EL PASO, Texas – In the second half of the season, Central Michigan flexed its attacking muscle, averaging 41 points rolling to win after victory.
On Friday, the Chippewas ditched the flash and dash for grain and grind by posting a historic 24-21 victory over Washington State in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl.
“It’s a Pac-12 team,” CMU third-year coach Jim McElwain said of Washington State. “We have a group of guys who work hard and play tail and it showed today.
“The only thing about this team is that they never gave up and never gave up. I found a way to win and in the end that’s what you do.”
The Chippewas (9-4) took a 21-0 lead in the first half, then held off the Cougars by increasing defensive pressure after Washington State reduced its deficit to 21-14 early in the fourth. quarter.
After silencing the Cougars’ running and shooting offense in the first two quarters, the Chippewas had to dig deep when Washington State made it a one-point game.
CMU did so by keeping constant pressure on Washington State quarterbacks, Laura’s Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Freshman Jayden in the first half and Victor Gabalis in the second.
The Chippewas recorded five sacks and limited Washington State to 25 rushing yards. De Laura and Gabalis combined to throw for 225 yards on 20 of 42 passes.
The Chippewas limited Washington State to two combined conversions in the third and fourth downs. The last of those games came with two minutes remaining when the linebacker Troy brown stopped a Washington state receiver inches from a first down to freeze him.
Brown led the Chippewas with 11 tackles and a freshman Kyle Moretti had a career-high eight.
“What you want to do against these teams is make them one-dimensional,” McElwain said. “I had a lot of confidence going into the game against this type of attack.”
The CMU’s defense performance is all the more remarkable given that the Chippewas had just three days to prepare for the Cougars after their expected opponent – Boise State in the Arizona Bowl – retreated.
The Chippewas bused more than 300 miles from Tucson, Ariz. To El Paso, TX on Thursday, practiced at the Sun Bowl, then played the game.
“I think it was beneficial for us to leave (Tucson) yesterday,” said the CMU kicker Marshal Meeder, who kicked three baskets. “It was like a normal away game for us. The last couple of days we’ve been focusing and doing it.”
McElwain said, “Every time you’re going to play, no matter what, you come out to win. Our guys come out to win.”
The Chippewas finished with 336 total yards, their third lowest total of the season, and they kicked seven times. Only once this season, against Toledo on October 16, had they kicked more (nine times).
Still, they managed to move the ball around efficiently enough and keep Washington State’s powerful offense clear. The Chippes finished with an advantage of more than 10 minutes in possession time and took advantage of a good position on the field to score their two touchdowns.
CMU’s first touchdown was established by Kumehnnu Gwilly’s recovering from a fumble on a kickoff return to the Washington State 23-yard line. The Chippewas’ second touchdown, which made it 21-0 at the end of the second quarter, came soon after Kalil pimpleton returned a 45-yard punt at the Washington state 9-yard line.
Pimpleton’s 45-yard return is a WCU bowl record. Antonio Brown had the best precedent, 29 yards, at the 2008 Motor City Bowl.
Lew Sweet, once again
CMU back Lew nichols iii finished one of the best seasons in program history with his eighth straight 100-yard game and 10e of the season.
He finished with 123 rushing yards on 28 carries, breaking Dan LeFevour’s WCU bowl run record of 114 yards (Motor City Bowl 2007). He also caught two passes for 38 yards, giving him 161 yards on 30 touches.
Nichols, the nation’s top rusher, finished the season with 1,833 rushing yards, the second-best rushing total in program history behind Brian Pruitt’s 1,890-yard season in 1994.
Nichols’ 339 races are also second. Billy Smith set the standard with 374 in 1991.
Nichols made 40 catches for 338 yards this season, finishing with 2,171 all-purpose yards. He scored 18 touchdowns, including 16 on the ground.
Nichols’ 18 touchdowns are tied for fourth in a single season in WCU history with Jim Podoley (1954) and Bernie Raterink (1955). His 16 rushing touchdowns are also tied for fourth with Silas Massey (1996) and Eric Flowers (1998).
Nichols totaled 108 points during the season, placing him tied for sixth in program history.
Although this is Nichols’ third season at CMU, he has just completed his season of freshman eligibility. He only appeared in four games in 2019, preserving his red shirt. The 2020 season did not count towards his eligibility.
CMU senior defensive end Troy Hairston II was credited with 1 ½ sacks in Friday’s game, bringing his season tally to eight and his career tally to 15 ½. He is eighth on CMU’s career sack list.
Pimpleton among the best
Pimpleton, who had four catches for 30 yards on Friday, finished the season with 62 catches for 959 yards.
He has 170 career receptions for 2,130 yards. He ranks seventh in CMU history for career receptions and ninth for meters received.
Getting his kicks
Meeder had three of his five field goal attempts against the Cougars, giving him 17 field goals (from 26 tries) this season. The 17 field goals tied him for second with Andrew Aguila (2009) for second in a single season in Chippewa history.
Kevin Nicholl holds the record with 20 in 1989.
Meeder did his 49e extra point kick of the season in Friday’s game. This total is the third highest in CMU history. Aguila reached 60 PAT in 2007.
Meeder was good at 49, 52 and 43 yards. His 52-yard second quarter game is a WCU bowl record, surpassing David Harman’s 50-yard game in the 2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Strategist Daniel Richardson’s TD passes to the tight end Joel wilson was his 24e of the season, placing him eighth in Chippewa history for touchdown passes in a season.
Richardson put in another effective performance, completing 16 of 29 passes for 188 yards.
The nine wins mark CMU’s highest winning total since the 2009 team finished 12-2. CMU won eight games in 2017 and again in 2019.
The victory made McElwain 20-13 in his three seasons at WCU and 64-40 in his career, which includes stints as head coach at Colorado State and Florida. He is now 3-2 as a head coach in bowl games.
“Our two full seasons, we’ve been in bowling games,” McElwain said of his time at CMU. “I’m really proud of that. We hit a Championship game (MAC) our first year. We ended up a little short this year.
“My goal when I came to Central Michigan University – there’s a lot of history and tradition there; amazing coaches and amazing players who have played there – and for us, it’s about making it. sustainable.
“It’s about letting people know at our conference that it won’t be a simple mistake when they play Central. They better buckle up and we’ll be there to play.… We let’s start to get there. “
Five for five
CMU closed the season on a five-game winning streak, the longest since it also won five in a row in 2017 before falling into the famed Idaho Potato Bowl in Wyoming.
The 2009 Chippewas have won streaks of seven and five straight games.
The Chippes played without four starters – offensive tackles Bernhard Raimann and Luc Goedeke, linebacker George douglas and security Roseau Devonni – who has withdrawn from the game.
Four Washington state players, including running backs Max Borghi and Deon McIntosh, have retired from the game.
The Chippewas were the first non-Power 5 school to play in the Sun Bowl since 2007 (South Florida) and the first MAC team to play in the game since 1962 (Ohio).
The Chippewas were one of eight MAC teams to play in a bowl this season. These teams got a 3-5 combined.
Miami, Ohio won the Frisco Football Classic and Western Michigan won the Quick Lane Bowl. Ball State (Camellia Bowl), Kent State (Idaho Potato Bowl), Eastern Michigan (LendingTree Bowl), Northern Illinois (Cure Bowl) and Toledo (Bahamas Bowl) lost their matches.