2012 Football Season Review
Courtesy: John Regenfuss/CMU Athletics
The Chippewas won seven games overall, including four of their last five in the regular season, all in MAC play, to earn the program’s fifth bowl bid in the last seven years. Two wins stood out above the others. Central Michigan seized the national spotlight in week four, scoring nine points in the game’s final 45 seconds to knock off Iowa on the road, 32-31, in thrilling, come-from-behind fashion. CMU then punctuated 2012 with a 24-21 victory over Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.
The 2012 season was marked by an abundance of notable individual performances: Zurlon Tipton rushing his way into the CMU record book with his 37-carry, 243-yard day versus Akron. Titus Davis shredding the Western Michigan secondary to the tune of 208 receiving yards. Ryan Radcliff leading CMU on two late-game scoring drives in the upset of the Hawkeyes. Andrew Flory coming off the bench to catch two touchdown passes in the win over Eastern Michigan. Caesar Rodriguez recording two sacks and a safety in his final game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium on Senior Day.
It also had its defining singular moments: David Harman kicking the 47-yard game winning field goal as time expired in Iowa City. Kavon Frazier sparking a rally versus EMU with his 49-yard interception return for a touchdown. Tipton helping CMU clinch bowl eligibility by putting the game away with his fourth touchdown of the day versus UMass. Radcliff connecting with Cody Wilson late in the fourth quarter for the go-ahead score in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Offensively, CMU flourished in both phases in 2012. The Chippewas finished the regular season on a tear by scoring 30 or more points in six straight games and overall averaged 6.2 yards per play, which ranked second best in the MAC.
Success on the offensive side of the ball began up front. Continuity was key, as four linemen started all 13 games while the fifth made 10 starts. Anchored by All-American left tackle Eric Fisher, the unit finished the season ranked in the top 20 nationally in sacks allowed, surrendering just 15.
One the main beneficiaries of that strong offensive line was Zurlon Tipton. The junior running back rushed for 1,492 yards, the most by a Chippewa running back in 16 years. He got stronger as 2012 went along, recording seven straight 100-yard rushing games to end the year, and was a major factor in CMU’s late season winning streak. Tipton was also a regular in the end zone, scoring 20 total touchdowns, including 19 on the ground, which ranks No. 2 all-time in the single season CMU record book.
Quarterback Ryan Radcliff thrived in his senior season, surpassing the 3,000-yard passing plateau for the third-straight year (3,158) and posting the best touchdown-to-interception ratio of his career (23-9). His 383 passing yards versus Western Michigan were the 10th highest single game total in program history. Radcliff finished his career in style, throwing for 253 yards and three touchdowns to earn MVP honors of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Radcliff’s top targets excelled in 2012 as well. Senior Cody Wilson solidified his status as one of CMU’s all-time great receivers, finishing his brilliant career third in receptions and fifth in receiving yards. He led CMU with 74 receptions and extended his streak of consecutive games with a catch to 42, which ranked No. 2 in the nation at season’s end. Sophomore Titus Davis led the nation in yards per catch (20.0) among receivers with 40 or more receptions and hauled in eight touchdowns for the second consecutive year. Redshirt freshman Andrew Flory flashed big-play potential, with four of his 17 receptions going for scores.
The CMU defense showed improvement as the season progressed, particularly in the areas of pass rush and creating turnovers. Eight different Chippewas recorded interceptions in 2012, led by senior safety Jahleel Addae’s four, which tied for tops in the MAC. Defensive end Caesar Rodriguez had his finest season as a Chippewa, recording a team-high four sacks and nine tackles for loss.
Linebackers Justin Cherocci and Shamari Benton emerged in 2012, with each displaying a consistent nose for the football. The pair combined for 258 stops, which represented nearly 25 percent of the team’s total tackles. Both were among the MAC’s leading tacklers while Cherocci’s 89 assisted tackles ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Five Chippewas earned All-MAC recognition in 2012 – Fisher (first team), Tipton (second team), Addae (second team), Davis (second team), and Wilson (third team). Fisher was named Second Team All-America by SI.com and received third team honors from the Associated Press while Wilson was an Academic All-America selection for the second consecutive year.
In 2013, Central Michigan has key pieces to replace, most notably at quarterback and along the offensive and defensive lines, but roster depth and strong recruiting have the program in position to take the next step. Facing a challenging schedule, 26 players that have starting experience will return to lead that charge.