Kalil Pimpleton makes key plays, leads the way for Chippewas in first road win

Muskegon junior Kalil Pimpleton sends up a prayer before receiving a punt from FIU, Saturday, Sept. 25. Pimpleton was hit illegally in the helmet and the offending player was ejected.

Muskegon junior wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton said his team had been practicing the play since summer. Because of this, when the coaches made the call, Pimpleton and his teammates were ready. 

Facing a third-and-five from Ohio's seven-yard line, offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay dialed up a play more commonly known as the 'Philly Special.' 

"It's funny because that's something we've been boiling up since camp," Pimpleton said. "We finally got the chance to run it. When they called it, it wasn't even a surprise. It was more like, 'let's do it.'"

Trailing Ohio by six, 19-13, late in the third quarter, the Chippewas needed a score. Facing arguably the biggest play of the game to this point, Barbay and company called the trick play. 

Miami redshirt freshman Daniel Richardson called fake signals, allowing Homewod, Illinois junior center Jamezz Kimbrough to snap directly to Detroit redshirt freshman Lew Nichols III. Stepping directly to his left, Nichols then tossed the ball to Pimpleton coming back to the right. 

Ideally, this plays is designed for the defense to commit to Nichols running left. This clears the way for the reverse action and leaves Pimpleton with a decision to either outrun the defender or flip the ball to Richardson. 

Not all things go according to plan. Ohio's defense was ready for the reverse and defenders came back to chase Pimpleton. Instead of running his route, Richardson turned and threw a block downfield. Quarterbacks rarely have to block, but Richardson did so in this case, throwing the pivotal block as Pimpleton made two defenders miss. 

"I knew instantly when he knew he wasn't getting the ball, I knew he would turn up and help me out a little bit," Pimpleton said of Richardson's block. "So that meant a lot for him, big ups to him. Me and him talked about it right after the play and I appreciate him for that." 

Heading toward the five-yard line, Pimpleton lowered his shoulder as a Bobcat defender spiraled off him. John Gregory, an Ohio linebacker, latched onto Pimpleton. The Muskegon native wasn't fazed, carrying him the final yard as he stretched across the goal line. 

The score gave the Chippewas the lead, but not for long. Ohio answered with a long touchdown on fourth-and-one. After CMU answered with a field goal and forced the Bobcats to punt, Richardson led the offense out needing 83 yards with 6:38 left, trailing 27-23. 

CMU was gifted 15 yards on its first play after a facemask penalty on Ohio. Richardson hit Phoenix junior wide receiver Dallas Dixon up the sideline for 26 yards to Ohio's 38-yard line. After three runs and an incomplete pass, CMU had a second-and-10 from Ohio's 28. 

The Bobcats didn't deviate from the single coverage scheme they'd employed the entire game. It was Cover 0 defense, meaning there was no help over the top. Pimpleton was one-on-one with the defender across from him. 

With his speed, this was a favorable matchup for CMU. Pimpleton took four steps straight, then burst to the outside of his defender. He simply outran his defender and Richardson placed the ball on Pimpleton's back shoulder. 

The catch was made and CMU had the lead.

Though it worked to perfection, Pimpleton said there was chaos before the play. 

"It was crazy because there was a lot going on," Pimpleton said. "We got the play kinda late. We might've had a mess-up in the formation. The clock was winding down and we might've had two or three seconds left on the play clock and it was kind of just like a chemistry thing. I'm not even sure if I ran the right route." 

Pimpleton's game-winning receiving touchdown was his first of the season. Known for being one of the best playmakers in the Mid-American Conference, Pimpleton adjusted to the attention he gets from opponents. 

And when his team needed big plays Saturday, he made them. 

"I think he knew he needed to make some plays," said coach Jim McElwain. "That's the guy he is, he's the heart and soul of this football team and I tell you what, I just love him."