YPSILANTI, Mich. — Led by a standout performance and a big play from a pair of freshmen, Central Michigan got by rival Eastern Michigan (1-9, 0-6 MAC), 34-31, on Saturday afternoon at Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti.
Receiver Andrew Flory starred for CMU on offense, catching nine passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns, all career highs, while defensive back Kavon Frazier made the play of the day for the Chippewa defense, returning an interception, the first of his career, 49 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Junior running back Zurlon Tipton ran for 110 yards, his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing performance, pushing him over the 1,000-yard barrier for the season for the first time in his career. Senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff threw for 284 yards on 20-of-34 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Down 14-10 at halftime, a 21-point outpouring in the third quarter by Central Michigan (4-6, 2-4 MAC) proved to be the game’s turning point.
Eastern Michigan looked to have seized control of the game early in the third quarter when back-up quarterback Alex Gillett ran 53 yards for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 21-10 lead. But Central Michigan responded, putting together a 10-play, 65-yard scoring drive, punctuated by an 11-yard touchdown run by Tipton, his 13th of the season, to pull within four points.
On the ensuing drive, Frazier stepped in front of a Gillett pass and weaved his way to the end zone, giving CMU its first lead of the afternoon at 24-21; an advantage that it would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.
Later in the quarter, Radcliff found Flory wide open in the end zone with a 14-scoring strike to provide CMU with its largest lead of the game at 31-21 with 1:32 remaining.
The teams traded field goals early in the fourth quarter and Gillett was able to pull EMU to within three when he connected with Jay Jones on a 25-scoring pass with 1:37 remaining in the game. However, CMU recovered an onside kick and hard running by Tipton allowed the Chippewas to run out the clock and secure the win.
Eastern Michigan struck first, taking advantage of a CMU turnover on its first offensive play of the game, a fumble by sophomore receiver Titus Davis. Taking over on the Chippewas’ 21-yard line, redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Benz wasted little time converting on the miscue, hitting tight end Tyreese Russell with a 19-yard scoring pass on EMU’s second play.
Central Michigan’s ensuing possession stalled, forcing a Richie Hogan punt that pinned EMU on its own 12-yard line. But the Eagles went the length of the field to go up 14-0, churning out a 15-play, 88-yard, 9:19-long drive that was capped by a 26-yard fake field goal scoring run by Gillett.
The CMU defense stepped up on Eastern’s first possession of the second quarter, forcing a key turnover. Redshirt freshman defensive end Blake Serpa pressured Benz into throwing an errant pass that was picked off by junior safety Avery Cunningham, setting the Chippewas up at the EMU 42-yard line. Central Michigan cut the Eagles’ lead in half when Radcliff connected with freshman receiver Andrew Flory on a 19-yard touchdown pass, the first of his career, finishing off a 10-play drive. Flory also had a big reception earlier in the drive, helping to convert on a fourth-and-10.
The defense again helped CMU earn points later in the second quarter, as sacks by senior defensive end Joe Kinville and the combination of Cunningham and freshman defensive back Brandon Greer thwarted an EMU drive. The Chippewas advanced to the Eastern one-yard line, thanks in part to a 30-yard reception by tight end Caleb Southworth and a 37-yard catch by running back Zurlon Tipton, but a touchdown toss to Flory was nullified by an offensive pass interference call. CMU had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by senior kicker David Harman, cutting the deficit to 14-10 just before halftime.
CMU will finish out its 2012 home schedule next weekend when it welcomes Miami (Ohio) (4-6, 3-3 MAC) to Mount Pleasant for a 1 p.m. game on Saturday, Nov. 17. Nineteen Chippewas, who will be playing their final game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, will be honored on Senior Day.