Mount Pleasant. Michigan was anything but on Homecoming weekend, as a kickoff temperature of 52 degrees to go along with sopping rain and brisk winds made for a miserable day in the office for both the Central Michigan Chippewas (4-3, 2-1 MAC) and Akron Zips (1-6, 0-3 MAC) as they faced off in a cross-division tilt.
The hosting Chippewas would ultimately move to 3-0 on home turf, stifling several late Akron runs to walk away with a 17-10 victory over the visitors.
Both sides were unsteady to start the game, with Tristan Mattson missing a 49-yard field goal on the game’s opening possession for CMU. Elation for CMU after forcing an Akron three-and-out faded into frustration as Jase Bauer tossed the ball directly into the mitts of a waiting Devonte Golden-Nelson on third-and-10 at the Zips 49-yard line to kill a drive— a turnover the Zips would convert into points on a Noah Perez field goal from 40 yards out to go up 3-0 at the 6:19 mark.
CMU’s found themselves stymied once again on their next drive, killing seven minutes of clock over 14 plays before Jase Bauer would toss his second interception in as many possessions, this time to KJ Martin, who hopped in front of Chris Parker to field an underthrown ball.
Revenge was found just three plays later, as safety Trey Jones picked off Bullard to give the Chippewas the ball back at their own 19-yard line, but the Chips couldn’t cash in. Instead, both teams exchanged two punts apiece after some truly frustrating drives, with CMU picking up 14 yards on eight plays and Akron picking up two yards on nine plays.
Another Mattson miss from about 52 yards out gifted Akron the ball in good territory at their own 34-yard line, but the CMU defense came up strong once again to force an Akron punt, leaving enough time for Mattson to try a 58-yard field goal with 1:03 remaining.
Mattson hit it, not only putting CMU on the board for a 3-3 tie, but also picking up individual accolades. The 58-yarder set a program record, surpassing Rade Savich’s 57-yarder vs. Ball State back in 1975, and also set the new record for longest kick at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
The teams would go into the break tied, but the last offensive drive was enough to awaken something in the Chippewas, as Marcus Badgett fell under a tipped pass intended for Daniel George to start the second half and Jase Bauer scored a rushing touchdown from five yards out to go up 10-3 at the 12:16 mark of the third quarter.
CMU would add on their lead yet again with 1:01 remaining in the third quarter, as Myles Bailey capped off an 18-play, 76-yard drive over 9:36 of game clock with a two-yard rushing touchdown, cashing in yet another quick Akron punt for points.
Jeff Undercuffler Jr. would replace Bullard late in the contest, tossing a 14-yard touchdown pass to Alex Adams to break the 17-point unanswered streak with 12:42 remaining in the game, but their subsequent drives led to two punts and a turnover-on-downs on the last play, giving CMU the 17-10 win at triple zeroes.
This game was all about the defenses, with both teams combining for 12 punts and four turnovers on the day.
CMU held Akron to 193 yards total on 53 plays, with two interceptions, a forced fumble, 10 total first downs and 3-of-16 on third-down attempts, forcing seven punts. They also collected nine QB hits, five tackles-for-loss and a sack on the day.
Linebacker Dakota Cochran led the day for the Chips, with 10 tackles, a TFLs and a forced fumble, while Maurice White (four tackles) held the team’s sole sack of the day. Michael Heldman led the team with two tackles-for-loss, while Marcus Badgett and Trey Jones each hauled in an interception. Six Chippewas recorded a pass break-up apiece.
There will be some worry about linebacker and team captain Kyle Moretti, who was seen with his right leg in a brace and on crutches after getting hurt during the Badgett interception return in the third quarter. Moretti finished with two tackles, a pass break-up and a QB hit on the day.
Akron also held CMU relatively close, with 298 yards allowed on 82 plays, with two interceptions, a forced fumble, eight tackles-for-loss, nine QB hits and two sacks, while also forcing five punts.
Linebacker Darrian Lewis led all players with 14 tackles and also registered two TFLs and a half-sack. Battery mate Antavious Fish was right beside him with 13 tackles on the day as the only Zips to finish in double-digits. KJ Martin and Devonte Golden-Nelson each had an interception, while four players combined for Akron’s two sacks on the day and CJ Nunnally led the team in QB hits (three).
As a result of the good defensive play, offense was a bit hard to come by, but there were several notable performances.
Jase Bauer once again started at quarterback for CMU, finishing 17-of-32 for 181 yards and two interceptions through the air while leading the CMU rushing attack with 61 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Bert Emanuel Jr. did not play due to a shoulder injury suffered vs. EMU two weeks ago.
Myles Bailey finished with 28 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, while Marion Lukes had 24 yards on 14 carries. Bailey also had an additional five receptions to lead the Chippewas, with 40 yards gained.
Tahj Bullard got his second career start in place of DJ Irons (ACL), finishing 6-of-17 yards for 45 yards and two interceptions through the air while picking up an additional 42 yards on the ground on six carries. Jeff Undercuffler Jr. led the team’s only touchdown drive, and was 10-of-16 for 78 yards.
Lorenzo Lingard (45 yards on 10 carries) led the Zips in rushing, while Daniel George (three receptions, 36 yards) led in receiving. Alex Adams caught the lone touchdown.
CMU looks to continue their winning streak on the road against Ball State, while Akron is set to take on Bowling Green at Doyt Perry Stadium. Both games are scheduled for next Saturday.