When the fourth quarter started, Eastern Michigan (0-4) was leading by a score of 20 to 6. CMU starting quarterback Daniel Richardson had been carted off with a nasty leg injury, and the CMU offense had been completely sick in the EMU redzone, converting four trips inside the Eagles’ 20 yard line or better into only three points.
EMU, meanwhile, was in the midst of yet another Preston Hutchison coronation party, as the Eagles QB had accounted for both of EMU’s touchdowns on the ground and was showing an impressive arm all throughout the game, piling up 215 yards by halftime.
But on a Black Friday night, anything can happen, and anything is most certainly what happened to EMU, as they coughed up a doule-digit lead in the fourth quarter and found themselves trailing late in the game to go home with a 31-23 loss to rival Central Michigan (3-1).
The game started off fairly competitively, with Hutchison converting a three-yard rushing touchdown to open up the scoreboard and put EMU up 7-0 at the 11:58 mark in the first quarter. CMU picked up two field goals on back-to-back possessions after that, including a career-long 51-yarder from freshman Marshall Meeder, to bring the score to 7-6 with 2:12 remaining in the opening frame.
EMU would go on to post a 13-point run, with two Chad Ryland field goals and a 20 yard Hutchison rushing touchdown to push the margin to 20-6 with just under four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
CMU had next to nothing going for them in the redzone prior to the fourth quarter. Outside of the field goal to put the Chippweas on the board, CMU had a 12-yard Kobe Lewis touchdown called back due to holding, an apparent Lew Nichols touchdown punched out by Alvinoski LaFleur for a touchback, and a fourth-down conversion at the goal line stuffed. Another promising drive at the end of the first half resulted in a bad Daniel Richardson interception, stuffing any hope of a last-minute score.
The Wildcat offense was extremely limited as well, with EMU stopping the majority of those plays at or behind the line.
Things went from bad to worse for Richardson and the Chippewas on the next drive, as Rchardson had a strange run for a first down, fumbled the ball while getting stood up, and was eventually crushed into the bottom of a pile, suffering a severe leg injury.
This left Ty Brock to run the offense from the third quarter on, and with a more traditional offense in tow, the Chippewas began to mount a comeback.
At the 14:02 mark in the fourth quarter, Lew Nichols ran nine yards to make the score 20-12 EMU at the end of a 15-play, 75-yard drive lasting over four minutes. Drayton Law pulled in the two-point conversion on a Ty Brock cross-field pass to make it a one-possession game at 20-14.
Eastern Michigan would start the following drive on their own 40-yard line, only to stall at the Central Michigan 11 after a poorly executed offensive lineman screen, which drew a penalty. Chad Ryland would kick the field gold to make it a two-score game again.
Central Michigan would execute a workmanlike drive from there, with a 12-play, 75-yard drvie capped off by the Lew Nichols rushing touchdown to make it 23-21 in EMU’s favor.
This is where it all went wrong for EMU.
The ensuing drive started on their own 10 yard line, and CMU would call timeout after a three-yard run by Hutchison to present 2nd and 7 from the EMU 13. The very next play, there was an apparent miscommunication between Hutchison and running back Samson Evans, as Hutchison kept the handoff, stepped forward in the option, then tossed it backwards to Evans, who couldn’t hold on with incoming pressure, forcing a fumble, recovered by CMU DE Amir Siddiq.
The Eastern Michigan defense would hold the Chippewas to a field goal in the end, but CMU would still pick up the 24-21 lead, their first of the game, with 2:31 to go.
The next Eastern Michigan drive would be a short one, as Preston Hutchinson’s pass bounced off Tanner Knue’s hands and off of the helmet of Central Michigan’s Donte Kent before landing in the falling hands of Devonni Reed in an acrobatic effort.
Kobe Lewis would convert a nine-yard touchdown at the end of the ensuing drive (in which he picked up all 47 yards,) pushing the score to 31-23 in Central’s favor.
In a last ditch effort, Eastern Michigan would attempt to make a game of it, but that went out the window when Central Michigan’s Donte Kent, whose head made the previous drive possible, picked off the pass to seal the deal.
It was part of a 25-6 second-half run, including a 17-point unanswered run from the 8:59 mark onwards in the fourth quarter, which helped CMU pick up a win from the jaws of defeat.
Preston Hutchinson would put up decent numbers, going 23-of-37 for 365 yards and two rushing touchdowns, with thre interceptions. The Eastern Michigan ground game would only net 74 yards with quaterback Preston Hutchinson getting 57 of those yards. Hassan Beydoun picked up eight receptions for 100 yards to lead all receivers, while Tanner Knue (six receptions, 91 yards) and Bryson Cannon (two receptions, 86 yards) also helped pace the EMU attack.
Central Michigan’s Lew Nichols would almost triple the Eastern Michigan ground game by himself, rushing for 195 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. He was followed by Kobe Lewis with 106 yards and his touchdown. Before his unfortunate injury, Daniel Richardson was 14-for-20 for 118 yards. In his stead, Ty Brock went 9-for-15 for 62 yards. Dallas Dixon led CMU recievers with 83 yards on three receptions, while Kobe Lewis (seven receptions, 36 yards) and JaCorey Sullivan (five recptions, 46 yards) also topped the charts. But with the numbers their ground game was getting, the passing was just the icing on the cake.
Defensively, Devonni Reed, Willie Reid and Donte Kent all picked up interceptions for CMU, while Alonzo McCoy and Troy Hariston had a fumble recovery each. Mohammed Diallo, the Texas A&M transfer, was a force to be reckoned with, picking up 3.5 tackles-for-loss and two sacks. Troy Hairston led the defensive unit with 11 total tackles.
Eastern Michigan also had a good defensive day, especially early, as an impressive five deensive players picked up double digit tackles, including game leader Terry Myrick (17,) Kempton Shine (14), Korey Hernandez and Tariq Speights (12 apiece) and Noski LaFleur (11.). LaFleur and Hernandez also recorded a forced fumble each, while Myrick and Shine both notched recoveries. As au unit, EMU had four tackles-for-loss and no sacks.
Eastern Michigan travels to Western Michigan (3-0) next Saturday, while Central will host Ball State (2-1) on the same day.