Football holds off late run by Kent State to win fourth straight

Sophomore running back Jonathan Ward dances in celebration after the game against Rhode Island on Aug. 31 in Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

Senior wide receiver Corey Willis caught a 53-yard touchdown pass to carry Central Michigan football to a 42-23 road win over Kent State on Tuesday night at Dix Stadium. 

Freshman quarterback Tony Poljan and sophomore running back Jerrod Davis each scored their first career touchdowns to lead the Chippewas over the Golden Flashes.

“(KSU) is never easy, especially on the road on a short week of preparation” said CMU head coach John Bonamego. “I think following two emotional rivalry games, we knew this was going to be a challenge.”

The win marked the Chippewas' (7-4, 5-2 Mid-American Conference) fourth straight victory of the season. It was the first four-game winning streak since 2012 and first during a regular season since 2009. 

The Golden Flashes forced CMU’s first drive to stall, responding with a 23-yard field goal from kicker Shane Hynes to take an early 3-0 lead.

Davis didn't let them have it for long.

On the ensuing kickoff, he took the return 98 yards to the end zone — giving CMU the 7-3 advantage midway through the opening quarter. 

After totaling just 30 yards in the first quarter, CMU put together a five-play, 80-yard drive to open the second quarter. The drive was capped by a 12-yard touchdown run from sophomore running back Jonathan Ward to extend the lead to 14-3.

Following a 12-yard touchdown reception by senior wide receiver Mark Chapman, the Golden Flashes would strike back with a Mike Carrigan 13-yard score to cut the lead to 21-10.

Poljan then scored on a 3-yard quarterback run, extending CMU’s lead to 28-10.

CMU couldn't hold that advantage for long as KSU quarterback George Bollman found Trey Harrell for a 66-yard score as halftime approached.

The Chippewas totaled 267 yards of offense in just the second quarter alone, holding a 28-17 lead at the break.

With a chance to close the gap, Hynes missed a 32-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.

Morris fumbled on the KSU 2-yard line with a chance to put the Golden Flashes away.

KSU made things interesting in the fourth quarter with Carrigan's 57-yard touchdown run, but failed to make the 2-point conversion.

Willis then caught his game-clinching touchdown to give CMU a 12-point lead.

Morris completed 14-of-22 passes for 297 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Senior tight end Tyler Conklin, Willis and Chapman combined for 264 receiving yards on 13 catches.

“A couple of minutes after (an interception) and I’m over it,” Morris said. “That’s the kind of attitude you have to have as a quarterback and a team. The team trusts you and the coaches trust you.”

Ward led the CMU rushing attack with 80 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.

Defensive ends Joe Ostman and Mitch Stanitzek had three sacks each to lead the Chippewa defense to seven total.

CMU takes on Northern Illinois in the regular season finale Friday, Nov. 24 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Kickoff has yet to be determined.