Central Michigan gears up for Tulsa offense in Miami Beach Bowl (Dec 19, 2016)
Central Michigan coach John Bonamego confessed he had some homework to do when it was announced that the Chippewas were playing Tulsa in the Miami Beach Bowl.
"I don't know much about Tulsa yet," he said, "but I know we'll face a high-powered offense."
Indeed, the Golden Hurricane (9-3) will bring the nation's sixth-most productive offense in the country to Marlins Park in Miami to face the Chippewas (6-6) at 2:30 p.m. Monday with ESPN handling the telecast.
In just his second season, coach Philip Montgomery has guided his Tulsa crew to churn out yardage at a 522.6-yard-per-game clip, which ranks No. 6 in FBS statistics nationally. Not only that, the former Baylor offensive coordinator has the Golden Hurricane on the verge of becoming the first FBS program to feature a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard rushers and two 1,000-yard receivers.
Tulsa already is the just the fifth team with a 3,000-yard passer (quarterback Dane Evans with 3,044), two 1,000-yard rushers (running backs James Flanders with 1,529 and D'Angelo Brewer with 1,330) and a 1,000-yard receiver (wide receiver Keenan Lucas with 1,108).
Wide receiver Josh Atkinson goes into the game needing just 73 yards in catches to hit 1,000.
"I'm not a big stat guy," Montgomery said. "But this is one that's out there. It's never been done. To have the opportunity to do it just doesn't come along very often."
Montgomery said he won't alter his approach to the game to go for the mark -- "Don't let the horse buck you there. Let's stay in the saddle and finish this thing up," is the colorful way he put it -- because getting to the 10-win level for the 10th time in program history takes priority.
"That's what our focus is," Montgomery said. "We've talked about it. Teams that are excited about bowl season, that are fired up about going to the bowl, those are the ones that usually play well. And our guys are excited about it."
The Chippewas have a little motivation of their own. They will be playing in their third consecutive bowl, but they have lost their last two postseason appearances, including a 21-14 loss to Minnesota in last season's Quick Lane Bowl, Bonamego's first at CMU.
"We want to win, get a bowl ring, hold a trophy -- something we haven't been able to do," senior quarterback Cooper Rush said. "It's definitely on our mind."
Rush figures to play a key role if that is to happen. He has passed for nearly 275 yards per game and 23 touchdowns with junior wide receiver Corey Rush accounting for 1,028 yards and nine touchdowns on a team-high 69 receptions.