by CFP Staff
December 26, 2012
Central Michigan and Western Kentucky finished the season with 7-6 records after the Chippewas upset the Hilltoppers 24-21 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Western Kentucky was vying to become a winner on its very first trip to a FBS bowl game as a 9.37-point favorite in the Congrove Computer Rankings and had a chance to force overtime, but elected to go for a first down on 4th-and-2 at the CMU 19-yard line with 51 seconds remaining. The attempted pass from Kawaun Jakes to Jack Doyle fell incomplete and the Chippewas ran out the clock in victory formation.
Interim head coach Lance Guidry made the call. The defensive coordinator under Willie Taggart now steps aside from incoming head coach Bobby Petrino after Taggart accepted the same position at USF.
Central Michigan improved its bowl record to 3-5 and has won back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history, though the victories were three seasons apart.
Neither team was impressive in the regular season, though each defeated a BCS AQ school as Central Michigan topped Iowa and Western Kentucky squeaked past Kentucky. The Hilltoppers also handed Arkansas State its only loss and their only nonconference loss came at Alabama.
The Chippewas got here by closing their campaign a 3-game winning streak and winning four of their last five over the bottom three teams from the MAC East (Miami, Akron and Massachusetts), and the last-place team in the MAC west (Eastern Michigan). CMU didn't win a single game all year against a team that finished with more than 4 wins.
But tonight's game was another example of how little the regular season can mean in a bowl game.
Ryan Radcliff's 11-yard pass to Cody Wilson with 5:11 left held up as the winning points. The go-ahead score was set up by a blocked punt from the Hilltopper endzone which CMU recovered at the WKU 26.
Radcliff through two TD passes in the first quarter as the Chippewas staked out an early 14-7 lead and stretched it to 17-7 on a 50-yard field goal in the second quarter. His 3 TD, 0 INT performance was his best QB efficiency rating in a game all season.
Western Kentucky cut the gap to 17-14 by halftime on Doyle's 6-yard reception from Jakes, and Kadeem Jones' 1-yard run gave the Hilltoppers their first and only lead with 1:24 to go in the 3rd.
Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews, the national leader in all-purpose yards at 248 yards per game, entered the game needing 273 yards to eclipse Barry Sanders' NCAA all-purpose yardage record. He had 184 on 119 yards rushing, 21 receiving and 44 in return yards.
CMU's Zurlon Tipton, the MAC's second leading overall scorer and touchdown leader, did not score but managed a 101 yards rushing on 23 carries and added 2 catches for 29 yards.
Western Kentucky's appearance was the fourth by a Sun Belt Conference team in the Detroit bowl. The MAC has been represented each year since this bowl's inaugural season in 1997 and this was Central Michigan's fourth appearance. The Chips made back-to-back-to-back appearances here from 2006 to 2008 under then-head coach Brian Kelly (2006) and Butch Jones (2007 and 2008). They are now 2-2 in those appearances.
Sun Belt teams had won the last two times they have played in this game - FAU in 2008 and FIU in 2010.
The Congrove Computer Rankings projected Western Kentucky as a 9.37-point winner in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.