MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Cooper Rush was solid and the run game clearly improved.
And the defense? Well, it provided all that was expected of it and more.
Central Michigan took care of business before 16,000-plus on opening night, dispatching Football Championship Subdivision Presbyterian, 49-3, Thursday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
Devon Spalding ran for 135 yards and Jahray Hayes scored a career-high three rushing touchdowns as the Chippewas . . .
"Obviously there are a lot of things we would like to do better," said John Bonamego, who is beginning his second season in charge of the Chippewas program. "Our defense was stellar, we're right where we hoped we would be. Offensively we just hurt ourselves with penalties and were a bit sloppy at times.
Spalding, a junior who missed the final eight games a year ago with a shoulder injury, raced 69 yards - the longest run of his career -- for a TD on the second play of the game to put CMU up, 7-0.
The Chippewas never trailed, but didn't hit on all cylinders until the second half. CMU led 14-3 at halftime, then flexed its muscle in the second half in wearing down the Blue Hose, who finished 2-9 a year ago.
Rush completed 16 of 26 pass attempts for 237 yards and a touchdown against two interceptions.
"Except for one throw I thought he was pretty darn good," Bonamego said. "I thought he made some really good throws downfield and gave guys chances. I thought he did a nice job."
CMU finished with 492 total yards and 23 first downs while holding the Blue Hose to 126 yards, including 44 on the ground, and just six first downs. Presbyterian running back Darrell Bridges, who rushed for 1,065 yards a year ago, finished with 39 yards.
Hayes scored on a 2-yard run midway through the second quarter to extend CMU's lead to 14-0.
The second half was all Chippewas. Hayes scored on a 12-yard run midway through the third quarter, then Rush connected withCorey Willis for a 46-yard touchdown pass play to make it 28-3 late in the third.
In the fourth quarter, CMU got an 8-yard TD run from Hayes, a 27-yard interception return from cornerback Amari Coleman, and aJonathan Ward 45-yard scoring run to finish it off.
Ward, a true freshman, finished with 79 yards on just seven carries in his first collegiate game.
"I think when you're running the ball like that, you're going to wear people down," Bonamego said. "I don't think that in any way means that Presbyterian is not a good football team. That is just what happened. It takes more energy to play defense than offense, so when you can keep them on the field and keep the chains moving it does wear them down."