Football stunned in final seconds by Eagles, drops to 6-6
EMU 26, CMU 21
With one play, Central Michigan football's season could be over.
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. The Chippewas fall to 6-6 and 3-5 in Mid-American Conference play on the season.
CMU's six victories make the team bowl eligible, but does not guarantee a bowl game berth.
"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. He added a bowl game victory would make up for what has been a disappointing season for CMU.
The Chippewas will know their bowl game fate after conference championship games are played in two weeks.