Central Michigan surprised Western Kentucky in Wednesday night's Little Caesars Bowl, defeating the Hilltoppers, 24-21, after a late Western Kentucky fourth-down conversion attempt fell incomplete. The Chippewas finish their season 7-6, as do the Hilltoppers.
Central Michigan started the scoring early, when quarterback Ryan Radcliff connected with Andrew Flory on a 69-yard touchdown pass. Western Kentucky struck back immediately, with a quarterback throwback play resulting in a 70-yard pass from Kawaun Jakes to Rico Brown. The completion set up Jakes for a six-yard game-tying touchdown run. A Hilltopper facemask penalty extended the Chippewas' second drive, allowing Radcliff to again connect with Flory on a score, this time from 29 yards. A CMU field goal and Jakes touchdown pass wrapped up the first-half scoring, as Central Michigan took a 17-14 lead to the break.
The breakneck pace of the first half slowed to a crawl in the second. The teams exchanged punts to open the third quarter, before Western Kentucky embarked on an epic 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that took up 9:23 of the clock and ended in a one-yard Kadeem Jones touchdown run.
Central Michigan responded with a lengthy drive of its own, taking the ball 65 yards to the Western Kentucky five-yard line, where the Chippewas had 1st and goal. The Hilltopper defense stiffened, though, and Central Michigan halfback Zurlon Tipton was stopped at the goal line on fourth down. A WKU punt from its own end zone gave the Chippewas excellent field position, and Central Michigan cashed in with an 11-yard touchdown reception by Cody Wilson to take a 24-21 lead. After the ensuing kickoff gave them the ball at their own 26, the Hilltoppers drove to the Central Michigan 19, converting three crucial third downs along the way. Western Kentucky decided to forego a game-tying 36-yard field goal attempt on fourth down, and an incomplete pass attempt ended the Hilltoppers' hopes.
Central Michigan's Radcliff threw 29 times, completing 19 passes for 253 yards and three scores. Receivers Wilson and Flory both topped 100 yards receiving. Tipton finished with 23 carries for 101 yards.
Western Kentucky halfback Antonio Andrews led the Hilltopper attack, running 27 times for 199 yards. Quarterback Jakes did not have a great night, finishing 14/23 passing for 199 yards and one touchdown.