Central Michigan off to best start since 1984

Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

Central Michigan couldn’t shake last year’s 24-21 loss to Florida Atlantic in the Motor City Bowl.

The game was the tail end of three-game losing streak for the Chippewas to end the 2008 season and a sign that there were several things that needed to be corrected if CMU wanted to find itself back atop the Mid-American Conference.

So when the team returned for its offseason workouts, coach Butch Jones said he saw a different drive than he had seen before.

“I thought our kids came back after the bowl game and they were very, very focused,” Jones said. “Our kids were very, very disappointed with the bowl game and I thought that the really set the temperament for our off season strength and conditioning program.”

Central Michigan leaned on its 13 seniors, including quarterback Dan LeFevour, and after losing the season opener to Arizona, the Chippewas haven’t looked back, rattling off six consecutive wins for their best start since 1984.

“This is a very rare thing for this program,” Jones said after Saturday’s win over rival Western Michigan. “It doesn’t happen often. We have a great thing going in Mt. Pleasant and it is very special. There is still a long ways to go this season, but our guys are doing great things and working hard to make everyone in Mt. Pleasant proud.”

That 6-1 start includes an upset win over Michigan State, LeFevour’s first win over an automatic qualifying team, and a 4-0 mark in the Mid-American Conference. The Chippewas have two more wins than its nearest MAC West competitor Toledo and looks poised to win its third MAC West title in the past four seasons.

“I think the key for us is even though we’re a young football team, we do have some individuals that have played some football for us,” Jones said. “I always said that seniors are different seniors -- they either play their best football or their worst football. Right now, most of our seniors are playing their best football. That’s indicative of the success that we’ve been able to have at this point in time.”

But Jones is quick to point out that just seven games into the season the Chippewas haven’t won anything yet. They have a tough game this week against a Bowling Green team that has been one of the most offensively dominant teams in the country in the past two games. After that, the Chippewas step out of conference for a tilt at Boston College.

“The game of college football is a week-to-week basis and each week is a new week,” Jones said. “So, we’ve got to come again tomorrow with great focus and great energy and let the past go and focus on the future and finishing strong.”