Seniors lead CMU to thrilling 24-21 win in Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against Western Kentucky

Senior defensive back Jahleel Addae, raises the Little Ceasars Pizza Bowl championship trophy following Central Michigan's 24-21 win over Western Kentucky Wednesday night at Ford Field. (Andrew Kuhn/Staff Photographer)

On Dec. 26 senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff led the football team to a 24-21 win over Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

With 5:11 remaining, and CMU trailing Western Kentucky 21-17, Radcliff completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to fellow senior Cody Wilson. The score secured the Chippewas 24-21 win over the Hilltoppers in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Wednesday night in Detroit.

"If I scripted it out, that’s the way I would want it to happen,” Wilson said. “It’s great that my last catch at CMU ends up a touchdown. I didn’t get a lot of those this season so it was a good feeling and it came at a good time.”

WKU could have kicked a short, game-tying field goal with 51 seconds left on the clock, but instead chose to go for it on fourth and two. When the Hilltoppers senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes’ pass floated out of the reach of senior tight end Jack Doyle, the CMU victory was complete.

“We challenged the seniors to leave their legacy,” head coach Dan Enos said. “We wanted them to teach the young guys how to do it right and I can’t say enough about these seniors and their leadership.”

WKU took its first lead of the game with 1:24 to go in the third quarter when junior fullback Kadeem Jones scored on a one-yard touchdown run to make the score 21-17.

The Chippewas thought it had the go-ahead score with 9:23 to go in the fourth quarter when junior running back Zurlon Tipton took a toss on fourth and one and appeared to tumble into the end zone to give CMU a 24-21 lead. But Western Kentucky interim head coach Lance Guidry challenged the ruling and it was overturned.

After the Hilltoppers went three and out, junior safety Avery Cunningham blocked the punt, which set up the game-winning score.

Redshirt freshman receiver Andrew Flory, who was stepping in for the Chippewas leading receiver Titus Davis, got the Chippewas on the board first when he caught a 69-yard touchdown pass from Radcliff to make it 7-0 with 10:54 to go in the first quarter.

Western Kentucky didn’t take long to respond. On its first play from scrimmage, Jakes set up the tying score with a 70-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Rico Brown. Jakes then ran it in from six-yards out two plays later to tie the game at seven.

Flory caught his second touchdown pass of the game on the Chippewas next drive, this time a 29-yard reception that made the score 14-7 with 5:46 to go in the first quarter.

Senior kicker Davis Harman opened the scoring in the second quarter when he made a bowl-record-tying 50-yard field goal to make the score 17-7 with 9:59 to go in the first half.

WKU responded on its next drive, which culminated with a six-yard pass from Jakes to senior tight end Jack Doyle to make the score 17-14 heading into the locker rooms.

Radcliff, who received the Most Valuable Player Award after the game, finished 19-of-29, for 253 yards and three touchdowns.

Wilson caught 10 passes for 101 yards and one touchdown. Flory added three catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

Tipton finished with 101 yards on 23 carries.

The Chippewas finished the season on a four-game winning streak. Their 7-6 record is the first winning season since 2009 when they finished 12-2.

“We beat a good team today and won a bowl game,” Enos said. “I think we have a lot of good players and we’re learning how to win. We’re going to continue to recruit and develop but I really like the guys we have coming back.”


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