MT. PLEASANT, MICH. – The Central Michigan Chippewas shutout visiting UMass 37-0 on Saturday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium and are now one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the second straight season.
CMU’s last shutout of an opponent came in the 2010 season opener, a 33-0 win against Hampton. That was also the game CMU debuted Dan Enos as its head coach. Saturday’s contest marked the second time an opponent has blanked UMass this season.
Despite the one-sided score, the win didn’t come easy for the Chips. Below-freezing temperatures, whipping wind and drizzling snow created tough playing conditions and a slippery field surface. However, those same conditions allowed CMU to take advantage of great field position for most of the game.
“The wind was blowing, and it was cold,” Enos said. “It was off and on with how bad it was getting. It was an issue.”
Junior defensive back Jason Wilson set the tone for the CMU defense by intercepting a pass from UMass quarterback A.J. Doyle and returning it 52 yards late in the first quarter. Wilson’s ball-hawking play setup kicker Ron Coluzzi with a 33-yard field goal that gave the Chips a 10-0 lead.
Three drives later, redshirt freshman Tony Annese picked off Doyle and returned it for a 34-yard score. It was Annese’s second pick-6 in as many weeks.
Justin Cherocci led CMU with 11 tackles, Blake Sherpa made 10 stops and recorded a sack and Brandon Greer also nabbed an interception.
The defense held UMass to 155 yards rushing and put forth its best all-around game this season.
“We’ve challenged (our defense), and we continue to challenge them,” Enos said. “Our coaches are doing a great job, and our players responded.”
Titus Davis, a third-year receiver, helped CMU on offense by grabbing seven receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Cooper Rush was 13 of 21 passing for 231 yards and two scores, while tailback Zurlon Tipton rushed 16 times for 57 yards and a 3-yard TD.
CMU (5-6, 4-3 Mid-American Conference) hopes to earn its sixth win for bowl eligibility against visiting in-state rival Eastern Michigan in the regular season finale at 2 p.m. Friday.
Last season, CMU topped Western Kentucky 24-21 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. A win against EMU will likely catapult the Chippewas back to Detroit to face a Sun Belt or Big Ten Conference foe in the 2013 iteration of that bowl game.
“(Playing for bowl eligibility) makes practices a little easier and gives guys something to look forward to – a light at the end of the tunnel,” Enos said. “We’re going to put ourselves with a chance in Week 12 to get bowl eligibility like we did last year and have a chance to go to a bowl game.
“I think everybody knows how much fun we had last year. Those are more practices, more opportunities for you to showcase your program, and it’s good for everybody. It obviously played a part.”
Saturday’s game marked the second-ever meeting between the two MAC teams. CMU beat UMass 42-21 last season at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
Doyle finished 6 of 16 for 45 yards and three interceptions, while Shadrach Abrokwah rushed a team-high 20 times for 95 yards.
UMass (1-10, 1-6) concludes its season by hosting Ohio at 3 p.m. Saturday.