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September 5, 2013

Five Keys: New Hampshire

To say last week's game against Michigan didn't go as planned would be an understatement. The Chippewas were thoroughly dominated in just about every facet of the game, and to make matters worse they left Ann Arbor with probable season ending injures to their starting QB and RB.

Talk about a rough start.

But the silver lining is it's just one game, and this is the start of a new week. CMU will make their home debut at home when they take on New Hampshire this Saturday at 3PM. Today, we take a look at the 5 Keys as CMU attempts to get back on track.

1) Be Wary of the Wildcats

-There was a time in college football when scheduling an FCS opponent was simply a tune-up and a guaranteed win. Ask Kansas State, Oregon State, South Florida, Connecticut and San Diego State how that plan went, all lost to FCE foes last week. And for the Chippewas, there is always the humbling 44-14 loss they took to North Dakota State in 2007 to display as a friendly reminder.

New Hampshire is no pushover. The come in ranked No. 11 in the FCS and have a high powered offense that was first implemented by current Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelley. In 2009 they knocked off fellow MAC member Ball State. By no means should CMU be taking this game lightly, as the Wildcats are a dangerous team capable of beating them in Mount Pleasant.

2) Niznak Attack

-With the injury to Cody Kater, sophomore Alex Niznak has officially been handed the keys to the CMU offense and he won't have to share with anyone should he perform well and stay healthy. He is a true-dual threat QB, although the designed runs against Michigan were ineffective. But this is his team now, and the playcalling should reflect his skill set. Let him be mobile and make plays. He will take some lumps, as this is a complex offense to master, but it's time for CMU to see what they have.

3) Time for Touchdowns

-One of the more disappointing subplots of the Michigan game was the offense's inability to get the ball in the endzone. Even after a turnover gave them a short field, a false start on fourth down at the 1-yard line pushed them into a field goal attempt. Field goals add guaranteed points, but touchdowns create confidence. CMU tied for fifth in the MAC in TD-Redzone percentages (30 out of 48 attempts were TD's) in 2012, so the hope is last week was just an aberration.

4) Pressure the Passer

-New Hampshire is going to come out slinging it, as they averaged 34 pass attempts per game last season and over 430 yards of offense. But the Wildcats can also move the ball on the ground, and overall they bring a very balanced offense. CMU showed a much more aggressive defense last week, combining a lot of different blitzes between the secondary and linebackers. They had moments of pressure, but against an elite athlete at QB they struggled to finish plays. If they can build upon that performance last week and create some negative plays for the New Hampshire offense, it will go a long way towards controlling the tempo of the game.

5) Rebound, Rebound, Rebound

-And no, I am not talking about basketball here. CMU simply needs to rebound from last week and move on in a positive manner. They got crushed by Michigan, but this program has taken some big losses to teams like Clemson, Penn State, Kansas and Georgia during the Brian Kelly and Butch Jones regimes. When you are competing with teams who have higher football budgets then your entire athletic department, those types of losses are just part of the equation.

And the team lost their starter at QB and their starting RB. Nothing new for this program. Many remember the wins by Brian Brunner over Indiana and Western Michigan in 2008, not to mention the stable of running backs who starting during those years. The sign of a good program is depth, and Enos has lamented that all offseason. If this program is where it needs to be, the internal response should be not to panic, just plug the next guy in and let's go win some football games.

Stick to ChippewaCountry for the latest in CMU athletics and recruiting

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