CMU Beats Rival Western Michigan in OT, 24-21

Central Michigan University trailed for most of the game Saturday afternoon against arch-rival Western Michigan University, but a fumbled punt with less than nine minutes remaining in regulation seemingly jump started the Chippewas, who stormed back for a dramatic victory in overtime, 24-21.

Central Michigan University made plays when they mattered most Saturday afternoon at Kelly/Shorts Stadium against rival Western Michigan.

Everything was going right for the Broncos (1-7, 0-5 MAC), who were leading 14-0 midway through the fourth quarter, when star wide receiver Greg Jennings went back to receive a punt from the Chippewas.

Jennings took the ball at the CMU 10-yard line and weaved his way up to the 25 where he was met by CMU's Thomas Keith. Jennings fumbled and the ball was recovered by CMU linebacker Doug Kress with 8:13 remaining.

The Chippewas (3-5, 2-3 MAC) used just two plays and 12 seconds to score a touchdown, capped by Jerry Seymour's five-yard run. Suddenly, the Chippewas were back in the game, trailing 14-7.

"We've got to learn to play for 60 minutes," Jennings said. "This one hurts. We had a 14-point lead and couldn't finish."

The Broncos held their composure though, responding with a Daniel Marks 16-yard touchdown run that capped an 8-play, 65-yard drive that consumed nearly five minutes. Once again, WMU had a seemingly insurmountable lead at 21-7 with just 3:14 remaining in the game.

That's when the Chippewas took control.

"It didn't look too good with a couple of minutes to go but this team kept fighting and competing," CMU head coach Brian Kelly said. "We've pounded that into the players all season that if you do those things until the end of the game, you'll have a chance to win."

Central Michigan needed just 1:01 and eight plays to go 58 yards, cutting the deficit to 21-14. The drive was highlighted by the play of quarterback Kent Smith, who completed four-of-five passes for 50 yards and scored from four yards out on a keeper to the left corner of the end zone.

"The fact that we answered so quickly was a key," Kelly said. "I felt at that point we had a chance."

"Taking nothing away from Jerry Seymour, because he's a great football player, but I thought the guy who had a chance to beat us and he did was Kent Smith," WMU head coach Gary Darnell said. "It was a game of superlatives, a great rivalry game. It came down to they (CMU) had one more superlative than we did."

The CMU comeback was not complete yet though. With 2:13 remaining following the Chippewas second TD, WMU began a drive at their own 27. On the second play following a CMU timeout, Marks fumbled and the ball was recovered by CMU's Isaac Brown at the 25.

Once again, Smith led the Chippewa charge. He completed both passes on the drive for a total of 22 yards, the final one a nine-yard TD strike to true freshman wideout Asante White. The Chippewas had moved 25 yards in four plays to tie the score 21-21 with :54 remaining in regulation.

"Under conditions less than ideal, Kent missed some passes and had some others dropped," Kelly said, "but, he made big plays down the stretch when we needed them."

The game was now headed to overtime.

Central Michigan won the toss and elected to go on defense first. The Broncos could muster only two yards in their initial series. On fourth down, WMU attempted a 40-yard field goal but Robert Menchinger's kick was well short.

The Chippewas then began their game winning drive at the 25. Smith ran for 12 yards and a first down on the first play. Seymour rushed the next three plays, netting seven yards to the WMU six. The Chippewas were now in position to win the game with a 25-yard field goal.

Enter true freshman walk-on kicker Ronald Budd, who last season was kicking for Charlotte (Mich.) High School.

Budd's kick split the uprights and his teammates and some delighted CMU fans stormed the field to share in the joy of a dramatic 24-21 comeback victory.

"I didn't want to let my team down," Budd said. "It was a little different than kicking in high school though."

"I think Ronald was so nervous that he couldn't see straight," kidded Kelly. "We put that kid in a difficult situation and all I wanted was for him to get a good swipe at it."

Budd had replaced starting place-kicker Mike Gruzwalski, who missed a pair of field goals in the second quarter from 37 and 31 yards.

For the day, Smith completed 21-of-39 passes for 205 yards and one TD. He also rushed 10 times for 72 yards and a score.

Seymour was held below the 100-yard mark for only the second time this season, rushing 28 times for 94 yards. He also caught a team-high seven passes for 34 yards.

Western Michigan outgained CMU in the game, 381 yards to 371. The Broncos were led by Jennings, who caught eight passes for 167 yards, including a 79-yard touchdown reception that improved WMU's lead to 14-0 at the end of three quarters.

CMU linebacker Jame King tallied a game-high 10 tackles, while defensive end Daniel Bazuin added nine tackles, including a quarterback sack for minus 10.

The Chippewas now must prepare for a game against their oldest rival, Eastern Michigan University. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Detroit's Ford Field.

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