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Rush taking shot at passing record in Miami Beach Bowl

David Goricki
DetroitNews-Unknown

Mount Pleasant — Cooper Rush has a lot riding on his final game as quarterback at Central Michigan when it plays Tulsa Monday afternoon in the Miami Beach Bowl.

Rush will try to leave with a bowl victory and a winning season while also hoping to head to the NFL as the Mid-American Conference’s career leader for passing yards.

Rush, a four-year starter, enters the bowl game with 12,653 career passing yards and needs 253 to claim the MAC career record held by former CMU star Dan LeFevour.

“It would be real awesome and a lot guys are going to want to help me get that one, for sure,” Rush said after a recent practice. “To be in the same company as LeFevour, an all-time great here, would be awesome.”

Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck thinks the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Rush will be a high draft pick.

“He’s going to be playing on Sundays next year at this time,” Fleck has said. “He’s an NFL quarterback, has a big arm, is incredibly accurate and he’s a wonderful leader.”

NFLDraftScout.com has Rush rated as the third-best quarterback.

Rush doesn’t have the MAC championships that LeFevour has, but Rush certainly has played a central role in two of the greatest finishes in college football.

No doubt, one of the top finishes includes the California-Stanford game in 1982 when Cal pulled out a 25-20 victory, scoring on the final play when Kevin Moen took the fifth and final lateral and ran over a Stanford band member in the end zone.

There was Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary pass on the final play of a game against the Miami Hurricanes in 1984 when his long toss was hauled in by Gerald Phelan in the end zone to give Boston College a 47-45 win, and, of course, Michigan fans will never forget Kordell Stewart’s 64-yard TD toss to Michael Westbrook on the final play of Colorado’s 27-26 win over the Wolverines at the Big House in 1995.

Still, no quarterback has been involved in a pair of incredible finishes like Rush. Could he have one more left in him?

It was Rush who rallied the Chippewas back from a 35-point deficit to pull within 49-48 of Western Kentucky in the Bahamas Bowl two years ago before missing on a two-point conversion on the game’s final play.

Rush completed 13 of 17 for 263 yards and five touchdowns in the fourth quarter with his final toss going 75 yards, Titus Davis getting into the end zone after getting the third lateral.

Then, this season, Rush unleashed a Hail Mary toss from his own side of the field on the final play that Jesse Kroll grabbed, then while falling backward flipped the ball back to Corey Willis, who grabbed it and sprinted to the end zone for a dramatic 30-27 win over No. 22 Oklahoma State. Rush is 254-of-416 passing this season for 3,299 yards and 23 touchdowns.

He won’t have Kroll — who also had the reception that led to Davis’ TD against Western Kentucky — to work with following Kroll’s leg injury in a Week 4 loss at Virginia. But, Willis is still available and enjoying his best season (69 receptions, 1,028 yards, 9 TDs), along with receiver Mark Chapman (40 receptions, 563 yards, 4 TDs) and tight end Tyler Conklin (40 receptions, 539 yards, 6 TDs).

“Corey’s had a great year, really stepped up and kind of became our explosive guy and Mark Chapman can also be that guy, has great speed, good size (6-1, 180) and is a good route runner,” Rush said. “I feel having Cocklin have a big year was huge for us in the middle. He was a guy who worked extremely hard and I’m not really surprised by his results this year.”

So, what does Rush know about Tulsa’s defense?

“They are extremely athletic,” he said. “Their linebackers run side to side very well and they have some good athletes in the back end so we’ll definitely have to execute and be at the top of our game.

“For us seniors we want to leave something behind here and we could do that with a bowl win, get a trophy and leave with a winning record. We really want to win and leave here with a good taste in our mouth.”

Rush was named to the Academic All-MAC team for a fourth straight year and was also a National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete with a 3.86 grade-point average.

Asked about his legacy, Rush said: “I want to be remembered as a great teammate, a good leader, someone who just worked his butt off and guys could really rely on both on and off the field.”

CMU second-year coach John Bonamego said Rush will have no problem with that.

“He’s had a terrific career here, played a lot of football and has played at a very high level, just been a great representative and ambassador of our program on and off the field,” Bonamego said.

david.goricki@detroitnews.com

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Miami Beach Bowl

Central Michigan (6-6) vs. Tulsa (9-3)

Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. Monday, Marlins Park, Miami

TV: ESPN

Line: Tulsa by 21 1/2

Active career passing leaders

Cooper Rush, Central Michigan — 12,653

Zach Terrell, Western Michigan — 11,943

Nick Mullens, Southern Mississippi — 11,648