There is such a power in "what if".
What if this happened? What about that?
Saturday's annual CMU-WMU rivalry had plenty of "what ifs".
What if Dan Enos sticks to the run-first gameplan and continues to stuff Zurlon Tipton down the Broncos' throats all game? What if he loses the game?
What if Austin Lewis doesn't drop a sure interception in his hands that stops a Chippewa scoring drive? What if Zach Terrell hits his receivers in their hands more often? What if Andrew Haldeman doesn't miss a 32 yard field goal in the 4th quarter?
In the end, the game played out how it did and Enos escaped with a 27-22 victory and just barely holding his job. It doesn't matter the score, his CMU team got the win and ended a 2-game WMU win streak in the rivalry.
Central Michigan jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead after Tipton powered the Chippewas with strong runs. After just 9 first quarter carries, the senior running back had a pair of rushing touchdowns and 49 yards rushing, and it appeared WMU just wouldn't have any answer on defense for a decently balanced attack.
Then, after Ron Coluzzi missed a 41-yard field goal on the Chippewas 3rd drive of the game, Tipton did the unthinkable: he fumbled on the first play of a CMU drive mid-way through the 2nd quarter. That fumble would seemingly open the floodgates for an exciting 2nd half, as Haldeman would make a 33-yard field goal off of the turnover.
Both teams would then fail to get anything going and we'd head to yet another wild 2nd half in the series.
After WMU stalled out near mid-field to start the half, Travonte Boles tipped and intercepted a Cooper Rush pass on 3rd down to set the Broncos up with great field position. It would only take one play, a 29-yard rush by Dareyon Chance, for Western to capitalize.
Then came the most questionable call of the afternoon. After those events happened, instead of calling a run, Enos would dial up another Rush pass. The call would be huge, as Demetrius Pettway would corral the arrant pass for the Broncos' 2nd straight interception on as many defensive plays. A Haldeman 21-yard field goal would give Western Michigan a 16-14 lead, and a ton of momentum.
Then came the shift.
On the next Chippewa drive, a mix of Tipton rushes, and Titus Davis key catches paced Central Michigan down to the WMU 23 yard line. On 2nd-and-10, Rush dropped back to pass and threw another poor throw. The ball would hit freshman line-backer Austin Lewis right in the hands, but Lewis could not hang on the interception. On the next play, Davis would catch a 14 yard pass, and Rush would hit Mike Kinville to regain the lead at 20-16 (WMU blocked the ensuing PAT).
After that, Zach Terrell seemed to freeze up.
On the very first play of the ensuing drive, Terrell threw his lone interception of the day. Unfortunately for Bronco fans, it was to a WIDE open Tony Annese, who easily took it to the house for a 27-16 lead and the huge swing of momentum right as the 3rd quarter was set to end.
Terrell would then gain some composure back, completing his first two passes of the 4th quarter, but would then get shut down the rest of the way.
After a Maurice Shoemaker-Gilmore fumble on the first play of a CMU drive early in the quarter, Terrell would show his mobility by scrambling for an 18 yard gain down to the Chippewa 1. Brian Fields would punch it in to make it 27-22 before the Broncos failed on a 2-point conversion.
Almost on cue, the Chippewas turned the ball over again. This time, on the 2nd play of the ensuing drive (after a Tipton loss of 3). The play? Copper Rush trying to throw the ball away. Again, Rush didn't have his accuracy, and Justin Currie tip-toed the sideline to swing the momentum back to WMU.
However, Zach Terrell would throw 4 incompletions to go with 4 straight misses before the drive. If not for a pair of big runs by Chance, Western Michigan would punt again. Nevertheless, the Broncos set up for another short field goal, this time from 32 yards out. This time, the sure footed Haldeman pushed the ball wide left, keeping it a touchdown game.
The Broncos would get the ball back just 3 plays later after stuffing Tipton on 3rd-and-3. A 52 yard punt by Richie Hogan, his only action of the day, would set up the Broncos with a potential game-winning drive from their own 19 yard line and 6:29 to go.
Between Chippewa penalties for defensive holding and pass interference, and Chance rushing all over the CMU defense, the Broncos would get down to the Central 25 yard line. In that span, Terrell would also snap his incompletion streak at 9 passes after hitting Clark Mussman for 6 yards. But Terrell would again struggle shortly after. After failing to hit Corey Davis and Mussman on 2nd and 3rd down respectively, Terrell would overthrow Davis on a throw down the middle to turn the ball over on downs with just 1:36 left. Central would run out the clock.
So Enos escapes with bowl eligibility still intact and a win over rival Western Michigan. P.J. Fleck now looks at a probable 1-11 season with a trip to NIU left on the schedule next Tuesday. CMU will host UMass this Saturday.
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