Following the Central Michigan football team’s 42-31 loss on Nov. 3 to in-state rival Western Michigan, a bowl game looked improbable. But three-straight wins over Eastern Michigan, Miami and Massachusetts puts the record at 6-6, and CMU is bowl-eligible for the first time under third-year head coach Dan Enos.
Let’s grade the team’s performance against the Minutemen:
Passing Offense: (C) In his final regular season start for CMU, senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff threw for just 82 yards and completed 10 of his 19 pass attempts. He also threw one interception and one touchdown. Despite the low numbers, the grade can’t be any lower than a “C,” because CMU won the game, and it was clear that the Chippewas didn’t need to or want to pass the ball that much.
Rushing Offense: (A) It seems weird to say, but the running game has really become a strength for CMU. Junior running back Zurlon Tipton had another monster game, rushing for 185 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries. Tipton finished the season with 20 touchdowns – 19 on the ground – tying him with Dan LeFevour’s 2007 mark for the second-highest single-season output in each category in program history. Tipton finished the season with 1,391 yards – the seventh best single-season at CMU. The 100-yard game was Tipton’s sixth-straight. Freshman Saylor Lavallii also had a good game, rushing for 56 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Passing Defense: (B) The Chippewas gave up 253 yards through the air against the Minutemen, but intercepted the ball four times. Four different members of the secondary, Jahleel Addae, Jason Wilson, Avery Cunningham and Taylor Bradley, each recorded an interception.
Rushing Defense: (A) CMU gave up just 64 yards rushing in the game and held the Midshipmen to a 2.5 yard per carry average. UMass’ longest run of the game was just 15 yards.
Special Teams: (A) Senior kicker David Harman did not attempt a field goal but went six-for-six on extra points. Junior punter Richie Hogan punted the ball four times with an average distance of 42.8 yards per punt.
Overall: (A) In a game CMU had to win, the Chippewas put together a good performance. It might have been closer than most would have liked early, but a consistent rushing attack and timely interceptions eventually allowed the Chippewas to pull away against a team that won once all year.
CMU now has to wait until after the conference championship games next weekend to see if it will be invited to a bowl game, but the fact that it’s even a possibility makes this season a success.