Eastern Michigan Eagles came into this contest suffering a nine game losing streak. The Eagles had nothing to play for except pride and the chance to ruin Central Michigan Chippewas long shot hopes of obtaining a share of the MAC West Championship in the event of a catastrophe in Toledo against P.J. Fleck's Western Michigan Broncos. Down 21-7 at halftime, the Chippewas came back to come out on top 35-28.
It seemed fitting that the Eagles capitalized on Central Michigan's sluggish play on both sides of the ball to draw first blood. Eagle quarterback looked superb while engineering an 11-play, 60-yard scoring drive capped by a 6-yard strike to a wide open Sam Browning. Roback was able to overcome two procedure penalties and convert on fourth and short to keep the Eagles' drive moving.
It was Eastern looking like a team playing for a championship early on. The Eagle defense throttled CMU quarterback Cooper Rush and the Chippewa offense on its first two drives. A freak play almost changed things completely. A pick six by CMU was overturned when Brogan Roback clumsily feel on his knee just before fumbling. To add insult to CMU, a bench interference penalty was tacked on. The Chips held the Eagles to a three and out to stop the bleeding from the unkind cut. A strange first quarter ended with EMU up 7-0 and the Chips moving at the Eagles 35-yard line.
CMU kicker Brian Eavey hit the goalpost with a 47-yard field goal attempt to start the second quarter. This gave EMU quarterback Reggie Bell a chance to move the Eagles. A muffed screen pass was pounced on by CMU linebacker Nathan Ricketts.
The Chips quickly made the Eagles pay for the turnover. Romello Ross followed a caravan of blockers into the end zone for a five yard touchdown. The Chips used four plays to go 52 yards and knot the score at 7-7.
Reggie Bell's woes continued on the Eagles next drive as he was hit hard twice, once for a sack by Chippewa defensive lineman Mitch Stanitzek.
Momentum swung the Eagles was on the next CMU drive. Cooper Rush was hit hard while attempting a pass. The ball went right to Eagle linebacker Kyle Rachael who made a 35 yard dash to score a pick six. The Eagles had the lead again 14-7.
A fumble by Jahray Hayes at the EMU goal line was returned to midfield by Luke MacLean. The Eagles promptly converted on a 6 yard touchdown pass from Roback to Darius Jackson. The Eagles were now up 21-7 over the suddenly turnover happy Chippewas.
A late drive by CMU resulted in a missed 40 yard field goal. The Eagles took advantage of the numerous gifts given to them by CMU and left the field at halftime leading 21-7. It was the Eagles that looked like they had something to play for and the Chippewas looking like MAC West basement dwellers.
The question to start the second half was whether EMU could survive their first half success and close out a reeling Chippewa squad?
Momentum was fickle starting the second half. It took CMU 14 seconds to score a 63 yard touchdown on a 63 yard pass from Cooper Rush to a darting, bobbing and weaving Romello Ross.
A partially muffed punt gave CMU the ball at its own 48 yard line on CMU's next possession. The Eagles held off yet another deep threat by CMU when a fourth down pass was deflected.
More bedlam ensued on a CMU punt that resulted in mass confusion by MAC officials. There was no clear understanding where to enforce multiple penalties. Ironically, Chippewa punter Ron Coluzzi settled things by punting the ball to the 14 yard line, the identical place that the ball landed on the first kick.
The #MACtion ensued with a punt block by Kavon Frazier. Romello Ross scored his third touchdown of the game from three yards out to knot the game at 21.
It got better. A broken play resulted in Eagle receiver Austin Stone getting lost in coverage. Stone dragged Chippewa defenders inside the 10 yard line, where he was promptly stripped of the ball. Stefon Armstead run the ball back to the Chippewa 20 yard line.
A third and 14 conversion by Cooper Rush kept a sputtering CMU drive alive. Romello Ross then scored on a 17 yard run to give the Chips the lead 28-21. Ross spiked the ball in the end zone. This came back to immediately bite the Chips as EMU got great field position on the following kickoff. Darius Jackson blew thru a wide open hole up the middle on the next play to knot the game 28-28.
The #MACtion got even better. Cooper Rush broke the CMU single season passing record on the next play from scrimmage. A 78 yard pass to Mark Chapman gave CMU it's second lead 35-28 as the third quarter ended.
News broke in Kelly/Shorts stadium that the Broncos had in fact upset Toledo. The Chips were now officially fighting for a share of the MAC West championship. They didn't start out the fourth quarter so well. A blocking a receiver while out of bounds penalty negated a defensive stop deep in EMU territory. EMU was struggling offensively, but it's punter, Austin Barnes was having a outstanding game and pinned CMU inside it's 10 yard line.
The Chips responded with another drive into EMU territory. They gained 55 yards and ran off over five minutes of clock, but were forced to punt against the wind at the EMU 35 yard line. Ron Coluzzi dropped a punt down on the 3 yard line and it was the Eagles turn to be pinned deep.
CMU continued in its giving mood by twice giving life to the Eagles with personal fouls. When CMU finally held on third down, they were signaled for an illegal block on the punt return. CMU did get the ball at its own 22 yard line with 4:22 left to salt the game away.
EMU had to make a stop. It had used all of its time outs. They had CMU backed up on a third and 13 and made a play to force a punt. It was dropped by Blake Banham, but he somehow fell on it. A Roback pass on fourth and 15 ended a valiant effort by the Eagles.
CMU had hung on for a 35-28 victory in what had been a strange game on a strange day. CMU coach John Bonamego's team were unlikely MAC West co-champions.