Title talk: Jim McElwain, Quinten Dormady and Michael Oliver discuss MAC championship
Walking off the field at Kelly/Shorts Stadium after beating up Toledo by 42 points, the Central Michigan football team did so as Mid-American Conference West Division champions.
After taking down the Rockets 49-7 in their regular-season finale, the Chippewas won the division outright to make an appearance in the MAC championship game for the first time since 2009.
CMU will face Miami (Ohio) at noon Saturday at Ford Field in Detroit.
First-year coach Jim McElwain has led the program from its worst season in 2018 to its first conference title game in a decade.
McElwain said he is proud of his team and coaching staff for leading the turnaround and having the program on the cusp of winning a conference championship.
"I'm really happy for these players and this program and our university to get down to Detroit where we have so many alums to play a championship game in an unbelievable venue," McElwain said. "I'm excited for our guys and really proud of what they've accomplished so far."
Heading into the game at 8-4 overall and 6-2 in conference play, the Chippewas have won six out of their last seven games and all but one has been by double digits – the one-point win at Ball State in their Nov. 16 game.
As for gaining experience, McElwain said playing an extra game is monumental for the program, and it is one of the top goals all of the teams shoot for.
"That's one of the things that sometimes go unnoticed," McElwain said, "Truthfully how much work you put in as a player for 12 opportunities to play throughout a year. To get this one and hopefully another one after that, that doesn't happen every day. As I told them, go take advantage of the opportunity and let's have a good time while we're doing it."
One of the other aspects of the game McElwain talked about when the team played against the Miami Hurricanes in September was playing in a professional stadium.
Especially at Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions, McElwain said the emotions of the game will be running high because they have seen the field on television so often.
"The excitement and the emotions, that's natural," McElwain said. "I think we'll have to dial it back a little bit and get on a normal routine as we go into the game. But for so many kids in our program, they grew up watching the Lions.
"I just think it's great that our kids are going to get an opportunity to play there."
After scoring the win over the Rockets, senior graduate transfer Quinten Dormady said this season has been the most fun he's had so far in his long college career.
He said the guys in the locker room have made the experience as enjoyable as it has been for the former Tennessee and Houston quarterback.
As for the championship game itself, Dormady said he is happy to be part of the journey his teammates have been on since last season.
"It's a huge opportunity for everyone in the locker room to bounce back from the year that they had last year and to be this far," Dormady said. "It's awesome and we'll keep writing the book that we started with at the beginning of the year."
Michael Oliver is one of the players on Central Michigan's roster who rode the proverbial roller coaster of the last four seasons.
Oliver, a senior linebacker, attended Cass Technical High School where he led the Technicians to a state title in 2012 and made a second appearance at Ford Field the following year.
In terms of playing at Ford Field again, this time for a conference championship, Oliver said he is excited for the opportunity he has waited for his entire college career for.
"I've dreamed about this moment since I signed my letter of intent here," Oliver said. "It's been one of my goals to compete in that championship game and compete at Ford Field and be able to bring the title home."