Eastern Michigan defender Donald Coleman was ready to tackle running back Zurlon Tipton at the 26-yard line.
Tipton had two options: Go around the defender or go through the defender.
The running back chose the latter, and Coleman paid the price as he watched Tipton finishoff his 86-yard touchdown run on Friday in Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
“I’m happy I went through him,” Tipton said. “It just gets the whole team fired up with that hit.”
The play was called the turning point of Friday’s game by head coach Dan Enos, with Central Michigan only up 14-0 in the second quarter before the run.
Yet, even Tipton was puzzled when they decided to give him the ball, since it was third down and 21 yards to go.
“I couldn’t even believe the play was called in,” Tipton said. “I’m in the huddle like, ‘Man, I wonder what play call is coming in,’ and then (Cooper Rush) came in and called two. I’m like, ‘OK, let’s see what happens.’”
While Tipton got halfway to the end zone as a result of the blocking of the offensive line and his broken tackle, he finished his run because junior receiver Titus Davis pushed a defender back 15 yards as Tipton blew past them.
“I just ran today,” Tipton said. “People blocked for me. I don’t take all the credit. I don’t even take half of it.”
He ran indeed, for 216 yards, marking the second time in his college career he has rushed for more than 200 yards. The running back had his fourth touchdown of the game on another long run, which was 44 yards, in the third quarter to make the score 35-10.
Moreover, there was a point in the season when it was unknown whether Tipton would step foot on the field, let alone in the end zone for a touchdown run. The prognosis was not positive after he broke his ankle in the first game of the season against Michigan.
But Tipton wanted to play before reaching full health and forego a chance to play a sixth year that is often granted by the NCAA.
“Making my decision to come back was nothing toward this organization,” Tipton said. “It’s a great place to be around. I just felt like it was time to get out of college and see what else is out there for me.”