MT. PLEASANT, MICH. — For the first time since 2010, the Central Michigan football team has won the Michigan MAC Trophy.
By beating its visiting rival Eastern Michigan 42-10 in front of an announced crowd of 5,214 in the regular season finale on Black Friday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, CMU won the Michigan MAC Trophy for the fourth time, clinched bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season and improved its current winning streak to three games.
“This is part of the foundation we’re building,” said CMU coach Dan Enos. “We were 4-4 in the league last year, and we’re 5-3 in the league this year. That’s a step up, and that’s what we want to do.
“To be bowl eligible, that’s every team’s goal. We played a difficult schedule this year. We played seven of our first ten games on the road. We had numerous injuries throughout the year and even today we had key guys out. It’s a credit to our staff, senior leadership and the depth that we’re building to put players out there.”
The Chippewas are the seventh bowl eligible team in the Mid-American Conference. Although it is bowl eligible, CMU needs a lot of help to receive a bowl invite. Last season, the Chippewas defeated Western Kentuckiy 24-21 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.
CMU (6-6, 5-3 MAC) scored 21 points before EMU’s offense notched its first points. Zurlon Tipton, the 221-pound bruising tailback, led the Chippewas with 20 rushes for 216 yards and a career-tying four touchdowns. He scored on runs of 4, 1 and 24 yards, and he also busted off an 86-yard touchdown in the second quarter, punishing one defender in his way. Quarterback Cooper Rush finished 9 of 14 passing for 92 yards.
“(Tipton) had some big runs,” the fourth-year coach said. “We wanted to run the ball this week. We really challenged our guys all week. We didn’t think we ran the ball well last week, and we really made that a point of emphasis.
“Today I thought he hung in there pretty good. He made some good cuts and had his pads down. He got yards, goal line runs and obviously had the explosive runs.”
The Chippewas played particularly well on special teams. To start the second half, Chippewas returner Courtney Williams returned the opening kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown which gave CMU a 28-10 lead over the Eagles. EMU returner Tyler Allen entered the contest ranked fourth in the nation with 900 return yards. However, CMU held Allen to only 114 yards on six returns.
CMU also celebrated Senior Day prior to kickoff on the field and honored 20 players taking their final snaps at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Enos said about graduating his seniors. “It’s like I told them in the locker room, I can say something about every one of those guys.
“We tried to build an environment here where players are disciplined, held to task and we hold them accountable to academics first. We make them work extremely hard and buy into the team first. We love them like our own family. This group of seniors is very special and have done a tremendous job.”
Bronson Hill set the pace for the EMU offense, as he rushed 25 times for 167 yards. At the end of the second quarter, he became the first EMU rusher since 2003 to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in a single season. It was the ninth 100-yard game of his three-year career.
EMU (2-10, 1-7) concludes its season marred by coaching controversy, poor home attendance and lousy recruiting. The Eagles relieved Ron English of his head coaching duties for using “wholly inappropriate language” around his players one day prior to their matchup against WMU earlier this season. English boasted an 11-46 during his five seasons in Ypsilanti. Offensive coordinator Stan Parrish replaced English as interim head coach and led the Eagles to a 1-3 record to close out the year.
CMU is now tied with EMU for most Michigan MAC Trophy titles (4) and has previously won the award in 2006, 2009 and 2010. Both the Chippewas and the Eagles beat rival Western Michigan earlier in the season to set up Friday’s winner-takes-all rivalry trophy contest. CMU entered the game as an 18.5-point favorite against EMU and now leads the all-time series against the Eagles 57-28-6.