Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky, Pizza Bowl recap: Zero damns given

Mark A. Cunningham

WKU interim coach Lance Guidry went unconventional in the final minute, and it didn't quite pay off. CMU, meanwhile, does not give a damn that they entered the postseason as a very lightly regarded bowl team.

0. Damns given by Western Kentucky interim coach Lance Guidry. The Hilltoppers' defensive coordinator, in what was likely his final game on the WKU staff, with Bobby Petrino taking over soon, pulled out all of the stops in his second-ever game as a college head coach (he was also Miami (Ohio)'s interim coach in the 2011 GoDaddy.com Bowl). He went with a double-pass trick play on WKU's first offensive snap; then, in the ultimate, "Screw it, it's a bowl game and I'm an interim coach," move, he decided to forego a 36-yard field goal with 51 seconds remaining, choosing instead to go for it on fourth-and-2 from CMU's 19-yard line. A tough pass from quarterback Kawaun Jakes to tight end Jack Doyle fell to the turf, and WKU fell three points short.

Freshman kicker Garrett Schwettman was 9-for-11 on field goals under 40 yards this season, and he most likely could have sent the game to overtime with a semi-chipshot, but ... screw it, it's a bowl game, and I'm an interim coach.

2. Dropped interceptions by Western Kentucky. On CMU's first possession, Kiante Young stepped in front of a Ryan Radcliff pass for what should have been an easy pick, but couldn't hold on. On the next play, Radcliff found redshirt freshman Andrew Flory for a 69-yard touchdown. Then, in CMU's first possession of the second half, Jonathan Dowling stepped in front of a third-and-3 pass and dropped what was not only a sure pick, but a sure pick six. WKU drove for a field goal on the ensuing drive, but ... they could have used those four extra points.

2.9. Average yards per play for WKU in non-scoring drives. Yes, in the end this game was most directly defined by some missed opportunities for the Hilltoppers, but make no mistake: CMU earned this win.

The Chippewas' defense, maligned all season and one of the lowest-rated of any bowl-eligible team, held WKU to a respectable 327 total yards, 177 of which came on just five plays (including the aforementioned 70-yard double-pass). On a down-for-down basis, the Chippewas contained most of what WKU wanted to do; star running back Antonio Andrews gained just 140 yards on 32 touches (27 carries for 119 yards, five pass targets for 21 yards), just 4.4 yards per touch. And aside from the 70-yard bomb, Jakes gained just 124 yards in 24 pass attempts. WKU went three-and-out five times, and despite some quality punting, WKU got crushed in the field position battle as a result. Average starting field position: CMU 29.5, WKU 18.4. CMU created more scoring opportunities and eventually scored just enough to win.

9. Senior starters on this CMU squad. Quite honestly, this wasn't a very good CMU team. The Chippewas ranked just 97th in F/+ heading into bowl season, just behind teams like UTEP, Memphis and UAB and just ahead of teams like Army, Buffalo and Kansas. They went 3-0 in one-possession games to not only reach bowl eligibility but finish 7-6, but here's the deal: they did go 3-0 in those games, and they did finish 7-6.

Now they head into 2013 with some key pieces to replace on offense -- namely, quarterback Ryan Radcliff, three starting offensive linemen and possession receiver Cody Wilson (13 targets, 10 catches, 101 yards last night) -- but the new starting quarterback (probably junior-to-be Cody Kater or sophomore Alex Niznak) will have running back Zurlon Tipton on his side, along with receivers Titus Davis, bowl hero Andrew Flory and Courtney Williams. The Chippewas should be fun again in 2013, and they will have the opportunity to improve a bit, as well.

105. Receiving yards for Flory. CMU milked some early explosiveness for all it was worth, gaining 140 yards in its first 14 plays from scrimmage. Two of those plays were Flory touchdowns that gained a total of 89 yards. The Chippewas gained just 253 yards and scored just 10 points the rest of the way, but the early cushion was key. Flory entered the game with a fantastic, and small, stat line: 19 targets, 14 catches, 235 yards. He served as Titus Davis' backup in 2012, and Davis' suspension opened the door for Flory to come up big, and the redshirt freshman did just that. And again, in 2013, both Davis and Flory could serve as an explosive one-two punch for CMU's new starting quarterback, whoever that might be.

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