DETROIT- Central Michigan won their third-ever bowl game as the Chippewas nipped Western Kentucky 24-21 in the 16th edition of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field.
The pre-game snowstorm held the crowd down but those that came were loud and passionate. Over 23,000 strong saw a great game that came down to the wire.
CMU stopped the Hilltoppers on fourth-and-2 in the final minute when a field goal might have sent the game to overtime. On fourth down from the 19-yard line with 51 seconds left, Kawaun Jakes threw incomplete intended for Jack Doyle.
Lance Guidry, coaching Western Kentucky (7-6) on an interim basis, went for the victory after his players made their feelings known regarding the situation. “That was all the players. We were going to kick the field goal, we had the unit in the huddle but they told me that they were here to win the game,” Guidry said postgame. “Everyone wanted to go for it; I called over the defense, they wanted to go for it. So the players kind of made the decision. I put it in their hands and that’s the way they wanted and that’s how we’re going out.”
Central Michigan had taken the lead with 5:11 remaining, as Cody Wilson caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Ratcliff. “I couldn’t have scripted it any better than my last catch being the winning TD in a bowl game,” said Wilson. The senior had 10 catches for 101 yards.
Radcliff went 19 of 29 for 253 yards and three touchdowns. Central Michigan (7-6) rallied late in the game. Down 21-17, Zurlon Tipton appeared to have put the Chippewas ahead in the fourth quarter, but his fourth-down run was ruled short of the goal line after a review.
Central Michigan forced the Hilltoppers to punt from their own end zone, and Avery Cunningham blocked it. The ball bounced around for a bit, the Chippewas finally recovered it and took over with great field position inside the 30. Radcliff found Wilson in the back left corner of the end zone for a 24-21 lead.
“We knew we left a lot on the table in the first half, but we made a lot of those plays in the second half,” said CMU head football coach Dan Enos.
Richie Brogan had a record 82 yard punt for CMU. Radcliff was MVP and CMU linebacker Shamari Benton was Outstanding Lineman of the Game. He had nine tackles.
Senior players for both teams served early morning Christmas Day breakfast with the Salvation Army at the historic Masonic Temple.