Central Michigan secures MAC West title in 49-7 win over Toledo
For the first time since 2009, Central Michigan is the Mid-American Conference West Division champion.
After defeating Toledo, 49-7, in Kelly/Shorts Stadium on Friday, the Chippewas (8-4, 6-2) are heading to the MAC championship game in the Jim McElwain's first season as coach.
CMU will face Miami (Ohio) at noon Dec. 7 at Ford Field in Detroit.
"It'd be great to see Ford Field full of maroon and gold and people saying, 'Fire Up Chips' in the streets of Detroit," McElwain said. "We've got a lot ahead of us and a lot to play for."
In their final game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Central Michigan's seniors stepped up to the challenge.
Quarterback Tommy Lazzaro scampered into the north end zone at Kelly/Shorts Stadium to pick up his sixth rushing touchdown of the season. This one from 8 yards out.
Lazzaro, a senior quarterback playing his final game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, punched in his second rushing touchdown of the day to put the Chippewas up, 21-0 early in the second quarter.
Running back Jonathan Ward pushed his yardage output to over his 1,000 yards in the first half against the Rockets' defense.
"I knew I could do it and I knew I would do it," Ward said. "I'm happy for myself but I still have a lot more to prove."
Ward also punched in a 3-yard touchdown run in the middle of the second quarter and pushed the Chippewas' lead to 28-0.
Senior graduate transfer quarterback Quinten Dormady was also playing his final game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium and he capped the Chippewas' first drive with a 48-yard strike to wide receiver Ty Scott.
Dormady was later able to find tight end Tony Poljan for a 9-yard score. Throughout the game, Dormady was able to drop passes in to a number of different receivers and turned those touch passes into big plays, especially on third down.
"Any completion is important," Dormady said. "(Toledo) was just leaving them open. There were a couple 50-50 balls we came down with, that makes me feel good when they're bringing the house and I know we can't block them all so I throw off my back foot and those guys go and make plays.
"That's what it's about, I trust them and hopefully they trust me."
In the end, Dormady was able to hit six different receivers and spread the ball out for the Chippewas.
Discipline was a down fall for the Rockets as they committed six penalties for 75 yards. One of the bigger miscues Toledo had was in the second quarter when a player jumped offside on a CMU field goal attempt.
The penalty turned into a Chippewa first down and Lazzaro scored his second touchdown of the day on the next play and effectively put the game out of reach.
Junior running back Kobe Lewis had 131 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns to lead the team. Ward finished with 88 yards and the score.
In the passing department, Dormady finished with 15-of-19 with 250 yards and the two touchdowns.
With 257 points, the Chippewas scored the most points at home in a single season, beating out the 2009 team, the last to win a MAC title. Last year, CMU scored 180 points in all of its games with 94 coming at home.
Additionally, CMU's 49 points is a season-high. The Chippewas were also able to reach the 500-yard mark for the sixth time this season as they were able to gain 552 yards of total offense against the Rockets.
In terms of the offense, Central Michigan was able to feature its balanced attack once again as it finished the game with 289 yards on the ground and 263 through the air.
On the other side of the ball, CMU's defense held Toledo's top running backs, Bryant Koback and Shakif Seymour, to a total of 35 yards. The two had combined for almost 2,000 yards on the year.
Senior linebacker Michael Oliver said he knew he and his teammates could get the job done when called upon.
"You're not going to run the ball on the Chippewa defense like that," Oliver said. "That's just that."
Central Michigan's win also marked the first time the Chippewas had defeated the Rockets since 2009.
Winning eight games this season is the biggest turnaround from last year in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision.
Yet, McElwain said he does not take credit for the team's turnaround after last season, instead he gives all of the credit to his team and knows they had the capability to reach the MAC title game.
"The word doubt' hasn't really jumped in my life much," McElwain said. "It's the consistency and seeing the guys grow. I'm sure they'll tell you I get on them. I do it because I care, it's a great group of guys to be around."