Chippewas spoil Bobcats' homecoming, win 30-27
It wasn't easy, but it was worth it.
Backed against a wall at numerous times, some because of its own mistakes, Central Michigan was forced to come up with big play after big play. And yet, the Chippewas weathered the storm, time after time.
Led by the upperclassmen wide receivers and a budding star at running back, CMU got the job done.
CMU (3-3, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) went on the road and beat Ohio (1-5, 1-1), 30-27, on the Bobcats' homecoming game.
"Just can't tell you how happy I am for our kids," said coach Jim McElwain. "They hung in, it wasn't pretty by any stretch of the imagination. But we came out ahead on a tough road trip. They played us well, our guys figured out a way to win and that's really what it's all about."
How it happened
Thirsting for a fast start, CMU appeared to get the ammo it needed early when junior linebacker George Douglas recovered a fumble. However, three plays later, redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Richardson gave it back to Ohio when he was intercepted by Tariq Drake.
The Bobcats squandered the opportunity after Stephen Johnson missed a field goal. The Chippewas took advantage of the miss, as redshirt freshman running back Lew Nichols rolled through the Bobcat defense and into the end zone. Nichols scored from one yard out to make it 7-0.
Penalties plagued the Chippewas throughout the first half, but none hurt more than two committed on Ohio's final full drive of the second half. Pass interference and unnecessary roughness penalties put the Bobcats deep in CMU territory, and quarterback Armani Rogers punched it in from four yards out to tie the game at 10.
CMU was not to be outdone, as it quickly drove down the field and took the lead on a 35-yard field goal by freshman Marshall Meeder. The Chippewas led, 13-10, at the half.
Ohio took its first lead of the game on a two-yard touchdown from De'Montre Tuggle, then made it 19-13 when Johnson knocked a field goal through the uprights. This run woke up the Chippewas, as Richardson hit Remi Simmons for 30 yards on the first play of the ensuing drive.
CMU kept rolling and eventually scored to take the lead when Kalil Pimpleton took a lateral from Nichols and shook two defenders, dragging a third across the goal line to give the Chippewas a 20-19 lead. This advantage held going into the fourth quarter.
The penalty bug bit the Chippewas once again in a key situation. An offside penalty took away an interception, an escape Ohio turned into a go-ahead touchdown just two plays later when freshman Sieh Bangura broke loose for a 40-yard score.
CMU answered with a field goal, then forced a punt. Needing 83 yards, the Chippewas left nothing to doubt. Richardson made two big throws, one to Dallas Dixon and then a back shoulder fade against single coverage to Pimpleton for the go-ahead score.
"The faith and trust D-Rich has in us is crazy because there's not a lot of quarterbacks that trust that, 'I'm gonna throw the ball up and my receivers are gonna go make a play,'" Pimpleton said. "So just having that confidence and trust in each of his receivers is a big plus."
Ohio hurt itself late, with a fourth-and-two turning to a fourth-and-17 after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was assessed against a member of the team's bench. Instead of going for it, the Bobcats were forced to punt.
The Chippewas wouldn't give the ball back, as Nichols moved the chains and got a pivotal first down before Richardson took a game-ending knee.
"Really just to get a first down, hold onto the ball and put my team on my back and win the game for us," Nichols said when asked what was on his mind on the final drive.
Richardson finished 16-for-30 for 257 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.Nichols had another big game, finishing with 186 yards and a touchdown.
Pimpleton tallied his first receiving touchdown of the season, the game winner. On the day, he caught five passes for 78 yards and had one carry for seven yards.
"Well, I think he knew he needed to make some plays," McElwain said. "That's the guy he is, he's the heart and soul of this football team. I tell you what, I just love him."
The Chippewas return home for homecoming to take on Toledo (3-3, 1-1 MAC). The homecoming festivities include honoring Joe Staley and Dan LeFevour, two Chippewa football legends who will be inducted into the university's athletic hall of fame.