Three takeaways from Central Michigan's blowout victory over Toledo
All Toledo needed to do was burn 14 seconds.
After allowing Central Michigan to score on each of their five offensive drives, the Rockets simply needed to go 14 seconds without letting the Chippewas get any more momentum heading into the half time break.
Senior linebacker Michael Oliver figured otherwise.
The Detroit native burst through the Toledo offensive line and smacked running back Bryant Koback. As the clock ticked to zero, Oliver's maroon-clad teammates engulfed him in celebration. The tackle for loss was the exclamation point that ended the Chippewas' best half of football.
"You're not gonna run the ball on the Chippewa defense like that," Oliver said after the game.
The Chippewas saved their best for last, rolling over the Rockets by a final of 49-7. Central Michigan secured a berth in the Mid-American Conference championship game with the win, the team's first over the Rockets in ten seasons.
Here are three takeaways from the win:
Undefeated, unblemished at home
For the first time since 2009, Central Michigan has won the MAC West Division. In similar fashion, this season marks the first time since that fabled 2009 campaign that the Chippewas finish the year undefeated at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
At the beginning of the season, coach Jim McElwain discussed the importance of defending the Chippewas home field. He expressed how special playing at home should be, going as far as limiting the amount of times the his team would practice on the game field.
"One of the goals we had was to make this stadium a place that not a lot of people wanted to come play," McElwain said after the win. "We had six opportunities in this stadium and we won them all."
His players got the memo.
Central Michigan never trailed at home, outscoring opponents 264-106 while averaging 550 yards of offense per game. The 264 points is the most scored at home by the Chippewas in school history.
"That's something we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the year," McElwain said of being undefeated at home. "It was great to see our kids go out and finish that goal."
Capitalizing on mistakes while minimizing their own
The Chippewas scored on each of their five drives in the first half, racking up 336 yards of total offense by the break. However, they were helped in part by five first half Rocket penalties.
A pair of facemask penalties extended early touchdown drives for the Chippewas, including one on a pivotal third down early in the opening quarter. An offsides penalty turned a fourth-and-5 into a first-and-goal, allowing senior backup quarterback Tommy Lazzaro to score on the next play.
The Chippewas took advantage of every mistake the Rockets made. The Rockets turned the ball over twice on downs in the first half, and the Chippewas capitalized each time.
Central Michigan had eight penalties itself, but showed maturity and poise. In last season's meeting between these two squads, two separate brawls ensued and multiple players were ejected. This year's edition saw a skirmish pregame, but otherwise very little activity on Central Michigan's side.
Multiple plays ended with Rockets in the face of Chippewas, trying to elicit a reaction. However, this squad let their dominant play speak on their half of the conversation.
Seniors make most of last opportunity at Kelly/Shorts
Senior day is universal in college football. Every program honors their seniors, usually with a ceremony of some sort. It's a unique experience, especially for those who haven't played big roles in their career.
For a senior, it's an afternoon with all eyes on you.
Central Michigan's seniors most memorable memory from their time on the turf at Kelly/Shorts Stadium will be their last. For one, the entire group got to bask in the glory of securing the MAC West Division title. In addition, several seniors had standout performances.
Senior quarterback Quniten Dormady threw for 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns, completing 15 of 19 passes. His backup, Lazzaro, ran for 33 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Jonathan Ward went for 89 yards and a score as well.
For as well as the offense played, the defense was just as stout. Ward admitted that the strength of both sides comes from working against each other in practice.
"This is by far the best, (most) balanced team I've been on," Ward said. "When you're going against the best run defense all week, that makes the game a little bit easier."
Oliver finished with four tackles while senior safety Da'Quaun Jamison finished with six and two pass breakups.
Dormady and Oliver both set out this season with a mission: prove everyone wrong.
"Each team we faced it was like, 'Y'all picked us last, we're going to show you whose last,'" Oliver said. "I didn't like how they (last season's seniors) went out and I wanted my guys to go out the right way."
"They picked us last and I was like 'yeah, okay," Dormady added. "Once the team bought in and we bought into each other, we were there for each other, compliment each other and things like that, that's when things become special."