So close. The Eastern Michigan University football team had victory escape them again in the second half of their 34-31 home loss to their Mid-American Conference rival the Central Michigan Chippewas. The Eagles are now 1-9 (0-6 MAC) on the season while CMU is 4-6 (2-4 MAC).
EMU had a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, only to be outscored 31-7 the next two quarters.
“I respected the way our guys played today,” EMU head coach Ron English said. “We haven’t found that consistency yet, but we are playing tough.”
The Eagles took advantage of a fumble by CMU wide receiver Titus Davis on the Chippewas’ first play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Eagle quarterback Tyler Benz found tight end Tyreese Russell for an 18-yard touchdown pass.
On their next drive, EMU lined up for a 39-yard field goal. Holder Alex Gillett took the direct snap and ran right through the CMU defense for a 21-yard score to cap off a 17-play drive.
CMU outscored the Eagles in the second quarter 10-0. The Chippewas scored their touchdown following a costly interception thrown by Benz, cutting EMU’s lead to 14-10 at halftime.
The second half saw a surprising change at quarterback, as the senior Gillett took over under center for the sophomore Benz.
“I thought [Gillett] gave us the best chance to win,” English said.
Gillett opened up the second half with a 53-yard touchdown run on the opening drive to regain a double-digit lead at 21-10.
However, the momentum turned completely in CMU’s favor after the touchdown.
The Chippewas’ ensuing drive took 11 plays before running back Zurlon Tipton capped the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run.
CMU took their first lead of the game on EMU’s next drive when defensive back Kavon Frazier intercepted a Gillett pass and returned it 49 yards for another Chippewa touchdown. CMU then finished off the quarter with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Radcliff to receiver Andrew Flory, their second touchdown connection of the game, to give CMU a ten point lead, 31-21.
The two teams traded field goals to start the fourth quarter.
The turning point in the game was when EMU failed to convert on fourth down and two at the CMU 45-yard line with 5:08 left in the game. The Eagles scored a touchdown on their next drive, a 25-yard pass from Gillett to receiver Jay Jones, but there was only 1:37 remaining on the clock.
A failed onside kick attempt and then a Tipton 32-yard run on a third and two sealed the Eagles’ fate.
“What we are trying to do now is improve for next season,” English said. “A lot of young guys are on the team that we need to develop.”
The Eagles travel to Kalamazoo next weekend to play a 1 p.m. game against the Western Michigan University Broncos.