By: John Raffel
Is ex-Lansing Catholic star Cooper Rush the best quarterback in college football?
Central Michigan University football coach John Bonamego is quite clear about his opinion on his quarterback, senior Cooper Rush.
“He's the best quarterback in college football,” Bonamego said. “I stand by that.”
Rush, who played quarterback for Lansing Catholic, modestly doesn't know if he should agree with Bonamego's assessment. But he wants to have a banner season for the Chippewas.
"It’s great having a coach who has your back like that,” Rush said. “He’s unbelievable. We love him. He’s one heck of a guy and a great coach.”
Coming into this season, Rush ranks on CMU's career top 10 list in four categories: second in touchdown passes (67) and third in passing yards (9,354), passes completed (744) and passing attempts (1,183).
“I think he’s one of those guys that has that it factor,” Bonamego said. “How do you describe that? Measure that? How do you figure out if someone has it? If I had a formula for that … He’s got it.”
Rush started all 13 games as a junior and earned second team All-MAC honors while taking academic All-MAC honors and was named a MAC Distinguished Scholar Athlete and was selected a team captain while taking the Herb Deromedi Most Valuable Player Award.
As a junior, Rush completed 324 of 489 pass attempts for 3,848 yards and connected for 25 touchdown passes. His yardage total ranks first for a single season in CMU history and was rated 14th nationally and second in the MAC in passing yards. He placed seventh nationally with 24.9 completions per game and 15th nationally in completion percentage (66.3 percent). Rush tied for 26th nationally, and fifth in school history, with 25 TD passes.
“He's continued to improved all the time,” Bonamego said. “He's a great leader. He's developed that way. He has a tremendous grasp and knowledge of our offense. It's like having another coach on the field.”
His 324 completions and 489 attempts both rank second in a single season in school history while his 3,896 total yards put him third in school history. He had eight 300-yard passing games, one 400-yard passing game and threw four touchdown passes against Western Michigan and against Buffalo.
“He has all the tangibles you look for in the quarterback,” Bonamego said. “I really feel the sky's the limit for him. What I love about him the most is he's very self-aware. He knows probably better than anyone where the holes are in his game, so he's worked hard to improve in those areas. But there aren't many holes.”
Rush threw multiple touchdown passes in nine games. A huge effort came when he completed season-high 37 passes on 51 attempts for 430 yards vs. Syracuse.
Rush started all 13 games as a sophomore during the 2014 season. He earned Division I CoSIDA Academic All-American second team, earned Academic All-District First Team honors, gained Academic All-MAC honors and was named a MAC Distinguished Scholar-Athlete.
The season ended with a 21-14 loss to Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field.
This will be Rush's second season with Bonamego as coach.
"Going into the second year with a coach you’re a little more prepared, you kind of know what to expect. It’s definitely an advantage,” Rush said.
But as a senior, it's scary for opponents to consider what Rush might be able to accomplish.
"It's just another level of comfort, being here another year, and getting another year under my belt, it always helps,” he said. “Experience is something that’s very valuable.”
As a sophomore Rush ranked second in the MAC in passing touchdowns (27), third in passing efficiency (149.6), fourth in yards per game (242.8) and fifth in total offense per game (238.9). He had a record setting performance in the memorable Bahamas Bowl game against Western Kentucky, passing for a CMU-record 493 yards and seven touchdowns on 28-for-45.
The seven passing touchdowns is a NCAA bowl game record and Rush also tied the NCAA bowl record for most TDs responsible for (7) and most points responsible for (42).
After being redshirted as a freshman, Rush had an impressive freshman season for CMU and was the team's offensive player of the year. He played in 11 games and started the final 10 of the season, completing 117-of-312 passes (56.7 percent) for 2,349 yards with 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, ranked fifth in the MAC in passing (213.5 ypg) and seventh in pass efficiency (126.2). He made his first career appearance in the second quarter vs. New Hampshire (9/7), finishing with 326 yards on 19-of-32 passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Rush threw the second longest touchdown pass in program history, a 97-yarder to Titus Davis in the fourth quarter in the win over UNH and made first career start at UNLV, throwing for 265 yards on a season high 46 attempts with one touchdown.
He was redshirted in 2012 and named Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year.
“He’s a student of the game, he’s a gym rat,” Bonamego said. “He can’t come in the building without sitting down and watching some film. He’s constantly trying to improve, elevate his game. He’s a perfectionist.”
A three-year starter at Lansing Catholic, Rush ranked No. 21 on Detroit Free Press Fab 50 and No. 25 on Detroit News Blue Chip list and was selected to play in 2012 MHSFCA East-West All-Star game. He led Lansing Catholic to a 13-1 record and state runner-up finish in 2011. Rush completed 242-of-362 passes (67 percent) for 4,002 yards and 48 touchdowns and ran for 756 yards and 16 TDs as a senior ... 25-5 career record as a starter. His career passing totals are 455-for-734 (62 percent), 7,248 yards and 80 touchdowns.
“I'm able to keep my poise playing a lot of games throughout my career,” Rush said after his junior season. “Being accurate as a passer is always a key. I've had a pretty good year with that.”
He had Michigan high school records for touchdown passes in a quarter (5), half (7), game (8) and season (48) and has 16 single-season and 20 career school records. He was Gatorade Michigan Football Player of the Year and Associated Press Division 5/6 Player of the Year as a senior,
Rush said he's been a quarterback since the elementary school level.
“In high school I realized I had a chance to play college football,” he said. “(The 2015) 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.”