MOUNT PLEASANT - Junior Zurlon Tipton and sophomore Anthony Garland became the first tandem to run for 100 yards apiece since 1999 Thursday evening, helping Central Michigan defeat Southeast Missouri State in its season opener, 38-27.
Tipton finished the night with career highs of 180 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries, while Garland totaled 102 yards and a touchdown, also on 17 carries. The Chippewas totaled 324 yards on the ground and averaged 7.2 per yards per rush.
"When you can run the ball on offense, your play sheet is big," head coach Dan Enos said. "You've got a big play sheet, you've got all these things that work. When you can't run the ball those plays are really small in there and you're trying to find something that works and it makes everything better."
After David Harman kicked a 26-yard field goal to put the Chippewas (1-0) in front, 3-0, the Redhawks scored 10 unanswered points on a 55-yard touchdown run by Spencer Davis and 37-yard field goal by Drew Geldbach to claim the lead with 4:26 to go in the first quarter.
Tipton tied the game for the Chippewas, 10-10, with his first scamper of the night, capping a five-play, 86-yard drive that lasted just 2:20 with a 32-yard touchdown.
The Redhawks came back with two-straight scores from quarterback Scott Lathrop to put the Chippewas' in a 14-point hole, 24-14. Lathrop scored from four yards out to put SEMO in front, 17-10, and found D.J. Foster wide open in the end zone from 15 yards out on the Redhawks' next possession to give the away team a 24-10 at the 7:13 mark in the second quarter.
Again it was the ground game that helped the Chippewas get back into the game, as Tipton tied his career long with a 48-yard touchdown run at the 5:24 mark of the second quarter to pull CMU within seven, 24-17.
After the Chippewas' defense forced a three and out, the offense ran the ball eight times with Garland scoring from two-yards out with just 39 seconds remaining in the half to tie the game, 24-24.
A 15-play, 52-yard drive that chewed up 8:58 to start the second half allowed the Redhawks to reclaim the lead, 27-24, on a 40-yard field goal from Geldbach.
The Chippewas responded, putting together a substantial drive of their own to take the lead for good. Senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff found sophomore Caleb Southworth for a 17-yard reception to start the drive and eventually hit sophomore Jarrett Fleming on a play-action pass across the middle for 20 yards to give CMU a 31-24 advantage.
Another long, time-consuming drive in the fourth quarter helped the Maroon and Gold put the game away as Tipton blasted his way home from a yard out for his third and final score of the game. The drive was kept alive twice thanks to third-down conversions in which Radcliff found redshirt freshman wide receiver Andrew Flory for receptions of 13 and 16 yards.
CMU's defense proved vital down the stretch, holding Southeast Missouri to just 87 yards of total offense in the second half. Sophomore linebacker Justin Cherocci finished the night with a career-high 15 tackles while junior safety Jahleel Addae had his 10th career double-digit tackle effort with 10.
The Chippewas return to action next Saturday when they host in-state rival Michigan State for the Clash at Kelly/Shorts presented by PNC Bank. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m on ESPNU.