TOLEDO, Ohio - First-half Toledo turnovers propelled the Central Michigan football team to an early lead, but their own turnovers doomed the Chippewas in the second half as they fell to the Rockets, 50-35, Saturday afternoon.
Central Michigan (2-3, 0-2 MAC) scored two touchdowns following Toledo fumbles in the first half, but Toledo (5-1, 3-0 MAC) responded with two interception returns for touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Offensively, the Chippewas put up their second-highest point total of the season, behind their 38-27 season-opening victory over Southeast Missouri State. Senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff tied a career-high with four touchdown passes and was five yards shy of his season high with 327 yards on 28-of-44 passing but also had two costly fourth-quarter interceptions for touchdowns.
The Chippewas pulled within five points, 40-35, with three minutes remaining in the game after Radcliff found Williams for a seven-yard score, his second touchdown reception of the day. The reception capped a 15-play, 80-yard drive that took six minutes and 30 seconds off the clock.
The Rockets answered with a 28-yard field goal to take a 43-35 lead with :54 remaining. After Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens rushed for 40 yards and David Fluellen rushed for 21, the Rockets had first-and-10 at the CMU 14, but the CMU defense stood firm to just allow three points.
Radcliff threw his second interception for a touchdown on the Chippewas’ first play of the following drive, giving Toledo the final 50-35 advantage.
Though turnovers were detrimental to the Maroon and Gold in the fourth quarter, Toledo turnovers were a major factor in early-game success for the Chippewas.
The Chippewas limited Toledo to just a field goal after the Rockets’ Bernard Reedy returned a punt 53 yards to the CMU 15. The 33-yard field goal by Jeremiah Detmer was good, giving Toledo a 3-0 lead with 10:58 remaining in the quarter.
Freshman defensive back Brandon Greer recovered a Toledo fumble by Reedy on the Toledo 11-yard line with 7:11 remaining in the quarter, setting up an 11-yard touchdown run by junior running back Zurlon Tipton to give CMU a 7-3 lead with 7:04 remaining in the first.
Senior safety Jahleel Addae made two potential touchdown saving tackles on the following drive by the Rockets, including a diving ankle tackle that grounded Owens at the CMU one-yard line. The Chippewas defensive line forced a fourth-and-goal from the one, but Toledo’s David Fluellen broke through on a one-yard run for a 10-7 Toledo lead.
The Chippewas scored two unanswered touchdowns in the span of approximately two minutes to begin the second quarter, giving Central a 21-10 lead.
Radcliff completed four-of-five passes for 87 yards and a touchdown on the Chippewas’ first drive of the second quarter, including a 32-yard completion to sophomore receiver Deon Butler made possible by a juke move and run up the sideline. Butler’s reception put Radcliff in position for a 23-yard touchdown strike to sophomore receiver Titus Davis, who was wide open in the middle of the endzone for a 14-10 lead.
The Chippewas forced another Reedy fumble on the Rockets’ first play of the following drive, this time recovered by senior defensive tackle Steve Winston at the Toledo 27 yard line.
A 15-yard run by Tipton and a five-yard reception by sophomore receiver Courtney Williams set up a seven-yard touchdown pass from Radcliff to Butler for his first career score to give CMU a 21-10 lead with 8:08 remaining in the half.
The Chippewas held the Rockets off the board until the final 13 seconds of the half, when Toledo scored the first of three unanswered touchdowns on an 11-yard rush by Owens.
Reedy scored on a 66-yard punt return after the Chippewas’ first drive of the half, putting Toledo in the lead, 24-21, with 9:07 left in the period.
Owens again rushed into the endzone, this time from one yard out, to give Toledo a 31-21 advantage with 4:26 left in the quarter.
A critical 44-yard reception by senior receiver Cody Wilson, followed by a 15-yard facemask penalty, set the Chippewas up at the Toledo 21 for a 19-yard pass from Radcliff to Davis.
Radcliff found a diving Williams on a fade route for a three-yard touchdown, pulling the Chippewas within three, 31-28, with 2:28 left in the quarter.
Junior linebacker Shamari Benton led the way on defense for the Chippewas with eight tackles, while Addae, senior defensive end Caesar Rodriguez, senior defensive lineman Chris Reeves and junior defensive back Avery Cunningham each recorded six tackles.
The Chippewas return home to begin a four-game homestand on Friday by hosting Navy at 8 p.m. in a nationally televised ESPN2 game.