CMU secondary helps pave way for sack-happy Ostman

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Central Michigan defensive lineman Joe Ostman has historically been a nuisance to opposing quarterbacks.

Ostman, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound senior and first-team All-MAC performer, has gotten in on 18.5 tackles for loss, including 12 sacks while keeping pressure on quarterbacks, a reason the Chippewas led the nation in interceptions (19) and takeaways (31) at the conclusion of the regular season. They will play Wyoming on Friday afternoon in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho.

Ostman hopes to put pressure on Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, who was projected to be a possible first-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft so defensive backs Josh Cox (six) and Sean Bunting (five) have more opportunities for interceptions.

CMU (8-4, 6-2 MAC) showcases the MAC’s top-rated passing defense — No. 23 nationally — allowing just 188.2 yards through the air a game.

“We’ve had a good year overall with the defense, have a lot of playmakers,” said Ostman, who crossed the Mackinac Bridge every day while going from his home in Mackinaw City to attend high school at St. Ignace. “Our defensive backfield has helped our defensive line, since they do a great job of covering receivers so quarterbacks have nowhere to go. We could put on pressure, and when we can put on pressure it helps them as well, so it’s worked out well for all of us.

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“Our defensive backfield is very well rounded. Amari (Coleman), Josh (Cox) and Bunting have had huge seasons obviously, but Darwyn Kelly, the other safety is a really reliable player, and they’ve been locking down receivers all year and it’s helped us get to the quarterback.”

Ostman has elevated his game, going from nine sacks a year ago to a dozen this season.

“I just kept working hard, try to improve my habits with film study,” Ostman said. “I’ve learned how to watch film better and more effectively, and have worked on getting bigger, stronger and faster, and things have kind of fallen into place.”

Allen, the strong-armed 6-5 junior, is expected to be back on the field after missing the final two games of the season, suffering a shoulder injury Nov. 11 against Air Force.

“We’ve prepared for Allen, hoping for Allen to play because we want their best,” Ostman said. “It’s exciting to get one more opportunity to play in maroon and gold. It hasn’t really hit me yet that it’s almost over. It’s been a heck of a time the last four or five years and we’re hoping to get one more win.”

Wyoming has been stingy with its turnovers, a reason it leads the nation in turnover margin at plus-16.

“We haven’t won a bowl win since I’ve been here and we want one bad,” Ostman said.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Central Michigan vs. Wyoming

Kickoff: 4 p.m. Friday, Lyle Smith Field at Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho

TV/radio: ESPN/1270 AM

Records: Central Michigan 8-4, Wyoming 7-5

Line: Wyoming by 3