THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published — Friday 28 December 2012
Last update 28 December 2012 12:21 am
DETROIT: Central Michigan escaped with a 24-21 victory over Western Kentucky in college football’s Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Wednesday, stopping the Hilltoppers on fourth-and-2 in the final minute when a field goal could have sent the game to overtime.
Ryan Radcliff had thrown an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cody Wilson with 5:11 remaining to give Central Michigan the lead.
Western Kentucky then had a chance to level the score with a field goal in the final minute, but interim coach Lance Guidry decided to go for the victory after his players made their feelings known on the matter.
“That was all the players. We were going to kick the field goal, but they told me that they were here to win the game,” Guidry said. “I asked everyone and they wanted to go for it so we took the chance.” It didn’t work out. On fourth down from the 19-yard line with 51 seconds left, quarterback Kawaun Jakes threw incomplete.
Radcliff went 19 of 29 for 253 yards and three touchdowns, but Central Michigan (7-6) needed to rally late. Down 21-17, Zurlon Tipton appeared to have put the Chippewas ahead in the fourth quarter, but his fourth-down run was ruled short of the goal line after a review.
Central Michigan then forced the Hilltoppers to punt from their own end zone, and Avery Cunningham blocked it. Although the ball bounced around for a bit, the Chippewas finally secured it and took over with great field position inside the 30.
Radcliff found Wilson in the back left corner of the end zone for a 24-21 lead.
“I couldn’t have scripted it any better than my last catch being the winning TD in a bowl game,” said Wilson, a senior who had 10 catches for 101 yards on the night.
The Hilltoppers (7-6) fell just short in their first bowl since joining college football’s top tier in 2009.
Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews rushed for 119 yards, but didn’t reach the 274 all-purpose yards he needed to break the single-season record of 3,250 set by Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders in 1988. Andrews, a junior, had 184 all-purpose yards to finish the season at 3,161.