Can Central Michigan University make the cut in the Mid-American Conference?
Ford City graduate Curtis Cutts, for one, believes the Chippewas can do it.
“We are starting to believe in what the coaches are saying,” Cutts said.
It’s taken some time, as the Chippewas got off to a 1-3 start. But a three-game winning streak propelled Central Michigan (4-3, 3-1) into the MAC West title race, one game behind Toledo (5-1, 3-0).
Oct. 29 brings a crucial game, as Central Michigan and Toledo, the defending MAC champions, meet in a showdown for first place. With a win, the Chippewas will be tied for the MAC West lead.
Central Michigan, which hasn’t had a winning season since 1998, hasn’t won the MAC title since 1994.
And Cutts, who ranks sixth in the MAC in passes defended, has played a key role.
“A lot of it is we are gaining confidence,” said Cutts, 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds. “It is a new system, and we were getting out the wrinkles. The last couple of games, we’ve been getting more confidence.”
Only a sophomore, Cutts has been playing with confidence.
“When you think of Curtis, you think of words like steady and reliable,” Chippewas coach Brian Kelly said. “He’s been developing each and every week. He has outstanding character and is a team leader as just a sophomore.”
He recorded an interception and has 17 tackles this season. Cutts pulled in the interception against Akron three weeks ago, returning it 38 yards.
“I read the quarterback’s eyes and jumped the route the receiver was running,” Cutts said. “It looked like he threw it to me.”
Even his teammates were impressed with Cutts’ interception.
“My teammates said ‘Dang, you looked like a running back running the ball,’” Cutts said.
Except for a 40-3 loss to Penn State, Central Michigan is eight points away from being 6-1.
The Chippewas have this weekend off.
“We control our own destiny,” Cutts said. “We have them coming here, and we have to defend our home field. Then if we run the table, we can have the MAC West championship. A lot of the upperclassmen are pushing us. It is their last chance at a winning season. The main thing is if we can win a MAC championship.
“Everyone is feeling good about that.”
And Cutts said the team must “put on a championship performance practice” in order to win to set up a shot at the MAC West title.
Cutts still keeps in close touch with his family, with an interest in what the Ford City Sabers are doing on the field.
And he thinks the Sabers will beat Kittanning tonight.
“Hopefully, Ford City wins,” Cutts said. “You don’t ever want to see Kittanning beat us in sports.”