Allen, turnovers doom Central Michigan in fourth straight bowl loss
Both the Central Michigan and Wyoming football teams were known for turnover-forcing defenses.
The Cowboys showed up as advertised, the Chippewas didn’t.
Wyoming (8-5, 5-3 MWC) topped CMU (8-5, 6-3 MAC) 37-14, forcing eight total turnovers to set them up with a victory in Boise, Idaho on Friday evening.
CMU didn’t force a turnover for just the second time all season. The eight turnovers for UW, was a program record for turnovers in a single-game.
"I don't feel that today's performance was indicative of the type of team we have," said CMU head coach John Bonamego. "The storyline obviously is eight turnovers. You're not going to win many football games against any decent opponent turning it over that many times."
The loss leaves the CMU senior class without a bowl victory in their Chippewa tenure and Bonamego’s record drops to 0-3 in postseason play. It’s the fourth straight bowl loss for CMU.
"Obviously, eight wins, you know, these guys have done a good job all year leading," Bonamego said. "I hurt for them, the senior class, going out this way. But it doesn't take away from a lot of the positives that they did, a lot of the positive things they accomplished this year."
After both offensives couldn't pick up a first down to start the game, Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen found his wide receiver Jared Scott on a slant route up the seam for a 23-yard score, giving the Cowboys a 7-0 lead.
CMU would get a 74-yard score from transfer quarterback Shane Morris to sophomore running back Jonathan Ward to make it 14-7, but the turnovers and a short fields for UW set the Cowboys up for quick scores.
Allen carved the CMU defense for three total touchdown passes in the first quarter, his longest to wideout C.J. Johnson from 45 yards out, to post a 21-7 lead heading to the second quarter.
The turnovers kept coming.
Morris would throw a pair of interceptions in the second quarter, but the CMU defense held UW in check by forcing a pair of Cooper Rothe field goals for a 27-7 Cowboys lead at halftime.
The Chippewas four turnovers led to 13 points for the Cowboys and the two big passing plays from Allen aided UW to a 20-point advantage heading to the locker room.
The Cowboys out-gained the Chippewas 194-129 in the opening half, while out-gaining CMU on the ground 72-9. CMU was 0-for-4 on third downs, failing to keep the offense on the field.
CMU put a drive together across midfield, but Morris threw another ill-advised pass that was intercepted by Cowboys cornerback Tyler Hall. It resulted in another Rothe field goal to make it 30-7 Cowboys with 5:15 left in the third quarter.
CMU would make it interesting as following a 30-yard completion from Morris to senior wideout Corey Willis, Ward would score his second touchdown from three yards out. It was 30-14 in favor of UW.
Then when CMU was driving deep into Cowboy territory, the miscues came back to haunt them again.
This time, in an even more punishing way.
Morris was being sacked when he fumbled the ball and UW’s defensive lineman Carl Granderson picked it up and returned it 58 yards for the score.
It didn't only end the game, but it took the life out of CMU’s five-game winning streak.
"As a program, we have to continue to push forward," Bonamego said. "We wouldn't be satisfied with eight wins. We're not satisfied with nine wins. Our goal each year ties win our conference, win the MAC West, win the MAC championship. That's what the standard is. That's what we want to measure up to. That's what we're going to work towards each day."
Ward led the Chippewas on offense with 138 all purpose yards and two scores. As a team, CMU out-gained the Cowboys in total offensive yards 364-275.
In his first game back from injury, Allen led the way offensively for UW, tossing three touchdowns to three different targets while completing 11-of-19 passes for 154 yards and no interceptions.
"It felt great. Sitting out for those two games killed me inside," Allen said. "I just wanted to be on the field with my teammates, my brothers. We trusted our defense and understood that if we protect the ball, they will take care of it on that side."
Of UW’s 37 points, 23 of them came from the CMU turnovers. The Chippewas allowed five sacks and 10 total tackles for loss.
"They played well. Their quarterback, he's a great player," said senior defensive end Joe Ostman. "He made plays. Their defense created turnovers. I think we left opportunities on the field.
"But I'll give them the credit. Yeah, that's it."
On Dec. 21, CMU alum and sports broadcasting great Dick Enberg died at the age of 82.
During the game, the team had stickers on the back of their helmets quoting Enberg's famous "Oh My!", while Bonamego and coaches wrote it on the back of their hats.
Enberg graduated from CMU in 1957 where he also played baseball for the Chippewas.