The Central Michigan Chippewas (8-4, 6-2 MAC) are in the MAC Championship game coming up this Saturday, Dec. 2, at noon EST. It’s a feat that they’re in this position as it is; the Chippewas had a program-worst 1-11 record in 2018, with no wins over FBS competition. The 2019 version of the Chips has rode one of the most efficient offenses in the MAC to Detroit, scoring an average of 32.8 points per game (41st in the country) to run over opponents.
They secured their first outright MAC West title since 2009 with a rousing 49-7 victory against Toledo, an opportunity afforded to them thanks to a 4-7 NIU upsetting then-MAC West leader (and CMU blood rival) WMU on Tuesday night.
It’s an effort that’s reminiscent of the legendary 2009 Chippewas squad, who also rode an extremely efficient offense all the way to Detroit, holding an 10-2 record when they faced the Ohio Bobcats. That CMU offense averaged an impressive 33.9 points per game (13th in the country) with Butch Jones, future Cincinnatti Tennessee head coach, at the helm of his first FBS coaching job.
They were led at quarterback by the incomparable Dan LeFevour, who is widely considered one of the best to ever do the Maroon and Gold. LeFevour was perhaps at his best in the 2009 season, finishing the year 318-of-456 passing for 3,438 yards, 24 passing touchdowns and 7 interceptions to go along with 713 yards and 15 touchdowns on 183 carries. He would go on to set fire to the CMU and MAC record books en route to leading CMU to its only appearance in the AP Top 25 poll, several of which still stand today, including “touchdowns responsible for” and “total yards.”
LeFevour was also the Chippewas’ leading rusher, as he was the point man on the read-option look Jones ran. Assisting him in the rushing department was Bryan Schroder (100 carries, 559 yards, five touchdowns) and Carl Volny (82 carries, 390 yards, three touchdowns.)
At wide receiver, the Chippewas sported two All-Americans in Bryan Anderson (who was once called “The Best College Receiver You’ve Never Heard Of” and Antonio Brown. Anderson (64 receptions, 784 yards, seven touchdowns), a physical six-foot-five receiver, played opposite a shifty five-foot-ten Brown (110 rec., 1,198 yards, nine touchdowns), and the two played extremely important roles in the offense, giving LeFevour several different options for big plays. Kito Poblah (53 rec., 681 yards, four touchdowns) was another outside receiver CMU used to their advantage in certain situations who would go on to have a successful career in the CFL.
The defense was led by two future NFL’ers in linebackers Nick Bellore (132 tackles, 13 tackles-for-loss, three sacks, two interceptions) and Frank Zombo (45 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss, six sacks), with senior Matt Berning (108 total tackles, 8.5 tackles-for-loss, three sacks) helping form one of the stiffest LB corps in the country.
The secondary was formed with Kirkston Edwards (73 tackles, four tackles-for-loss), Bobby Seay (59 tackles, two passes defenses), Dannie Bolden (51 tackles, two interceptions) and future professional Josh Gordy (53 tackles, three interceptions,)
Brown led the special teams unit in punt and kick return duties, returning 55 kicks/punts for 1,043 yards and three (!!!) return touchdowns in 2009. Andrew Aguila handled placekicking in his senior season, finishing 17-of-23 on field goals and totaling 106 points. Brett Hartmann averaged 38.4 net yards on 48 punts in his junior season.
Future pros from this version of the Chippewas would include LeFevour, Brown, Poblah, Bellore, Zombo, Gordy, Hartmann, Jahleel Addae, Eric Fisher and the late Zurlon Tipton (all true freshman in ‘09).
Other major contributors in the Enos years from the ‘09 season include Ryan Radcliffe, Cody Wilson, Paris Cotton, Jake Olsen and David Harman.
The Chippewas faced the 9-3 Ohio Bobcats, champions of the MAC East, on Friday, Dec. 4, 2009, and would go on to capture the MAC title by a final score of 20-10 in front of a national TV audience.
Dan LeFevour tied Chad Pennington’s mark for career passing touchdowns on his first scoring try to true freshman Cody Wilson, and later broke the mark with his touchdown toss to Bryan Anderson. The toss to Wilson in the first quarter also established LeFevour as the top player in touchdowns responsible for in FBS history (148 total touchdowns.) He’d go on to add to those marks in the GMAC Bowl vs. Troy.
Antonio Brown also extended an unbelievable 40-game catch streak in the game, finishing with eight catches for 66 yards, and crossed the 1,000 yard mark for 2009 in the game, giving Brown his third 1,000-yard season in a row.
Bryan Anderson also moved up to fifth all-time in MAC history in career receiving yards with 3,564 yards (prior to the GMAC Bowl) with his 54 yard, one touchdown performance against Ohio.
The defense also played a huge role in securing the victory, limiting QB Theo Scott to 10-of-23 for 138 yards, forcing Ohio to pull out their bag of tricks for their lone touchdown. The Bobcats couldn’t get anything going on the ground either, limiting their leading rusher Chris Garrett to 42 yards on 13 carries and the team to 108 yards total.
The win was CMU’s third in the championship game, putting them at second-best in the MAC behind Marshall (5) at the time, and moved CMU to seven conference titles since joining the MAC in 1975.
After the MAC title game, CMU would complete one of the all-time postseason comebacks in the 2009 GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, against the Sun Belt champion Troy Trojans, coming back from down 31-19 in the fourth quarter to take away a 44-41 victory in 2OT. The win secured the Chippewas the #23 spot in the final AP Top 25.
Now, the 2019 Central Michigan Chippewas have a chance to build upon that legacy if they can pull off the victory against Miami.