Eastern Michigan couldn’t withstand its 14-point halftime lead against Central Michigan University on Friday, after CMU would score 28-points in the third quarter to rout the Eagles, 35-28, in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
EMU (1-11, 0-8) began the second half with a 21-7 lead, and would go three-and-out to start the third quarter. From there, CMU (7-5, 6-2) running back Romello Ross took over the game as he recorded three straight touchdowns in the third quarter alone.
The Eagles answered with a 49-yard touchdown run by Darius Jackson to tie the game at 28, but a 67-yard touchdown pass by Cooper Rush to Corey Willis gave the Chippewas the touchdown lead that would be the difference in the game.
It was a record-breaking day all around for both the Eagles and Chippewas as EMU running back Darius Jackson set a new school record for the most touchdowns in a single season at EMU with 16. Jackson also surpassed 1,000 yards rushing on the season, and finished his career as an Eagle with 1,597 total yards, putting him as the 14th all-time leading rusher at EMU.
“He’s an incredible person, he’s humble, he’s got a great heart,” said EMU coach Chris Creighton. “We’ve said it all year he’s one of our best practice players. He’s so talented, he’s bright, [and] he’s going to have so many options in life. I’m proud to have coached him.”
Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush broke a CMU school record in the game, throwing for 3,703 yards this season, surpassing Dan LeFevour’s previous record of 3,652.
The game started out just the way Eastern Michigan would have liked, forcing Central Michigan to a three-and-out, which led to an 11-play, 60-yard drive resulting in a 6-yard touchdown pass thrown by Brogan Roback to Sam Browning.
The EMU defense recorded its first interception returned for a touchdown since 2012, as redshirt freshman linebacker Kyle Rachwal picked off CMU’s Cooper Rush to take it 35-yards for a touchdown, giving EMU a 14-7 lead.
“I’m so proud of him,” Creighton said. “He was so locked in and ready to go, and he took a major step forward today. He was all over the place. He cares, he wanted to come [here] to help make this program special and he’s well on his way.”
Eastern Michigan held the Chippewas to only a touchdown in the first half of play. CMU missed a couple of field goal attempts, as well as fumbling on the Eastern Michigan goal line where Great Ibe got his helmet on the ball, and Luke MacLean would return it to the CMU 47-yard line.
That drive would later result in a touchdown, giving the Eagles a 21-7 halftime advantage.
“First half wasn’t very much to be proud of,” said CMU coach John Bonamego. “Too many mistakes and penalties. I thought Eastern had a good plan against us and executed well and better than we did in the first half.”
Opponents have outscored Eastern Michigan this season, 157-84, in the third quarter. This includes 21 points given up to Old Dominion, 28 points to Toledo, 21 points to Western Michigan and 28 points to Central Michigan.
The second half was full of mistakes by EMU with costly penalties, and a fumble following a long pass down the field.
This being the final game of the season, EMU looked to upset its rivals of Central Michigan for the first time since 2011, and end its hopes of clinching a share of the MAC West division title.
“There’s a ton of emotion in the locker room right now,” said Creighton “We have 10 guys who have finished their career as Eastern Michigan Eagles. We wanted for those guys so badly to end on a winning note. Our guys put their heart and soul into trying to come out victorious today, had opportunities to do that, and for us to have lost the game is really hard.”
Although the Eagles finished the season 1-11, Creighton said he will not define this program based on its record just yet.
“It absolutely hurts, we’ve had two good weeks of practice,” said Creighton “There’s winners and losers, and my definition of winner is a winner never gives up. The intensity and the passion and the effort and the attitude was awesome. That’s not a losing program. Then you come into the last week of the season, and you’re practicing hard, you want to be there, you’re getting better and you’re putting all that preparation into that last game, and it wasn’t lack of effort, it was lack of want to, we didn’t make plays and we got beat.”