The looks of dejection on the Central Michigan sideline were decidedly heartbreaking. Devon Spalding had a costly turnover off the heels of a Josh Cox endzone interception that gave the ball back to the Chippewas, and Oklahoma State decided to milk the clock as long as possible.
With 55 seconds to go, John Bonamego, the CMU head coach, called his final timeout to salvage any hope of getting the ball back. It was not meant to be, as Oklahoma State managed to run out the clock and win the game. Or so it seemed.
Mason Rudolph was still in the pocket on the game-ending throw and no receivers were in the area on the fourth-down play, which meant that there was to be one remaining untimed down for Central Michigan.
Cooper Rush and the Chippewas offense took the ball at their 49. Rush fell back into the pocket, avoided a sack and tossed the ball to Jesse Kroll, who caught the ball at the OKST 9. It looked like Kroll was about to be tackled, as two Cowboy defenders rained down on him, but at the last moment, Kroll lateraled the ball to Corey Willis, who ran it 50 yards the long way across the field to dive in for a 9-yard touchdown, stealing a win from the jaws of defeat.
HELL YEAH YES YES YES YES YES CHIPPEWAS WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT AHHHHHHHH pic.twitter.com/PfaYu5MyG1— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) September 10, 2016
Cooper Rush managed to shrug off a bad interception from the drive before and throw the winning play, which had shades of the famous “Hurricane Play” from the 2014 Bahamas Bowl against Western Kentucky. Rush finished 30/42 for 361 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, outpacing his peer Mason Rudolph, who finished 27/44 for 286 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Tyler Conklin, a tight end who transferred to CMU from D-II Northwood University, led the charge with seven receptions for 96 yards and two touchdowns for the Chippewas, while Jesse Kroll (6 rec., 91 yards) and Corey Willis (4 rec., 30 yards, one touchdown) also contributed on offense.
Devon Spalding was the leading running back for a team that traditionally struggles with running the ball, finishing with 77 total yards, including a 42-yard receiving touchdown.
Oklahoma State took advantage early thanks to a hurry-up offense predicated on wearing down the opponent. Jalen McClesky led the Pokes with 11 rec., 113 yards and a touchdown, while James Washington (5 rec., 69 yards) and Zac Veatch (1 rec., 18 yards) also scored touchdowns. Chris Carson (4 rec, 52 yards) was also a contributor.
The CMU defense kept the Cowboys offense in check, holding the team to 58 yards on 25 touches on the ground and 1-11 on third-down conversions. (In that statistic, CMU was 8-15.)
Central Michigan also dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for 35 minutes and 27 seconds, converting multiple third-and-long opportunities, including a third-and-twenty for a Conklin touchdown.
The victory is revenge of sorts against OK State, who walked away with a 24-13 victory in Mt. Pleasant in last season’s opener for both squads.
Next week, CMU (2-0) will host UNLV Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EST on ESPN3, while Oklahoma State (1-1) will host Pittsburgh at 2:30 p.m. EST on ESPN proper.