Sophomore placekicker Brandon McManus kicks his second game winning field goal to give the team a 13-10 win over Central Michigan
The Owls advanced to 2-0 for the first time since 1981 following a 13-10 win in overtime over defending Mid-Atlantic Conference champion Central Michigan on Thursday evening.
The Owls defense was able to force three turnovers in the contest including a Kee-Ayre Griffin interception in overtime that helped seal the win for the Owls.
The Owls won the toss in overtime and elected to defer possession. The Central Michigan offense ran five plays before sophomore quarterback Ryan Radcliff threw a pass that was picked off by Griffin in the end zone.
Following five straight rushing plays, sophomore placekicker Brandon McManus was able to redeem himself from his earlier struggles, hitting a 30-yard field goal to secure the Owls victory. The Owls entered overtime with a 0-6 record in the extra period and 0-2 against the Chippewas.
“He didn’t start of the game real good but he hung in there and stayed with it,” Golden said. “We really believe in staying with our kids.”
The Owls relied on the play of their running backs to rush for a combined 114 yards. Bernard Pierce finished with 57 yards on 10 carries and Matt Brown added 58 yards on 16 rushes.
Central Michigan had success all evening with its play calling mixing the short passing game with its variation of the spread offense. Radcliff finished with 299 yards on 25 completions.
“You’re playing an organization that scores 35 points a game and over five quarters they score ten,” head coach Al Golden said. “That’s probably the most pleasing.”
The Owls first offensive play was a 56-yard completion from redshirt-junior Chester Stewart to junior wideout Rod Streater that caught the Chippewas defense off guard to start. Stewart was able to find Streater down the middle of the field in man coverage following a play action. The drive stalled three plays later and McManus missed a 44-yard field goal wide right in the Owls opening possession.
“Yeah, they pretty much planned it,” Streater said. “We figured we’d start off with the big play.”
Senior middle linebacker Stephen Johnson made several plays on the ensuing Central Michigan possession recording a forced fumble and his first career interception on back-to-back plays. He also recorded three of his eight tackles on the series.
On the next Owls’ possession, Pierce found success running on the right side of the offensive line. On a third-and-one, Pierce rushed for 24 yards to the Central Michigan 36 yard line. Pierce finished the drive off with a 4-yard touchdown run to give the Cherry and White a 7-0 lead.
In the middle of the third quarter, Radcliff was able to find sophomore wide receiver Cody Wilson on a crossing route over the middle, which Wilson took down the right sideline before being tackled at the Temple one-yard-line. Central Michigan capitalized on the next play with a Paris Cotton touchdown run on the next play to tie the score at 7-7. Wilson finished the contest with 153 yards on seven receptions.
McManus, the reigning MAC Specialist of the Week, missed his first two field goals of the evening before hitting a 31-yard field goal to give the Owls a 10-7 with 2:17 remaining in the third quarter.
On a critical fourth-and –five play late in the fourth quarter, Radcliff was able to find Jeremy Wilson for a 27-yard completition, giving the Chippewas first-and-goal from the seven yard line. Central Michigan was able to tie the contest at 10-10 with 1:11 remaining in the contest behind a 31-yard field goal behind freshman kicker David Harman.
The Owls nearly gave the game away with a fumble at the Temple 35 yard line. Stewart rolled left and the ball was knocked free and recovered by junior nose guard John Williams with 35 seconds remaining, giving the Chippewas possession. Luckily for the Owls, the forced a fumble of their own two plays later, ending regulation play.
“I was trying to do too much,” Stewart said. “I should of tucked it away.”
Pierce left the contest in the third quarter with a hand injury. Golden doesn’t think the injury is too serious. Pierce wasn’t available for comment after the game.
Next up for the Owls is Connecticut who has beat the Owls in disappointing fashion two seasons ago.
“We’re going up a class,” Golden said. “These guys have beat Notre Dame and beat South Carolina and played really well down the stretch last year.”
Joe Serpico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org