MOUNT PLEASANT - Junior running back Zurlon Tipton went over the 100-yard threshold for the fifth straight game and the Central Michigan football team scored twice off Miami (Ohio) turnovers to claim a 30-16 win over the RedHawks on Senior Day on Saturday afternoon at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
The Chippewas won for the third time in their past four games behind Tipton’s 113 yards and two touchdowns and a defense that forced the RedHawks into four turnovers.
Miami (4-7, 3-4 MAC) outgained the Chippewas, 434-386, but the CMU defense stopped two of the RedHawks’ three fourth-down attempts. Miami managed just 74 rushing yards on 36 attempts, while Central Michigan (5-6, 3-4 MAC) racked up 184 yards on the same number of carries.
After the Chippewas couldn’t capitalize on a Miami fumble on their very first play from scrimmage, they made the most of a Miami turnover on downs on their third drive. Central stuffed a run up the middle at the CMU 35 on fourth-and-one to retake possession.
Freshman running back Saylor Lavallii had a pair of big plays on the ensuing six-play, 64-yard drive - a 22-yard rush and a 16-yard pass from senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff - that culminated in a 12-yard diving touchdown run from Tipton to give CMU a 7-0 lead with 1:51 left in the first quarter.
Radcliff finished the day 13-of-23 for 202 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Less than a minute later the RedHawks responded with a 68-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zac Dysert to Nick Harwell to tie the game, 7-7, with 55 seconds left in the period.
The RedHawks were poised to strike first in the second period after a 36-yard diving catch put Miami at the CMU nine-yard line, but a sack for a loss of six by senior defensive end Joe Kinville derailed the drive. Two plays later a pass by Dysert into the endzone was deflected by sophomore defensive back Jarret Chapman and intercepted at the one-yard line by senior safety Jahleel Addae and returned to the CMU 17.
The Chippewas marched 83 yards down the field in eight plays in the following 3:37, thanks in large part to a 57-yard pass from Radcliff to redshirt freshman wide receiver Andrew Flory, to score on a one-yard touchdown run up the middle by Tipton to give CMU a 14-7 edge with 3:54 left in the quarter.
The touchdown was Tipton’s 15th of the season, tying him for fifth on the single-season rushing touchdown list with Curtis Adams (1983) and Dan LeFevour (2009). Flory led the Chippewas in receiving yards for the second consecutive week with 62 yards.
Miami advanced to the CMU 48 on the following drive, only to be pushed back 11 yards on a sack by Addae and defensive back Avery Cunningham, forcing a short 25-yard punt.
A pair of Tipton rushes totaling 20 yards and another catch for 13, and a pair of Radcliff-to-sophomore wide receiver Titus Davis connections for 25 yards set the Chippewas up for an eight-yard touchdown pass from Radcliff to junior tight end Connor Odykirk with 16 seconds left in the half for a 21-7 lead.
The RedHawks opened the second half with a nine-play, 62-yard drive that was capped by a 39-yard field goal, cutting the Chippewas’ lead to 21-10 with 11:14 left in the third period.
Miami also opened the second-half scoring with a one-yard touchdown by Dysert to cut CMU’s lead to 21-16, but sophomore defensive tackle Leterrius Walton broke up the two-point conversion that would have put the RedHawks within a field goal.
Central Michigan answered on the very next drive, going 76 yards in seven plays, culminating with a 10-yard run into the endzone by Lavallii, the first of his career, for a 28-16 lead with 10:28 left in the game. The drive also featured a 24-yard reception by senior receiver Cody Wilson, extending his consecutive games with a catch streak to 40, and a 14-yard scamper by Lavallii to set up his touchdown run on the following play.
Miami threatened to answer, driving as close as the CMU 15, but defensive pressure on the RedHawks’ fourth-and-four attempt and a quarterback hurry by Blake Serpa forced a turnover on downs with 5:38 left in the game.
The Chippewas effectively ended the RedHawks’ comeback aspirations with a safety as the result of a sack by senior defensive end Caesar Rodriguez, giving CMU a 30-16 lead with just 1:05 remaining in the game.
The Chippewas will look to get to .500 and become bowl eligible as they close out the regular season on Friday, Nov. 23 with a 3 p.m. game at UMass.