QB Cooper Rush wraps record season for Central Michigan
''I wanted to have good numbers and I was able to do that,'' Rush said. ''The key was making a lot of plays. That's what my job is as a quarterback.''
The numbers are impressive: Rush broke the school's single-season passing yards mark in the regular-season finale against Eastern Michigan and has passed for 3,703 yards this year.
Rush is ranked 10th nationally and second in the Mid-American Conference. He's rated sixth in the country with 25.8 completions per game, 12th with a 67.2 percent completion rate and 20th with 25 passing touchdowns. The Chippewas had five players with more than 500 receiving yards.
New coach John Bonamego realized he was all set at the quarterback position when he took over the program in the offseason. Rush was an all-state quarterback at Lansing Catholic and has the Michigan high school record for 48 touchdown passes in a season. In a 49-48 loss to Western Kentucky in the 2014 Bahamas Bowl, Rush had seven touchdown passes for an NCAA bowl-game record.
''I knew he had played a lot of football, but I didn't have a whole lot to go on,'' Bonamego said. ''I knew he put up some good numbers. I thought the Popeyes Bowl last year when he led the team back (from a 35-point deficit) and had all those touchdown passes was very impressive. I had a chance to meet him and saw how he carried himself.
''He's done an exceptional job of spreading the ball around. He has a talented group of weapons around him but he has also utilized them. He's letting the defense decide who's open. Every defense has its strengths and weaknesses. It's been his ability to recognize and react to something that's constantly changing and find who's open.''
Rush has been a quarterback since the elementary school level.
''In high school I realized I had a chance to play college football,'' he said. ''This season it's been a team that has so much resiliency. We were down in the second half and came back a lot. Every game was close. It's a group of guys that never quit and handled adversity very well.''
Central Michigan (7-5) won a share of the MAC West Division title at 6-2. The matchup with Minnesota (5-7) marks CMU's ninth bowl game.
''We're very excited, it's going to be a great challenge for us,'' Rush said. ''Minnesota has a very good secondary. We'll have to earn everything against them and execute on every play. We want to get this game, get our eighth win and head into the offseason with some momentum.''