Three seconds, two returns and a victory cannon secured: How Kalil Pimpleton lit the spark for Chippewas in rivalry win


Muskegon junior wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton celebrates his second punt return touchdown of the second quarter against Western Michigan on Wednesday, Nov. 3 at Waldo Stadium. 

Kalil Pimpleton stepped forward to the 32-yard line with 23 seconds left in the first half. 

He awaited a punt from Western Michigan's Nick Mihalic. Just one thought circled his mind as the ball rose into the air. 

If I can return this, I’m going to score. 

Thanks to the electrifying star, the Chippewas had risen from the ashes of a 14-point deficit. Pimpleton himself had done all the scoring with a 75-yard punt return and an 11-yard reception from quarterback Daniel Richardson. The latter tied the game, setting the stage for what happened next.

With the Chippewas needing a spark prior to intermission, Pimpleton needed just one thing from his teammates. 

Three seconds.

If the other 10 Chippewas on the punt return unit could give the Muskegon native three seconds to fire up, he’d do the rest. As Pimpleton backpedaled all the way to his own three-yard line, he felt confidence as he saw the blocks taking shape. 

“I thought it was a decent enough punt, a returnable kick, to give it a try,” Pimpleton said. “I trusted my guys that they would do their job.” 

Once he caught the ball, he silenced Waldo Stadium. Racing up the Chippewa sideline, Pimpleton got a block from linebacker Kumehnnu Gwilly. Once the blocks set, near the Chippewas own 40-yard line, Pimpleton cut back to the numbers, past the last line of the Broncos’ defense. 

Pimpleton raced to the north end zone and gave CMU a 21-14 lead with three seconds remaining until intermission. His teammates followed, arms spinning and raised to the sky. 

The Muskegon native's second punt return touchdown of the quarter gave the Chippewas permanent momentum to tame the Broncos 42-30. 

“The heart and soul of this football team, and I just love him to death, like I do all of them,” said Chippewa coach Jim McElwain. 

Pimpleton native finished with 115 yards receiving on five catches to go with his 166 yards on three punt returns. 

A first-team All-Mid-American Conference selection in 2019, his first season with the team, Pimpleton has drawn the most attention off any Chippewa receiver. 

Though his offensive statistics aren’t what they were two years ago, he’s found way to help the Chippewas win on the road. 

Against Ohio, it was two second-half touchdowns. Against WMU, it was his three touchdowns that fueled the Chippewas on their rise from the depths of defeat to the euphoria of victory. 

His teammates, needless to say, were not surprised. 

“I see that guy make plays like this waking up. It was no surprise to me,” said linebacker Troy Brown. “I knew that he asked for three seconds earlier this week and the guys that were on the punt return team got it for him. He did what he had to do.”