MOUNT PLEASANT - Junior Zurlon Tipton rushed his way into the Central Michigan football record books with a career-high 243 yards and three touchdowns as the Chippewas defeated Akron, 35-14, at Kelly/Shorts Stadium Saturday.
The Chippewas (3-5, 1-3 MAC) outrushed the Zips (1-8, 0-5 MAC), 264-140, including Tipton's 243 yards, which is tied for the eighth-most in a single game in program history with Donnie Riley in 1988, also against Akron. The Chippewas have now defeated the Zips in their last six meetings dating back to 2005.
CMU's defense also gave up a season-low 14 points, while making multiple crucial stops in red zone situations to force momentum-shifting turnovers on downs. The Chippewas capitalized three times off of Akron turnovers to score touchdowns. Sophomore linebacker Justin Cherocci tied a career-high with 15 tackles, including nine solos.
It took the Chippewas just two plays to light up the scoreboard as Tipton broke a tackle and rushed a career-long 72 yards up the right sideline for his first of three touchdowns of the day, giving the Maroon and Gold a 7-0 lead just 50 seconds into the contest.
The Zips drove to the CMU nine-yard line on the next drive for first and goal, and were stopped at the one-yard line on third down. Akron elected to go for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal, but senior cornerback Anthony Young broke up a pass in the end zone and an Akron pass interference call was declined, resulting in a turnover on downs.
CMU took over at the one and was forced to punt, setting up a short field for the Zips, who scored on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Dalton Williams to Dee Frieson to tie the game, 7-7, with 7:01 remaining in the quarter.
Beginning with the next drive, the Chippewas proceeded to rattle off 21 consecutive unanswered points. Senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff went 4-of-6 on the drive, capped by a 27-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Titus Davis, giving CMU a 14-7 lead with 3:28 left in the period.
Davis recorded 112 yards and two touchdowns, tying a career-high in single-game scores. Radcliff finished the night 15-25 for 180 yards and the two passing scores.
The Chippewas scored again on a turnover to begin the second half as senior safety Jahleel Addae intercepted a pass in his second consecutive game to give CMU possession at the Akron 37-yard line just 44 seconds into the half. Radcliff completed a pass to Davis for 29 yards to the Akron five, where Tipton rumbled into the end zone for a 21-7 lead.
After the CMU defense forced a three-and-out, Tipton rushed for gains of five and 14 to set up a 36-yard touchdown strike from Radcliff to Davis at the 10:51 mark, giving CMU a 28-7 advantage.
The Zips scored their first points of the second half on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Jerrod Dillard 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, pulling within 28-14.
Facing first-and-goal from the CMU six after a 36-yard pass from Williams to Dillard, the Chippewas' defense forced a turnover on downs at the CMU four-yard line to keep the Zips from pulling within a touchdown with nine minutes remaining in the game.
The Chippewas proceeded to go on a 13-play, 96-yard drive over the course of the next 7:34, capped off by six-yard scoring run by Tipton for his third touchdown of the day, leaving just 1:26 remaining in the game.
The Chippewas finish their four-game home stand on Saturday, Nov. 3, at 1 p.m. against rival Western Michigan.
Head Coach Dan Enos
"Well, obviously it is nice to win. I thought there were some good things on both sides of the ball and special teams. I thought Akron did a good job. I think the game was very closely played in the first half and then we were able to capitalize on some things. Our defense played very well at the beginning of the third quarter, getting that turnover. And then got them to go three-and-out. What we decided to do at halftime, we really thought we could run the ball. And I think we just tried to stay persistent with it. I think I got away from it in the first half a little bit. We just wanted to make sure, in the second half, that we stayed persistent with it. Our defense gave up some yards but, overall, I thought played pretty well; gave our offense a chance and some turns. When we got that fourth down stop at the end, I thought that was huge. And then our offense was able to not only take the ball down the field but also take all that time off the clock. That's what good football teams do. And that's where we are trying to get."
When you said you wanted to get Zurlon (Tipton) 35 carries last week, you weren't kidding were you?
"We always say as a staff that we need to get Zurlon 20-25 touches. We need to get Titus Davis 10 routes called where he is the first option in the route. And the same thing with Cody (Wilson). Those are the three guys we want to get touches to. And as you guys see as games unfold, sometimes one has more than the other. We thought Zurlon was running the ball well. We thought the line was blocking well as well as our tight ends and fullbacks. Ryan Radcliff did a good job in the running game, getting us into the right plays. We check a lot of things at the line of scrimmage. It's a team thing. But I think Zurlon is just beginning to show people what he can do. When we get into a game where we have a lead, we can get him more touches. That's a good formula for us."
Akron Head Coach Terry Bowden
"This was a disappointing loss for us. Our team and Central Michigan have both had tough losses this year. We can't just go out there and let teams get quick scores on us. We had a lot of penalties that were made out of frustration, but as long as my team fights hard, that's all that I ask for. CMU has been fighting its butt off all season in order to keep their football team going. Hats off to them for winning this game."
Could you speak to Zurlon Tipton's performance tonight?
"I don't know him personally but on film he is just a hard-working, blue-collar athlete. The way that the Chippewas run their offense allows Tipton to be one of the core players on their team. When he is pounding those yards like he did throughout this game, it makes the game that much harder and longer. He is definitely one of the best running backs in the MAC."