DETROIT, Mich -- After rallying for a go-ahead fourth quarter score, the Central Michigan Chippewas were unable to stop a decisive 13-play drive that propelled the Minnesota Golden Gophers to a 21-14 win in the Quick Lane Bowl Monday at Ford Field in Detroit.
On a night when CMU’s quarterback Cooper Rush was continually harassed and stymied by the Minnesota defense, freshman running back Romello Ross provided 100 yards on 19 carries. Three of those trips came on the Chippewas fourth quarter scoring drive.
Central Michigan’s defense, which had limited Minnesota to 13 points through three stanzas, came up with a big play to . . .
Central Michigan took over and, after struggling to move the ball most of the night, suddenly managed to cover 56 yards in four plays. Rush hit Corey Willis for the first 21 yards. Ross took care of the rest, gaining 19, 6 and 13 yards to finish the drive. Brian Eavey’s PAT gave Central Michigan its first lead since a 7-3 advantage early in the second period.
CMU’s second lead, however, would not stand. Leidner completed five of six passes and added two big runs as Minnesota took the ensuing drive 59 yards in 13 plays. The junior quarterback’s 13-yard run completed the trip, and he used his feet again to scramble free on a successful two-point conversion pass to K.J. Maye.
When Central Michigan started its next drive, down 21-14 with 4:26 remaining, it recorded two first downs. But facing third and seven at the UM 42, Cooper was intercepted by Briean Boddy-Calhoun.
“Just trying to make a play,” Rush said. “Looking back I probably should have just ate it.”
Minnesota took over with 2:07 left and held the ball until punting to the CMU four-yard line with 13 seconds left.
Minnesota outgained Central Michigan, 381-249 overall and held a 21-17 advantage in first downs.
“It was pretty well-documented that they have a very good secondary,” CMU head coach John Bonamego said. “I think that was the strength of their defense. We thought we moved the ball against them pretty well. We stalled a few drives, got in some long-yardage situations, but they’re a good defense and a talented defense.”
Cooper, who was averaging 308.6 yards passing entering the game, completed 15-of-29 for just 145 yards with no TDs and one interception. Although sacked just twice, he was under pressure much of the game.
Willis (four catches, 41 yards) and Ross (four catches, 28 yards) were the leading receivers.
Minnesota’s Leidner completed 24-of-30 passes for 223 yards with one TD and one interception. Maye led UM receivers with eight catches for 67 yards and a TD. The Gophers managed 178 yards on the ground, with Rodney Smith (15 rushes, 74 yards) and Shannon Brooks (15 rushes, 65 yards) leading the way.
Minnesota finishes the year at 6-7, while Central Michigan slips to 7-6.