Central Michigan routs Northern Illinois, earns bowl eligibility

Chicago News USA

The Chippewas lined up in a familiar set. 

Senior graduate transfer quarterback Quinten Dormady stood in the shotgun, flanked by sophomore running back Kobe Lewis to his left and sophomore wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton to his right. 

Usually, this set involves Pimpleton motioning out wide and Lewis staying in the back field. 

However, this time it was Lewis who motioned out wide. Pimpleton ran a wheel route out of the backfield on the snap.

Dormady zipped the ball in his direction quickly, and Pimpleton side stepped a defender on his way to the end zone. 

The Muskegon native’s touchdown kicked off an offensive onslaught that saw Central Michigan gain 615 yards of offense in its 48-10 victory over Mid-American Conference foe Northern Illinois on Saturday in Kelly/Shorts Stadium. 

“I think we proved that we’re getting a little bit better,” said coach Jim McElwain. “Really a dominant performance.”

For as much noise as the offense made, the CMU (6-4, 4-2 MAC) defense was just as stout. The unit stifled a potent Northern Illinois rushing attack that compiled 274 yards in a 49-0 win over Akron last week. 

Huskie redshirt-junior running back Tre Harbison was held to 17 yards rushing, as the Chippewa front four was constantly in the backfield swarming Harbison as well as redshirt-senior quarterback Ross Bowers. Bowers took over for redshirt-junior counterpart Marcus Childers after the team’s second drive. 

The third quarter also saw the Central Michigan defense morph into a turnover machine, as four consecutive Huskie drives ended in turnovers. Senior linebacker Michael Oliver, junior safety Gage Kreski and redshirt-freshman Montrae Braswell each had interceptions while senior defensive end Sean Adesanya recovered a fumble. 

“I saw (Bowers) scramble out, and I knew he didn’t have many threats behind me so I just stayed put,” Oliver said of his interception. “When he threw it short, I knew it was my opportunity.”

Central Michigan was led offensively by the performance of Dormady, who threw for 288 yards at 18 of 24 passing. 

He distributed a total of three touchdowns to junior tight end Tony Poljan and redshirt-freshman Tyrone Scott in addition to the strike to Pimpleton. 

“Something that I focused on was making good decisions this week,” Dormady said. “I knew we were gonna have to throw it this week with them loading the box up and I think that overall we executed really well.”

Lewis led the rushing attack with 143 yards on the ground. Senior running back Jonathan Ward added 138 on 20 carries, while senior backup quarterback Tommy Lazzaro added 27 on 7 touches of his own, including a three-yard score. 

Lazzaro was featured heavily in short distance situations early in the game before taking over for Dormady for good late in the third quarter. 

“He’s been a true, valuable member of our football team from the get-go,” McElwain said. “He’ll be the first to tell you he’s happy for this football team.” 

Junior receiver JaCorey Sullivan led the team in receiving with 88 yards on five catches, while Poljan had 79 yards on just two catches. Pimpleton added 50 yards on five catches.

The win is the sixth of the season for Central Michigan, ensuring it will be bowl eligible for the first time since 2017. 

Next, the Chippewas head into a bye week after playing 10-straight games, the longest stretch in the Football Bowl Subdivision. CMU will then head to Ball State on Nov. 16. 

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