Central Michigan falls to 2-2 overall with the loss, while Northwestern remains unbeaten at 4-0.
The Wildcats out-scored CMU 17-0 over a span of 9:26 in the second half to turn a 13-13 halftime tie into a 30-13 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Chippewas, however, scored touchdowns on their final two possessions to draw within 30-25 before Northwestern recovered an onside-kick with 1:11 remaining.
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for CMU against Big Ten Conference opponents, while Northwestern won its ninth straight decision over a Mid-American Conference foe.
Dan Persa threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Ebert on the Wildcats' second possession to give Northwestern a 6-0 lead. Darryll Stinson blocked the point-after attempt.
CMU responded with a five-play, 74-yard scoring drive that Cody Wilson capped with a 31-yard touchdown run. Ryan Radcliff stepped out of the pocket to his left on the play and threw backward to Wilson, who beat two Northwestern defenders to the goal line. David Harman's point-after attempt was blocked, and the score remained tied at 6-6.
Northwestern punted on its next possession, and the Chippewa offense advanced to the Northwestern 20-yard line before Harman's 40-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Jack DiNardo.
Northwestern took advantage of the block, driving 77 yards in eight plays for a go-ahead touchdown. A 21-yard throw from Persa to Demetrius Fields on third-and-5 set up a 1-yard plunge by Jacob Schmidt that gave Northwestern a 13-6 lead.
Paris Cotton fumbled deep in CMU territory on the ensuing possession, but Nick Bellore intercepted a Persa pass four plays later.
Radcliff then led the Chippewas on an 11-play, 88-yard touchdown drive that tied the game. His screen pass to Carl Volny on third-and-7 turned into a 16-yard touchdown and was Radcliff's eighth completion in 10 attempts on the drive.
Persa and Fields hooked up on a 23-yard completion that moved the ball to CMU's 27-yard line with 1 second remaining in the half, but Demos missed a 45-yard field goal attempt wide right as time expired.
Northwestern scored 10 points early in the third quarter to take control of the contest. CMU opened the second half by going three-and-out, and Demos kicked a 27-yard field goal to give Northwestern a 16-13 lead with 9:20 remaining in the quarter. Radcliff threw an interception on the Chippewas' next offensive snap, and Persa hit Ebert for a 25-yard score on first down.
The Wildcats extended the lead to 30-13 on a 13-yard run by Schmidt on the first snap of the fourth quarter. Schmidt took an option pitch from Persa around the left side and dove just inside the pylon for the score.
CMU took advantage of Northwestern's second turnover of the game later in the quarter, turning a fumble by Arby Fields into a touchdown drive. A 28-yard throw from Radcliff to Jerry Harris set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Volny, but Harman's extra point attempt was blocked.
Northwestern erased nearly four minutes off the clock before being forced to punt, and CMU took possession on its own 14-yard line with 3:39 remaining. The Chippewas drove to the Northwestern 45 before facing a fourth-and-15 with less than two minutes left. Radcliff hit Kito Poblah over the middle for 20 yards, and on the next snap the duo hooked up for a 25-yard scoring throw. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and Northwestern kneeled out the clock after recovering an onside-kick.
Radcliff finished 29-of-43 passing for a career-high 347 yards and two touchdowns. Three Chippewas had a game-high six receptions: Poblah (six catches, 89 yards), Wilson (six catches, 76 yards) and Volny (six catches, 74 yards).
Matt Berning finished with a game-high 13 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss. Lorenzo White and Bellore both were credited with 10 tackles.
Northwestern held a slight edge in total yards, 429-423, but the Wildcats were 11-of-17 on third down while CMU was just 2-of-10.
CMU returns home next weekend, hosting Ball State on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Chippewas Fall at Northwestern, 30-25
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