Football becomes bowl eligible with win against Ohio

CMU 27, Ohio 20

Junior wide receiver Corey Willies catches a ball in between two defenders during the game against Ohio on Nov. 15 at Kelly / Shorts Stadium.

On a night where seniors played their final game on the turf at Kelly/Shorts Stadium and former players Derrick Nash and Zirlon Tipton were honored, the Central Michigan football team got back to its winning ways.

The Chippewas became bowl eligible and snapped a three-game losing streak to knock off Mid-American Conference East Division leader Ohio, 27-20, on senior night.

After the Bobcats battled back from a 17-3 deficit to tie the game 20-20 with 14:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, senior quarterback Cooper Rush found junior tight end Tyler Conklin. Conklin reached out with one hand and hauled in an eight-yard touchdown to give CMU a 27-20 lead with 5:51 remaining.

Ohio had one last chance to tie the game in the final minute, but senior defensive lineman Joe Ostman sacked Ohio’s quarterback Quinton Maxwell on third down.

On the ensuing fourth down play, freshman cornerback Sean Bunting intercepted Maxwell’s pass in CMU's end zone with 34 seconds left to clinch the victory for the Chippewas.

“I’m really proud of our football team,” said head coach John Bonamego after the game. “I’m happy for our seniors. It’s great to be able to send them out on a high note. That was really important for our football team.”

Playing in his final home game for the Chippewas, Rush completed 25-of-32 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns, moving into fifth place all-time in the MAC in career passing touchdowns with 89.

“Sitting in (the locker room) and looking at everybody for one last time, dressed in uniform for your last time in (the locker room) is truly special,” Rush said. “I’m really thankful for all of my teammates and all the other seniors. Everyone pulled together and it was a great team win.”

Junior receiver Corey Willis was the main option for Rush as he hauled in eight catches for 109 yards. Conklin finished the game with two receptions for 21 yards and two touchdowns.

“It was senior night and I wanted to make plays for all of the seniors and it just happened to work out,” Conklin said.

CMU’s offense found its rhythm in the second quarter, scoring on back-to-back drives to take a 17-3 lead into halftime.

The Bobcats answered with a touchdown pass from Maxwell to Papi White to cut the CMU’s lead to 17-10 in the third quarter.

After a second field from senior kicker Brian Eavey, Ohio responded with 10 unanswered points to tie the game at 20 with 14:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.

After forcing a turnover on downs with a little over two minutes left to play, CMU fumbled attempting to run out the clock. The Bobcats recovered and drove the 15-yard line, but the Chippewas defense held thanks to Ostman and Bunting’s key plays.

“We hadn’t played up to our standard the last couple of weeks,” Ostman said. “We knew we had to come out ready to go if we wanted to have a chance to win. I’m very proud of the way our defense played today.”

Although the Chippewas became bowl eligible, CMU is not guaranteed a bowl bid with six wins.

The Chippewas can solidify a bowl appearance with a win next Tuesday against Eastern Michigan at 7 p.m. at Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti.