Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has made no secret of his fandom for Central Michigan’s starting quarterback.
Here’s Gundy from his Monday press conference.
"I've always been a big fan of the quarterback (Cooper Rush). He's a potential NFL player."
That's not the only NFL buzz that the MAC’s leading-returning passer has received as of late. Mel Kiper listed Rush as the No. 5 senior quarterback prospect in his Way-Too-Early 2017 Big Board.
At 6 foot 3, 230 pounds, Rush has an NFL frame. We know he has an arm and although no one would describe Rush as a mobile QB, he can move when he needs to.
Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer also chimed in on the Chippewas’ fourth-year starter.
"Just right of the back, personnel-wise, the quarterback is very well-respected. We saw Cooper Rush last year and he's steady. He's a senior now. He's put up a lot of yardage. He's savvy to get free on rush and he's got a great touch. He can throw the deep-out cuts. Basically, besides the tight end, they've got the whole wide-fence back, and they pretty much move the ball on everybody they play."
So what’s all the fuss over Rush?
In his season-opening introduction to Oklahoma State fans, Cooper Rush may have had his worst game of 2015. He threw for 225 yards but failed to produce a passing touchdown and threw an interception. His only other such game was with in the Chippewas’ 21-14 loss to Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl.
Central Michigan hung with the Cowboys in the first half with Oklahoma State taking a 10-6 lead into halftime. Then the Chip's took a 13-10 lead when Rush did his best bulldozer impersonation over Ramon Richards.
Oklahoma State would finally kick their offense into gear, scoring the last 14 points and sealing a 24-13 victory, but it was no cake walk.
Let’s look at the numbers.
Rush ended his 2015 campaign with 3,848 passing yards which was good for 14th nationally. He recorded 25 touchdowns to 11 interceptions and had a QBR of 144.73.
In contrast, Mason Rudolph totaled 3,770 yards, 21 touchdowns to nine interceptions and a QBR of 149.04.
Okay, slow down.
Before you start sending me hate emails. I am not saying Cooper Rush is as good as Mason Rudolph.
Rudolph’s numbers would have
potentially definitely looked better if he wasn’t splitting reps with J.W. Walsh. Also, the Big 12 is a step up in competition from the Mid-American Conference.
But just so we have a little perspective, when Oklahoma State struggled to run the ball against Central Michigan and maybe even took them a little lightly, the Chippewas put a scare into Oklahoma State fans. Again, that was with Rush playing one of his worst games of the year.
Oklahoma State had success against Rush because the defensive line brought pressure that he rarely sees. Of course, the Cowboys’ defensive line has had some turnover since last the two teams met.
But this years’ unit sans Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean actually appears to boast a deeper interior front. It was Vincent Taylor who did a lot of the damage up front with 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. The Cowboys will look to pressure Rush again this go-round.
Rush will be without his play-making tight end from a year ago. Ben McCord who racked up 612 yards and five touchdowns has exhausted his eligibility. But sixth-year senior Jesse Kroll looks to build off his 866-yard campaign from a year ago. Rush will try to spread it around though. Seven different players caught a pass in the Chippewas' season-opening 49-3 blowout of Presbyterian.
Oklahoma State should win this game convincingly. But don’t be surprised if Mike Gundy’s favorite MAC QB makes a couple plays.