For the first 57 minutes of Saturday’s football game between Central Michigan and Western Michigan, the Chippewas had not committed a turnover.
But when they did, it proved to be costly in the 42-31 loss to the Broncos Saturday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
The turnover came just after WMU junior quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game to senior wide receiver Eric Monette to give the Broncos a 35-31 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, sophomore wide receiver Courtney Williams returned the ball to the CMU 39-yard line. He was hit from behind and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the Broncos.
Even after the turnover, CMU still had a chance to get the ball back, but, three plays later, WMU junior running back Dareyon Chance scored from 42 yards out to make it 42-31. The deficit was too much for the Chippewas to overcome.
“We have to build Courtney up,” CMU head coach Dan Enos said. “We need to show support because no one feels worse than he does. I’ve been in football a long time, and I’ve seen guys react in different ways when something like that happens. We’re going to support him, because that’s not the play that cost us the game.”
The Chippewas attempted field goals on their first three drives of the game. Senior kicker David Harman made the last two from 37 and 22 yards, respectively, after having his 43-yard field goal attempt blocked on the first drive of the game.
After throwing for just 17 yards in the first quarter , Van Tubbergen threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Blake Hammond to give WMU a 7-6 lead.
The Broncos used another big play to set up their second score when Van Tubbergen connected with senior Monette for a gain of 48 yards.
The Broncos scored two plays later when Van Tubbergen ran it in from 18 yards out to make it 14-6.
It was the defense that set up CMU’s only touchdown in the first half.
With WMU operating out of its own end zone, junior quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen was pressured and threw an ill-advised pass over the middle. which was intercepted by junior linebacker Shamari Benton, who returned the ball to the WMU 1-yard line.
From there, junior running back Zurlon Tipton ran it in to make it 14-13 WMU.
CMU took the lead in the third quarter when senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff connected with sophomore wide receiver Titus Davis for a 58-yard touchdown to make it 23-14 with 4:06 to go in the quarter.
Davis finished with a career-high 10 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown and became the first Chippewa to have 200 yards receiving since 2005.
WMU responded minutes into the fourth quarter when Van Tubbergen completed a 28-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Justin Collins to cut the CMU lead to 23-21.
Collins scored his second touchdown pass of the game on the Broncos next drive, catching a 22-yard pass to give WMU the 28-24 lead with 8:52 to go.
With their backs against the wall, CMU responded with a seven-play, 75-yard drive, which was capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Tipton. A successful two-point conversion made it 31-28 CMU. That was the last time CMU led.
“We had a lot of chances to win the game,” Enos said. “As you look back on it, you’re going to see some dropped passes in the red zone. Our inability to get stops in the fourth quarter was also a key in the game.”
The Chippewas defense gave up 513 yards of offense.
“On defense, we are not where we need to be,” Enos said. “They had 500 yards of offense and scored 40 points. We need to start winning some of these games when we’re putting up points. We have too many lapses, and we give up too many explosive plays.”
Radcliff finished 26 of 41 for 383 yards and one touchdown.
Tipton had 22 carries for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore linebacker Justin Cherocci had 12 tackles for the Chippewas.
“It’s unfortunate to say, but the last couple years we’ve been in this situation before,” Radcliff said. “There’s no quit in our guys.”
CMU travels to Ypsilanti Saturday to play in-state rival Eastern Michigan.