DETROIT – On this night, Dan Enos was fine with letting the other coach make the game’s most important decision.
“I don’t know what I would have done,” Enos said. “But I will never second guess a coach for trying to win.”
Enos and his Central Michigan Chippewas held on for a 24-21 victory over Western Kentucky on Wednesday night in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, stopping the Hilltoppers on fourth-and-2 in the final minute when a field goal could have sent the game to overtime.
Lance Guidry, coaching Western Kentucky on an interim basis with Bobby Petrino set to take over, went 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, Kawaun Jakes threw incomplete.
Ryan Radcliff threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cody Wilson with 5:11 remaining to give Central Michigan the 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.
Western Kentucky (7-6) fell just short in its first bowl since joining college football’s top tier in 2009.
Radcliff went 19 of 29 for 253 yards and three touchdowns, but Central Michigan (7-6) needed to rally late.
“We knew we left a lot on the table in the first half, but we made a lot of those plays in the second half,” said Enos, who was coaching his first bowl as Central Michigan’s coach.
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.
“When we didn’t get the touchdown, we knew we had to stop them right there,” linebacker Shamari Benton said. “We knew that we just needed to give the offense one more shot.”
Central Michigan forced the Hilltoppers to punt from their own end zone, and Avery Cunningham partially 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.