them, but that’s not fair to those kids when you get down to the last three or four games and you redshirted them. They had a great year and I’m looking forward to seeing them in spring ball. They will have a great opportunity to play.”

Claeys is also high on freshman tight end Bryce Witham (Grand Rapids West Catholic), feeling he will also have a shot at playing next season.