Camellia, Miami Beach among possible 2016 bowl spots for CMU
Even though Central Michigan football was unable to close out its season with a victory against Eastern Michigan on Tuesday, it was still able to collect six wins this season to earn bowl eligibility.
It is the third straight season CMU will appear in a bowl game and second time under second-year head coach John Bonamego.
Although six wins doesn't guarantee a bowl game appearance, there are not enough seven-win teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision to fill the 80 spots available.
"We'll have one more chance to play together and put together a winning season," Bonamego said Tuesday night. "I still believe we'll get to a bowl game. It will be good to have one more chance to play and get this taste out of our mouths."
This year's senior class hasn't experienced winning a bowl game and is looking to finish on a winning note after a 6-6 final record after starting the 2016 season 3-0.
"To play my last game with these seniors and be able to win it would be huge and something for us to leave behind here," senior quarterback Cooper Rush said.
Multiple national college football experts have projected that the Chippewas play in or get one more game this season.
ESPN's Mark Schlabach and Brett McMurphy project CMU to play in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl on Dec. 17 in Montgomery, Alabama.
CBS bowl expert Jerry Palm projects the Chippewas to take on Temple in the Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 19 in Miami, Florida.
CMU won't be able to announce which bowl game it will be playing in until all of the conference championship games are played during the next two weeks.
Eastern Michigan 26, CMU 21
With one play, Central Michigan football lost its winning season.
A 24-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds remaining gave Eastern Michigan a 26-21 victory and stole CMU's chance at a 7-5 regular season record on Tuesday. The Chippewas fell to 6-6 and 3-5 in Mid-American Conference play on the season.
"We gave up too many big plays, but didn't make enough," head coach John Bonamego said following Tuesday's game. "I think we'll still get a bowl game and have one more chance to play together to have a winning season."
CMU was unable to gain a lead until 2:34 remained in the game when junior running back Devon Spalding scored his third touchdown of the night to give the Chippewas a 21-20 lead.
Spalding had missed the previous two games with a shoulder injury, but came back to score all of CMU's touchdowns against the Eagles and rush for 85 yards on 11 carries. His 41-yard score in the fourth quarter appeared to give his team control of the game — it wasn't so.
"He's an explosive back and is good out of the backfield receiving and in pass protection," senior quarterback Cooper Rush said. "It's always nice to have him back there."
CMU was out-gained throughout most of the game, finishing with 155 less total yards than the Eagles. EMU running back Blake Banham was nearly able to outrun the Chippewas' rushing attack on his own, finishing with 122 yards to CMU's 127.
The Eagles' offense was able to come up with multiple big plays throughout the game, including a conversion on fourth-and-six that set up the game-winning touchdown play.
"(I was surprised EMU went for it) with as highly touted as their kicker has been," Bonamego said. "We thought they might be bluffing to get us (to put) different defensive personnel on the field."
After jumping out to a 5-2 start this year, CMU limped to a 1-4 finish down the final stretch of the regular season.
"(I'm) pretty disappointed (with how season finished)," Bonamego said. "I don't see how you answer that question any other way. I'm proud of the team, but I'm disappointed in the outcome."
Going out on a winning note is important to the senior class, Rush said.
The Chippewas will know their bowl game fate after conference championship games are played in two weeks.