Running back Zurlon Tipton was a force to be reckoned with Friday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, tallying 216 rushing yards against Eastern Michigan.
Central Michigan was the beneficiary, winning 42-10 over the Eagles to clinch the Michigan MAC Trophy and become bowl eligible.
“(Tipton) hung in there pretty good, made some good cuts, had his pads down, got short yardage runs, got goal line runs and obviously had the explosive runs,” said head coach Dan Enos. “He’s a difference maker. When he’s healthy, he can put a team on his back.”
The Chippewas finish the regular season with a 5-3 record in the Mid-American Conference, and, for the second straight year, they have a 6-6 overall record, making them bowl eligible.
“I see people in the grocery store say, ‘Win your last three and you’re bowl eligible,’” Enos said. “Sounds a lot easier than it is to actually go on the road to Western (Michigan) and have two rivalry games. It’s very difficult, and I’m proud of our guys.”
CMU was never challenged by EMU in the game that had an attendance of 5,214, since it jumped out to a 21-0 lead with 12:02 left in the second quarter. It was thanks to Tipton – who was responsible for all three touchdowns, including an 86 yard run in which he had to plow over a defender – that CMU was able to come out on top.
The Eagles showed life during the latter half of the second quarter, though, narrowing the deficit to 11 with a touchdown and field goal.
The Chippewas responded quickly to open up the second half with two touchdowns in the first six minutes, extending their lead to 35-10.
Junior receiver Courtney Williams navigated his way down the sideline on a kick return and took it into the end zone on the first play of the third quarter.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” Enos said. “They did. We challenged our guys at halftime to continue to play, and I thought Courtney’s kick return was huge to get us back.”
It was the first CMU touchdown on a kick return since Antonio Brown did it in the 2010 GMAC Bowl.
Tipton followed up by rushing for his fourth touchdown of the game on a 44-yard run with 9:36 left in the third quarter.
The defense took over from there.
On the following drive, defensive back Kevin King forced a fumble after the Eagles had moved the ball 48 yards and defensive end Joe Ostman recovered the ball.
Safety Avery Cunningham scored the last touchdown of the game on an interception that he took from CMU’s 25 to the end zone in the fourth quarter.
“(It’s the) last game and you don’t know if you’re going to get into a bowl game or not. You just want to go out there and leave everything on the field,” Tipton said. “Obviously, we had success. Feels good to get the last one at home.”