Football celebrates WMU triumph, gets bowled by Wyoming in postseason


Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen throws a pass during the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 22. 

For the second straight season, the Central Michigan football team lost by at least 23 points in a postseason bowl game.

Quarterback Shane Morris and the Central Michigan football team could not hold on to the ball in the season-ending loss to Wyoming in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. 

Morris, who struggled with interceptions earlier in the season, was responsible for six of CMU's season-high eight interceptions. He threw four interceptions and fumbled the ball twice, while only finding the end zone once. Senior tight end Tyler Conklin and redshirt freshman quarterback Tony Poljan were responsible for the other two fumbles. 

"There were some poor decisions on some throws, some errant throws. When you go back and watch the game, you look and try to see what the quarterback was thinking," head coach John Bonamego said. "Obviously, it's very poor on our part." 

Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen dissected CMU's defense, which was ranked No. 1 in the country in turnovers forced, with three touchdown passes in the first quarter in the Broncos' 37-14 win. 

The Chippewas have now lost four straight bowl games, dating back to 2014's Bahamas Bowl loss. CMU holds a 3-8 record in postseason bowl games, with wins in 2006, 2009 and 2012.

"We didn't do what we were supposed to be doing, and we didn't make the plays we should have made," said Conklin, who will graduate from CMU without a bowl win. "That's our fault."

CMU finished the season with eight wins. This is the highest win total since 2009 when CMU had a 12-win season under head coach Butch Jones. 

Sophomore running back Jonathan Ward provided steady offense for the Chippewas in 2017, and was named to the All-MAC Second Team. He was the team's leading rusher with 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ward was also second in receiving yards with 48 catches for 470 yards and three touchdowns. 

After transferring to CMU from the University of Michigan for his final year of eligibility, Morris finished his final season with 249 completions for 3,237 yards, 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He has recently traveled to Miami to prepare for the 2018 NFL Pro Day in March.

Morris graduated from the University of Michigan in 2016, and announced his graduate transfer to CMU on Jan. 21, 2017. 

The senior-loaded defense was expected to be one of the best in the MAC with defensive backs Amari Coleman and Josh Cox both returning in the secondary and Sean Bunting evolving into a good corner. 

Defensive end Joe Ostman is tied for No. 1 in the country with 14 sacks. The Chippewas finished the regular season No. 1 in the country in turnovers forced, now in second place after bowl games. Cox is tied for No. 4 in the country with six interceptions. Bunting comes in second place with five interceptions for the Chippewa defense. 

The 2017 season was Bonamego's best in terms of total wins. In his previous two seasons, Bonamego's teams managed seven and six wins, respectively. On Dec. 19, Bonamego agreed to a five-year contract extension, securing him until 2022. He has compiled a 21-18 record at CMU thus far. 

In the first week of training camp, Conklin broke a bone in his foot and missed the first half of the season. He was expected to be one of the offense's biggest contributors. 

With new offensive coordinator Chris Ostrowsky, the Chippewas switched to a spread offense before starting the 2017 season. In the first game of the season, some growing pains showed, but the Chippewas rallied late to secure a triple-overtime 30-27 win against Rhode Island. 

Many fans questioned how good the experienced football team would really be after the close win against an FCS team. CMU returned with the first road victory of the season in dominating fashion against Kansas. Morris tallied five touchdowns and CMU earned a 45-27 win to lift its record to 2-0 against a Power Five team. 

The Chippewas suffered their first loss of the season to Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse, who topped No. 1 Clemson a few weeks later, held CMU to just 17 points. 

CMU returned home to suffer a 31-14 loss to Miami (Ohio) in the first game of Mid-American Conference play. The RedHawks scored on their first two possessions and the Chippewas were never able to keep up. 

Conklin returned to the offense and led CMU to its first conference win against Ohio in Peden Stadium. He caught 10 passes for 136 yards (both career highs) and two touchdowns against the Bobcats. Suddenly, the Chippewas were back into the race for the MAC West. 

Toledo, the team who was picked to win the MAC and eventually named champions, visited CMU on homecoming. Dropped pass after dropped pass, the Chippewas couldn't get very much momentum going on offense in the rain. Toledo shut down the Chippewas until the fourth quarter, and won 30-10. 

The Chippewas traveled to conference-worst Ball State after homecoming, where they earned a dominant 56-9 win over the Cardinals, who finished with only two wins in 2017 and no conference wins. The Chippewas recorded eight sacks and 256 rushing yards against Ball State. 

In the most anticipated matchup of the season, CMU traveled to rival territory on a Wednesday night to face Western Michigan. The Broncos' starting quarterback Jon Wassink was injured in the previous game, so CMU went up against Western's backup Reece Goddard. The Chippewas trailed 28-14 when they scored three straight touchdowns, including a game-winning 77-yard touchdown pass from Morris to Willis to win 35-28. This was Bonamego's first win against WMU, and the first time he got his hands on the Victory Cannon. 

"If there's one thing I know about CMU football, it is that we are never out of a game," said Willis, after beating WMU for the first time in his career. 

Central Michigan took a second trophy from Western Michigan in two weeks when CMU topped Eastern Michigan, 42-30. WMU held the Michigan MAC trophy after being the last team to go 2-0 against the other MAC teams in the state of Michigan (CMU, EMU). 

The Chippewas finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak with two more conference wins against Kent State and Northern Illinois. CMU overcame a 17-point deficit in the regular season finale.

On Dec. 2, Bonamego announced CMU accepted a bid to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Wyoming to take place on Dec. 23 in Boise, Idaho. 

After going bowling and sledding with Wyoming in pregame activities throughout the week, CMU set out to win its first bowl game since 2012. However, the Chippewas faltered and lost their fourth straight bowl game. 

CMU has not won a bowl game since 2012. 

Cox and Coleman accepted invitations to play in the NFL Players Association Collegiate Bowl, Conklin is going to the Senior Bowl and Ostman is playing in the East-West Shrine Game. 

Multiple Chippewas have the chance to extend their playing careers in the National Football League after showing skills at the 2018 Pro Day in March. Cox, Coleman, Ostman, Conklin and Morris are all expected to participate.