For the first time in 69 years, Eastern Michigan (2-2, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) has defeated rival Central Michigan (1-3, 1-1 MAC) in back-to-back seasons.
The Eagles beat the Chippewas 61-58 in four overtimes last season at Ford Field. This year, EMU only needed the first overtime period and the right leg of senior placekicker Andrew Wellock.
"It was pretty much just like any other kick," Wellock said of his 36-yard field goal that won the game in overtime. "It was kind of in the back of my head after missing the two field goals in the first half. I'm glad I was able to redeem myself."
With the Chippewas leading 20-14 in the fourth quarter, Wellock converted two field goals, the second a 19-yarder as time expired to send the game into overtime.
Central Michigan had the ball first in overtime, but a sack of quarterback Kent Smith knocked the Chippewas out of field goal range, forcing them to go for a first down on fourth-and-27. An incomplete pass ended the possession and set the stage for Wellock's game-winning kick.
Eastern Michigan head coach Jeff Genyk couldn't have been more pleased for his program.
"It's been 69 years since Eastern Michigan has beaten CMU in back-to-back years," Genyk said. "It's a tremendous boost for our program."
Saturday's overtime contest continued a trend of tightly contested games between EMU and CMU. Eleven of the past 16 meetings have either been decided by seven points or less or gone to overtime, including the past two seasons.
This victory was even more special though with the unveiling of the Michigan MAC Football Championship trophy by the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. With a victory over Western Michigan at Ford Field later this season, the Eagles would be crowned the Michigan MAC Champions.
Both offensives struggled to get on track early, as Chippewa freshman placekicker Rick Albreski's 35-yard field goal represented the only points of the first quarter, giving CMU a 3-0 lead.
Kent Smith scored on a one-yard run to cap an 11-play, 68-yard drive early in the second quarter, increasing CMU's lead to 10-0.
That's when EMU senior quarterback Matt Bohnet responded, throwing the first of two touchdown passes to A. J. Bennett, a 12-yarder that made the score 10-7.
An Albreski 36-yard field goal extended the CMU lead to 13-7 with 4:26 left in the half, but Bohnet hit Bennett from nine yards out with 1:56 remaining to send EMU into the locker room leading 14-13.
Chippewa freshman running back Ontario Sneed capped an eight play, 35-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run to put CMU in front, 20-14, with 7:11 remaining in the third quarter. This set the stage for Wellock's heroics.
"We played as well today as we did against Miami," said CMU head coach Brian Kelly. "Our guys battled to the end and came up short."
"Give Eastern Michigan's offense credit, they played well," CMU linebacker Thomas Keith said. "We played hard but we just fell short."
Sneed finished with 122 yards on 29 carries, the second 100-yard rushing game for the true freshman this season. He was also Smith's favorite receiving target, catching five passes for 56 yards. Smith finished 18-of-31 for 182 yards.
For EMU, Bohnet was 36-of-56 for 380 yards and two scores. He connected with wide receiver Eric Deslauriers 10 times for 135 yards.
The Chippewas are back on the road next weekend, visiting MAC East foe Akron. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at the Rubber Bowl.
Eastern Michigan Outlasts CMU in Overtime, 23-20
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