NCF Nation: Cody Wilson

Instant analysis: C. Michigan 24, WKU 21

December, 26, 2012

Central Michigan closed the 2012 season with its fourth straight win by holding off Western Kentucky 24-21 on Wednesday night in the Little Caesars Bowl at Ford Field.

Here’s how it went down:

It was over when: Instead of trying a 36-yard field goal that could have tied the game and forced overtime, Western Kentucky elected to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Central Michigan 19-yard line with 51 seconds to play. Quarterback Kawaun Jakes just overthrew his tight end, Jack Doyle, who stretched out for the ball, but couldn’t come up with it inside the 5.

Turning point: With Western Kentucky punting from its own end zone, Central Michigan’s Avery Cunningham was able to get a hand on the Hilltoppers’ punt, and the Chippewas took over from their own 26 with 6:55 to play. Aided by a pair of pass interference penalties on Western Kentucky, Central Michigan needed just three plays to find the end zone and take the lead for good.

Game ball goes to: Central Michigan quarterback Ryan Radcliff finished 19-of-29 for 253 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His final touchdown was an 11-yard strike to Cody Wilson to give the Chippewas a 24-21 lead with 5:11 remaining.

Stat of the game: Central Michigan’s Zurlon Tipton rushed for 101 yards, which was his seventh straight 100-yard rushing performance.

Unsung hero: Central Michigan redshirt freshman receiver Andrew Flory had a pair of touchdown catches in the first quarter -- a 69-yarder and 29-yarder. The Chippewas were playing without two of their top three receivers, Titus Davis and Courtney Williams, both of whom were suspended for violating team policy.

What it means: After limping into the final week of October with a 2-5 record, Central Michigan put a bow on its torrid close to the season. The Chippewas (7-6) ended up winning five of their final six games.

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl

December, 2, 2012
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-5) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (6-6)

Dec. 26, 7:30 p.m. ET, Detroit (ESPN)

Western Kentucky take from SEC blogger Edward Aschoff: After a 5-1 start for the Hilltoppers, they finished the season losing four of their last six, including three in a row before finishing the season with a 25-24 comeback win against North Texas.

Despite finishing fifth in the Sun Belt Conference, Western Kentucky gave Sun Belt champ Arkansas State its lone conference loss with a 26-13 win in Jonesboro, Ark.

The Hilltoppers had one of the nation’s best statistical running backs. Antonio Andrews not only led the Sun Belt with 1,614 yards but ranked sixth nationally. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry and scored 11 touchdowns.

Western Kentucky owned the Sun Belt’s top defense, allowing a conference-low 342.8 yards per game and was equipped with the conference’s top sack artist in defensive lineman Quanterus Smith (12.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss).

Central Michigan take by Wolverine Nation's Chantel Jennings: The Chippewas showed their potential in a 32-31 early-season win over Iowa, scoring on a 47-yard field goal by David Harman with three seconds left to earn the victory.

The early momentum didn’t last, however, as Central Michigan went 2-5 through its first seven games. The Chippewas turned it around, however, and finished 4-1 in their final five games to finish 6-6 in a surprisingly deep MAC.

Keying the turnaround was talented junior running back Zurlon Tipton, who ran for 12 touchdowns in the last five games and finished the regular season with 1,391 yards and 19 touchdowns. Balancing out the offensive attack were senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff and his two favorite receivers -- sophomore Titus Davis and senior Cody Wilson. Radcliff threw 20 touchdown passes, eight to Davis.

C-USA BCS Buster: Tulsa

May, 18, 2011
Tulsa has gotten a lot of buzz this offseason as a potential BCS buster, even with one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country. The Golden Hurricane ended last season with seven straight wins -- that included four games in which they scored 50-plus points. Tulsa ended the season with the No. 5 total offense in the nation, No. 6 scoring offense and a No. 24 ranking in the final AP poll. With 18 starters returning, expectations are high for at least a Conference USA championship.

Why they have a shot: The Golden Hurricane return two of the best players in C-USA in quarterback G.J. Kinne and all-purpose man Damaris Johnson. Kinne is on his third new offensive coordinator at Tulsa, but hopefully there will be an easy transition because of the familiarity new coach Bill Blankenship has with him and what he can do. Johnson already owns the NCAA record for career all-purpose yards and has the potential to get to 10,000. The defense got better as the season went on, with freshmen Marco Nelson, Shawn Jackson and Cody Wilson stepping up in a big way. Linebacker Curnelius Arnick should have a breakout season. The nonconference schedule is incredibly difficult, but if the Golden Hurricane manage to win all their games, they would have an excellent shot at getting into a BCS game, especially since one of those wins will be against Boise State.

Why they won't make it: See above, brutal nonconference schedule. The Golden Hurricane open the season at Oklahoma, then travel to Tulane before playing Oklahoma State at home and Boise State on the road. That means Tulsa has to play three teams projected to be in the Top 10. Of course, SEC fans are reading this thinking their teams have to do that every year. If you are good enough, you win every game. Aside from the nonconference schedule, Tulsa also must travel to play C-USA champ UCF. SMU and Houston come to Tulsa, so that could make the difference for a division title.

Previously profiled:



Southern Miss
New Central Michigan coach Dan Enos has a tough job ahead of him when the Chippewas open spring practice today.

He’s charged with continuing a streak of winning seasons and conference titles, but he has to do so without quarterback Dan LeFevour, one of the most prolific players in college football history.

It’s an unenviable position, but Enos isn’t worried. He believes in the players he's inherited and thinks his Chippewas can pick up right where they left off even without their star player.

In Part I of two-part Q&A with Enos, we talk about what he has coming back this season and the challenges he faces this spring.

I guess the biggest question is, what are you going to do at quarterback now that Dan is gone?

Dan Enos: Yeah, at quarterback we’ve got to find a guy to replace obviously, a great player, a productive player. It’s like we tell our staff and we told our team, one person is not going to replace his production. It’s going to have to be a team thing. We’re optimistic having such an experienced offensive line and tight ends returning that that’s going to help our quarterback, whoever that may be, take some time in his development and be able to take some pressure off of him to where he gets to a point where he’s comfortable. We think we’ve got some good young quarterbacks there that are really working hard and I’ve been very impressed with them.

You knew you weren’t going to have receiver Bryan Anderson, but losing Antonio Brown, who declared early, must have been a bit of a blow?

DE: I know we lost a couple of guys who caught a lot of balls, but Kito Poblah is back and he caught a bunch of balls last year and made plays. We’ve got some other guys that played, Cody Wilson and some other guys that played and caught not quite as significant a number. We’re very optimistic that the other guys, the young receivers, and some of the other guys that didn’t play quite as much last year, we’re optimistic that those young men will be able to step up and fill the holes and fill the shoes that left.

The offensive line all returns, so that has to be good for a young quarterback that’s learning a bunch of new weapons?

DE: We have the whole offensive line back intact, which is a real positive. So, we have a lot of experience in such a key position. We have seven guys returning that started games last year on a 12-win team. We feel very good about that position and we have some good young guys that are having a good offseason and developing their strength and the physical part of it. I’m just looking forward to continuing the development of our offensive line and we’ve got a tight end that returns that played a ton of football last year and he’s had a great offseason.

How hard is it to come in and not only replace your quarterback and receivers, but also your running back when he abruptly decides to take a break?

DE: You know, Dan was the leading rusher on the team last year, so we need to fill that production. But I think what good coaches do is they adapt to their personnel. If we have a quarterback that’s a guy who can run then we’ll continue to pick up rushing yardage from our quarterback. If we have a quarterback playing back there that doesn’t run so well, we’re going to have to be creative with other ways of running the football and that means more touches for the tailbacks. We think we’re not going to have a problem finding a running back that will be capable. Our problem will be trying to find our identity and find how we are going to replace those rushing yards.

On defense, you return a lot of key guys and that side of the ball was definitely a strength of this team. How much does that help the transition?

DE: I actually met with our defense [Tuesday] and I told them that you don’t win 12 games by being average on defense. You win 12 games because you’re dominant on defense. And when I was at Michigan State last year and we played these guys, we were very impressed with them as a defensive football team. Their personnel, how hard they played. We’ve got outstanding leadership on that side of the ball. We think we’ve got a lot of key people back there, a lot of tough guys, a lot of motivated guys, and our defensive coaching staff is outstanding and I know that they will put these guys in a position to make plays.

Part II of my conversation with Central Michigan coach Dan Enos will run later this afternoon.