Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
BOISE, Idaho – Central Michigan had made a living forcing turnovers this season.
On Friday, the Chippewas found out what it is like to be on the other side, and the consequences were devastating.
CMU gave the ball away a season-high eight times in falling to Wyoming, 37-14, before 16,512 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at Albertsons Stadium. The Chippewas finished 8-5 and saw their win streak end at five games.
The eight wins is CMU’s highest total since 2009, but that didn’t ease the sting of a fourth consecutive bowl loss.
“Obviously very disappointed with the outcome of the game, how our team performed today,” third-year CMU coach John Bonamego said. “I don't feel that today's performance was indicative of the type of team that we have. We just played a very sloppy game today, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. You're not going to win that many games when you turn it over that many times.”
Wyoming intercepted CMU quarterback Shane Morris three times, sacked him five times, and the Chippewa fumbled the ball away five times. Twenty-three of Wyoming’s points – two TDs and three field goals – came after CMU turnovers.
Cowboy quarterback Josh Allen, projected to be a top-five pick in the NFL Draft in April, was as efficient as he needed to be, completing 11 of 19 pass attempts for 154 yards. He threw three touchdown passes, all in the first quarter, to stake the Cowboys to an early 21-7 lead and force the Chippewas to play catch-up all game long.
CMU’s defense surrendered just three field goals over the final three quarters, but the Chippewas offense could not produce consistently against a Wyoming defense that came into the game ranked 21st in the country.
“They have a great defense,” CMU senior tight end Tyler Conklin said. “They did a good job. We didn't do what we're supposed to be doing. We didn't make the plays we should have made. That's our fault. Hats off to them. They played well. They have a good defense. They fly around. They hit. It was a good job by them.”
Yohanna Ghaifan sacked CMU quarterback Shane Morris, forcing a fumble, and Carl Granderson scooped up the loose ball and raced 58 yards for a TD early in the fourth quarter to make it 37-14 and snuff out CMU’s last legitimate hope.
Johnathan Ward finished with a combined 138 yards in rushing and receiving and scored two touchdowns to lead CMU. He took a short pass from quarterback Shane Morris and turned it into a 74-yard TD that kept the Chippewas in the game in the first quarter. He later scored on a 3-yard run.
The Chippewas’ final yardage total, 364, looked respectable, but the five sacks, the six turnovers and 61 yards in penalties were more than enough to keep the Chippewas from mounting a serious threat.
• Ward became the first CMU sophomore since Dan LeFevour in 2007 to reach the 1,000-yard mark in rushing for a season.
• Morris, a graduate transfer from Michigan playing his final collegiate game, completed 23 of 39 pass attempts for 329 yards. He finished the season with 249 completions, which ranks ninth in program history for a single season; 446 pass attempts, which ranks seventh; 3,237 yards, which ranks seventh; and 27 TD passes, which ties with Dan LeFevour (2007) and Cooper Rush (2014) for second.
• Ward and Tyler Conklin each caught seven passes against Wyoming; Ward finished with 109 yards in receptions, Conklin with 98.
• Junior middle linebacker Malik Fountain and sophomore linebacker Michael Oliver shared the team lead with eight tackles apiece against the Cowboys. Ostman and safety Darwyn Kelly made six stops each.
• Ostman was credited with two sacks and he finished the season with 14, the second most for a single season in program history behind Dan Bazuin, who made 16 in 2005. Ostman finished his career with 28 sacks, which is second in program history behind Bazuin (35.5).