Chippewas Stun No. 22 Oklahoma State In Wild Finish, 30-27

Sept. 10, 2016

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Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com

STILLWATER, Okla. - It was over. The clock read 0:00 and a 27-24 loss for the Central Michigan football team.

And then, it wasn't.

The Chippewas took advantage of a final chance with no time remaining Saturday and quarterback Cooper Rush's Hail Mary found the target as CMU stunned No. 22-ranked Oklahoma State, 30-27, at Boone Pickens Stadium.

It was the Chippewas' first win over a ranked team since it knocked off No. 18 Michigan State, 20-3, on Sept. 14, 1991, at Spartan Stadium.

And for a program that has been through more than its share of emotional swings in the past 18 months, this was one that, perhaps, it was owed.

"It's an improbable finish," CMU coach John Bonamego said, "but it's a situation we've practiced and rehearsed. In that situation we're telling our guys don't ever go down with the ball. It's touchdown or turnover.

"They're a great football team. This is a great victory for us, great victory for our program and I don't even know what to say to be honest. I'm still shaking."

Dillon Stoner tossed a 2-yard pass to James Washington with just over 5 minutes remaining to put the Cowboys in front, 27-24. The score came after CMU had fumbled on its own 20-yard line.

The Chippewas had what appeared to be their final opportunity dashed when Rush was intercepted with 1:54 to play.

Oklahoma State took over needing simply to run out the clock. With 4 seconds remaining and on fourth down, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph threw out of bounds and was called for intentional grounding.

Though time had expired, the Chippewas received one final play because of the penalty and loss of down.

Starting at his own 49-yard line, Rush heaved a bomb to Jesse Kroll who stood at the Oklahoma State 10. The 6-foot-3 Kroll went up in front of a defender, caught the ball, and, as he was falling with his back to the goal line, lateralled to Willis.

Willis gathered the ball and raced to the far side of the field - toward the CMU sideline - and dove across the goal line with a defender on his back, giving the Chippewas the dramatic victory.

It evoked memories of the Bahamas Bowl on Christmas Eve, 2014, when the Chippewas used a desperation flea-flicker to score a TD and pull within a point of Western Kentucky as time expired.

Rush, then a sophomore, triggered that play too, and Kroll caught his pass before a series of dazzling laterals ended with Titus Davis diving across the goal line.

"I'm pretty sure everybody saw the Bahamas Bowl so they know we're capable of it," Willis said. "It's something we practice all the time and we executed.

"I feel like if I don't make that play I will never live that down for the rest of my life. I'm just feeling like I had to do my job. Jesse made the biggest play. He had to go up with two guys. All I've got to do is run to the end zone. "

Rush completed 30 of his 42 pass attempts for 361 yards and four touchdowns.

The Cowboys, using a frantic no-huddle offense, built a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter and appeared to have CMU gasping for breath.

The key to CMU getting back in the game wasn't on defense, but on offense: The Chippewas got the offense in gear, which kept Oklahoma State's offense sidelined.

"Going down 14-0 and the next drive we went down and got points," Rush said, referring to CMU's first score, a 24-yard Rush-to Tyler Conklin TD pass less than three minutes into the second quarter. "That was a big part of the game, made some big throws, got in rhythm, made some big throws and that was a big answer for us."

The teams traded field goals and CMU tied it 17-17 on Rush's second TD pass to Conklin, this one a 5-yarder, with under 6 minutes to play in the third quarter.

Oklahoma State re-took the lead on a field goal with 2:58 to play in the third. The Chippewas took their first lead of the game on a 31-yard Rush-to-Devon Spaulding TD pass with just over nine minutes to play.



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