MOUNT PLEASANT, MIch. – Central Michigan reached .500, gained bowl eligibility for the second consecutive year and reclaimed the Michigan MAC Trophy with a 42-10 win over in-state rival Eastern Michigan in a Black Friday showdown at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
Central Michigan (6-6, 5-3 MAC) sent 20 graduating Chippewas out in style on Senior Day, including senior running back Zurlon Tipton, who finished the day with 216 rushing yards on 20 carries (10.8 avg.) and tied a career high with four touchdowns. Tipton scored three touchdowns in the first half, including a bruising, highlight reel career-long 86-yard jaunt.
Tipton scored a pair of first quarter touchdowns to give the Chippewas a 14-0 lead before extending the lead to 21-0 on his third touchdown of the game. Facing a 3rd-and-21, Tipton took a draw up the middle and lowered his shoulder through three EMU defenders before racing down the sidelines for the score.
Eastern Michigan (2-10, 1-7 MAC) scored 10 unanswered points in the final 5:33 of the first half, but junior Courtney Williams squandered any chance of a comeback by the visiting squad with the opening kickoff of the second half.
Williams broke a pair of tackles and weaved his way through the coverage and down the sidelines for an 84-yard kick return, becoming the first CMU player since Antonio Brown on January 6, 2010 to return a kick for a touchdown. The touchdown was the first of his career by return and gave the Chippewas a 28-10 lead.
The CMU defense then forced a quick punt out of the Eagles and the Chippewas immediately went back to work on the ground. Tipton scored his fourth touchdown of the game when he ran straight up the middle untouched from 44 yards out to put the Chippewas in front, 35-10.
Senior safety Avery Cunningham put the finishing touches on the Senior Day romp when he stepped in front of a pass by EMU freshman quarterback Brogan Roback early in the fourth quarterback and returned it 75 yards for a score.
The Chippewas finished the day with 295 rushing yards. Junior receiver Titus Davis had three carries for 43 yards and junior running back Anthony Garland carried the ball three times for 34 yards.
Junior linebacker Justin Cherocci led the CMU defense with 11 tackles, while junior Kevin King matched a career high with 10 tackles. King also forced a fumble, sacking Roback late in the third quarter, which was recovered by freshman defensive end Joe Ostman.
Should Central Michigan receive a postseason invitation, it would be the Chippewas’ eighth overall bowl appearance since gaining Division I status. CMU has previously appeared in the California Raisin Bowl (1990), the Las Vegas Bowl (1994), the Motor City Bowl (2006, 2007, 2008), the GMAC Bowl (2010) and the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (2012), posting a 3-4 record.