Junior Zurlon Tipton carried the Central Michigan offense to a 42-21 victory over the University of Massachusetts Friday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
The running back finished with 185 yards on 25 carries, finding the end zone four times.
“I thought, in the second half, that we made an effort to try to run the ball,” head coach Dan Enos said. “I thought Zurlon Tipton ran real hard. I thought Saylor Lavallii did as well, and I thought our offensive line, tight ends; everyone did a good job blocking.”
CMU’s defense came through, forcing four interceptions and two sacks.
The Chippewas improve to 6-6 with the victory, making them bowl-eligible for the first time in the Dan Enos era, doubling last season’s win count.
“We won our last three in a row … that was really important to us,” Enos said. “We’ll see what happens.”
A trip to a bowl game would be the first appearance for the team since the 2009-10 season, when it topped Troy in the GMAC Bowl 44-41 in double overtime.
The Chippewas came out of the half tied 14-14 Friday but gave up a nine-play, 65-yard drive, capped off by an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback A.J. Doyle to Deion Walker in the third quarter.
The touchdown marked 21-straight points allowed by the CMU defense. It wouldn’t give up another the remainder of the game.
Tipton picked the team back up and carried it for 57 yards on seven rushes the following drive – the final a three-yard score to tie the game at 21-21.
Senior safety Jahleel Addae intercepted his fourth pass of the season from Doyle and returned it 30 yards. Five seconds later, Tipton added to the lead on a nine-yard run.
An interception by Avery Cunningham gave the ball back to CMU, who capitalized with a six-yard run by Lavallii, giving the team its second 14-point lead of the game.
UMass attempted to mount a second comeback of the game, putting together a 41-yard drive before failing to convert on a fourth-down play.
The Chippewas took over from their own 38 with just over seven minutes to go, and Tipton sealed the opponent’s fate, busting out a 61-yard touchdown run.
Senior Taylor Bradley intercepted backup quarterback Ian Shultis in the closing seconds of the game, to run the clock out.
“I’m just proud of our guys for handling the adversity, hanging in there and just continuing to play,” Enos said.
After being halted on its first drive, CMU ran 10 plays for 48 yards, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Tipton.
Quarterback Ryan Radcliff threw his 20th touchdown of the season early in the second quarter, finding tight end Connor Odykirk for a five-yard score.
Radcliff rushed the ball twice on the drive for a combined 17 yards.
“We were up 14-0, and then I thought we got a little complacent and we turned the ball over,” Enos said. “You’ve got to give UMass a lot of credit.”
CMU had a chance to add to its 14-0 lead, but Darren Thellen picked off the senior quarterback on the first play of the drive and returned the ball to the nine-yard line.
UMass running back Michael Cox punched it in for a one-yard touchdown to cut CMU’s lead in half.
On the following possession, Doyle was able to convert on two third-and-long plays to keep the potential game-tying drive alive, but was intercepted by Jason Wilson at the 12 yard line with just over three minutes to go in the half.
The Minutemen tied the game in the closing seconds of the half on an eight-yard touchdown throw from Doyle to Rob Blanchflower.
The matchup was the first in program history between the two teams.
Radcliff finished his final collegiate regular-season game with 82 yards on 10-of-19 passing. He threw for one touchdown and was picked off once.
Tipton was also the leading receiver, tallying 31 yards on two catches.
Senior Cody Wilson caught five passes for 26 yards in his final regular-season game.