Football overcomes 17-point halftime deficit to win eighth game
Graduate transfer quarterback Shane Morris threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to senior Corey Willis with less than two minutes remaining to lift Central Michigan football over Northern Illinois.
Senior defensive back Josh Cox stole a goal-line interception to seal the 31-24 win with under a minute left on Friday in Kelly/Shorts Stadium. NIU was driving down the field looking to tie the game in the final seconds.
“(NIU) ran the same play in the first half, and I knew when they got back in the red zone they would run the same play to try and score," Cox said. “They switched it in the open field from a corner to a post and I played the corner, ball happened to go to me.”
The Chippewas scored 24-straight points to rally in the second half.
The last time that CMU football won eight or more games was in 2009 under former head coach Butch Jones.
Quarterback Shane Morris threw an interception that would be returned for a touchdown on the first drive of the game. NIU redshirt sophomore Jawuan Johnson returned the 37-yard interception.
NIU scored another touchdown off of a 4-yard pass from Marcus Childers as he connected to D.J. Brown in the back of the end zone. The drive took nine plays and started at the Chippewa 41-yard line.
The Huskies went 62 yards down the field and kicker Christian Hagan added a 23-yard field goal to extend the lead to 17 before halftime.
The Chippewas started the second half with a defensive stop before Morris found Chapman for a 56-yard touchdown.
CMU running back Jonathan Ward had a 52-yard run into the red zone on the next possession, setting the Chippewas up to score. The Chippewas were forced to settle for a field goal to make it a one-score game.
The Chippewas rode their new-found momentum with a 15-play touchdown drive when Morris found Ward for a 6-yard pass — tying the game at 17 after three quarters.
The Chippewas took the lead with Ward's 54-yard run in the fourth quarter. CMU scored 24 unanswered points after not scoring in the first half.
NIU tied the game with three minutes left when running back Tre Harbison scored on a 12-yard run.
CMU went to the end zone on fourth down and four at the 29-yard line. Head coach John Bonamego had the option to kick a field goal against the wind or go for the first down.
Bonamego went for the win.
The gamble worked as Morris found Willis for a game-winning 29-yard touchdown pass.
“The football tradition is important at Central Michigan and getting the chance to play with my brothers for the past five years has meant everything to me the last five years,” said senior defensive lineman Joe Ostman.
CMU needed Western Michigan to beat Toledo to be tied for the MAC West title, but Toledo won 37-10.