The Central Michigan Chippewas (1-0) opened their 2012 season with a 38-27 win over the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks (0-1). The Chippewas featured a dominant rushing attack, running for a total of 324 yards in the game.
Both teams looked rusty coming out of the gate. CMU only went 16 yards in five plays on their first drive. SEMO was called for four penalties on their first drive. CMU got on the board first on a 24-yard field goal from David Harman. The Redhawks responded on the next possession when speedy Spencer Davis scored on a 55-yard touchdown run. After a Ryan Radcliff interception, Drew Geldbach hit a 37-yard field goal to put SEMO ahead 10-3 with 4:26 left in the first quarter.
The Chippewas tied the game at 10-10 with a five-play, 86-yard drive capped off by a 32-yard touchdown run by junior Zurlon Tipton.
SEMO capitalized on another CMU turnover to start the second quarter. After a Tipton fumble, the Redhawks marched down the field on a six-play, 62-yard scoring driving that ended with a four-yard scamper by freshman quarterback Scott Lathrop.
Lathrop hit a wide-open D.J. Foster for a 15-yard touchdown to put up SEMO 24-10 with 7:13 minutes left in the second quarter.
CMU needed a scoring drive to get a shift in momentum and that was what they got when Tipton broke loose for 48-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit in half. Tipton broke his career high for rushing yards in the first half, with 120 yards before halftime. He would finish with 180 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.
"It was all the offensive line," Tipton said. "There were big holes tonight and I found them. They basically do my job for me. I love those guys and I made sure to tell them every time we came off the field. They did a great job."
After holding the Redhawks to a three-and-out, senior Cody Wilson returned a punt for 25 yards and the Chippewas closed the half with a two-yard Anthony Garland touchdown run to tie the game 24-24 going to the locker room. Garland had 102 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries.
"I love watching [Garland] run," Tipton said. "We feed off each other. When one person is doing well, the other person wants to step it up and make plays."
The Chippewas had two 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time since 1999.
The third quarter began with a 15-play, 52-yard SEMO drive that ended with a Drew Geldbach field goal to put the Redhawks ahead 27-24. However, after that field goal, SEMO would not score again and only had 35 yards of offense in the rest of the game.
Radcliff and the CMU offense quickly responded with a touchdown. The senior quarterback hit sophomore tight end Jarrett Fleming for a 20-yard touchdown pass to give the Chippewas a 31-27 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The touchdown was Fleming's first career touchdown reception.
Tipton had a one-yard touchdown run, his third of the night, with 7:37 left in the game to put the game out of reach for the Redhawks.
The Chippewas finished the game with zero penalties, whereas the Redhawks had nine penalties for 70 yards.
Radcliff was 14-for-23 on pass attempts for 171 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Sophomore Titus Davis led CMU in receiving with 51 yards on four catches.
Sophomore middle linebacker Justin Cherocci led the Chippewas with 15 tackles. Senior safety Jahleel Addae had 10 tackles, along with two tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks.
The Chippewas are back in action next Saturday when the Michigan State Spartans (0-0) come to Mount Pleasant. CMU head coach Dan Enos has a lot of respect for MSU and is excited for the game.
"I've been putting off talking about the game for a long time," Enos said. "We have a lot of respect for them. I think it's great for Dave Heeke and Mark Hollis putting this together for both schools. I am just happy our senior class will have a chance to play in front of a huge crowd next week. It's going to be a great atmosphere."
The clash with the Spartans is expected to break a Kelly-Shorts Stadium record for single game attendance.
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