Improbable CMU football comeback falls short in Bahamas Bowl
They had trailed 49-14. And then they were an extra point away from tying the game.
Down seven points with one second left, the Central Michigan University football team was on its own 25-yard line. A bomb from quarterbackCooper Rush to Jesse Kroll was caught.
He tossed the ball to Deon Butler, who passed it backward to Courtney Williams, who lateralled it to Titus Davis. Davis outran the Hilltopper defense and dove to the pylon in the end zone for an improbable score.
“I saw Jesse catch it. I said, ‘ok, that’s the first part,’” Rush said. “Then they started lateraling it and I only saw a few guys back there. Then I see it was to Titus and I thought, ‘wow, this is going to go in.’ It was just amazing.”
But the Chippewas weren’t going to settle for overtime. Davis was holding his arm after the score, so Rush had to look for another target on the two-point conversion.
“We had Jesse Kroll and Courtney Williams as options outside,” said Head Coach Dan Enos. “We just thought it was a high percentage thing and wanted to win the game right there.”
Rush threw a fade pass to Kroll in the right corner of the end zone, but Kroll couldn’t reign in the pass. As the Hilltopper sideline erupted, Kroll sat on his knees, hitting his head on the ground.
“I thought we had a pretty good shot,” Rush said. “I liked the matchup. I just wish it would have been complete.”
What would have been the largest comeback in college football bowl game history was thwarted. Western Kentucky University had defeated Central Michigan 49-48.
In Davis’ final game as a Chippewa, he had six catches, 139 yards and four touchdown grabs. Davis broke numerous records, including eclipsing 3,702 career receiving yards, the most in CMU history.
His 37 touchdowns were the most in CMU history and the 20th most in FBS history.
Rush set CMU records Wednesday with seven touchdowns and 493 yards in a single game. After the game, he was asked if it was the game of his life.
“If we would have won,” Rush said. “Stat-wise, yeah. Best career day. We just battled. The whole team kept battling. Just taking one play at a time. It almost worked out.”
Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty threw for 486 yards and five touchdowns, although he only had 136 yards and zero scores after halftime.
“We were going to have to score a lot of points to win because they are a very, very dynamic offense,” Enos said. “We weren’t exactly stopping them all day, you know what I mean?”
The Hilltoppers scored touchdowns on their first six possessions, but allowed the Chippewas to climb back into the game by not scoring on their final five drives.
Meanwhile, the Chippewas had touchdowns on their final five drives, outscoring WKU 34-0 in the fourth quarter.
The Chippewas looked like they were going to hang with WKU to start the game. A Davis score tied the game 7-7, but Rush threw an interception in the end zone and turned the ball over on downs in field goal range on the next two drives.
Down 28-7, Rush threw a touchdown to Courtney Williams on fourth-and-15 with 2:55 to go in the half. Doughty responded, taking his team down the field for two touchdowns before halftime.
“Our seniors took over the locker room at halftime,” Rush said. “They were the ones talking, they were the ones picking us up. Just sitting in the huddle saying one play at a time, first down after first down. And next thing you know, we’re right there at the end.”
The Chippewas missed senior running back Thomas Rawls, who didn’t travel with the team due to an academic issue. Rush was the leading rusher at halftime with 36 yards, while the three running backs had 20 yards combined.
Sophomore running back Martez Walker took over in the second half with multiple big runs. He finished with nine carries for 68 yards.
Doughty’s five touchdowns gives him 49 for the season, the most in the FBS and the sixth-most in FBS history.