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December 26, 2012

Chippewas defeat WKU in thriller, 24-21

DETROIT, Mich. - For a Central Michigan football game, it went just about as expected. The Chippewas spent much of the 2012 season in tough contests, and they were fortunate to come out with six wins and an invitation to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit. It was an opportunity many didn't think they would have once the regular season ended, but Central Michigan made the most of it as they edged Western Kentucky 24-21 in a thriller.

Senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff would throw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cody Wilson with just over five minutes remaining in the game. The Hilltoppers would maneuver down the field with a few long passes by quarterback Kawaun Jakes, setting up a fourth and 2 from the Chippewas 19 yard line with just 53 seconds left. After calling a timeout to discuss the situation with his team, interim WKU head coach Lance Guidry made the controversial decision to bypass a potential game tying field goal to go for it. Jakes play-action pass would fall short to his intended receiver, tight end Jack Doyle, and CMU would take over on downs.

The Chippewas (7-6) were able to run the clock out as they secured their first winning season under head coach Dan Enos. Western Kentucky (7-6) fell just short in its first bowl since joining college football's top tier in 2009.

The oft-criticized Radcliff would complete 19-29 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns. Perhaps more importantly, he avoided any interceptions and made a tremendous throw to Wilson in what would end up as the game winning touchdown. RB Zurlon Tipton would pace the Chippewas on the ground with 101 yards on 23 carries, while Wilson caught 10 passes for 101 yards and one touchdown. Redshirt freshman Andrew Flory would have a huge first half starting in place of the suspended Titus Davis, as he caught touchdown receptions of 69 and 29 yards to give CMU a 17-14 halftime lead.

WKU would strike first in the second half after Kadeem Jones punched it in from 1-yard out with 1:24 left in the third quarter. The play would not be without some debate though, as replay appeared to show Jones fumbling the ball before leaping into the endzone. The ball would end up directly in the hands of CMU safety Jahleel Addae, but the officials could not see enough evidence to overturn it. The Chippewas would look to answer when they drove the ball all the way down to the 1-yard line themselves, only to go for it on fourth down and have a Tipton touchdown run overturned when replay showed his elbow touched the ground before crossing the endzone. After stopping the Hilltoppers on three straight plays, CMU tipped the ensuing punt and took over just outside the WKU 20-yard line. From there Radcliff would find Wilson on a perfectly ran corner route for the final score of the game.

Jakes would complete 14-24 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown, while junior RB Antonio Andrews added 119 yards on 27 carries. Andrews came into the game needing 274 yards to break Barry Sanders record for all-purpose yards, but he was mostly held in check and only broke one run of 20+ yards.

Central Michigan out-gained the Hilltoppers 393-327 in total yardage, and despite many close calls, both teams avoided any turnovers.

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