Interim Hilltoppers coach Lance Guidry went for it on fourth-and-two when a field goal could have tied the game, but came up short in the 24-21 loss.
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-two 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.
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“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 had thrown 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.
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 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.
Western Kentucky’s final drive ended when Jakes’ pass intended for Jack Doyle fell incomplete.
Petrino, the Hilltoppers’ coach-in-waiting, was expected to be at Ford Field watching his new team, but a snowstorm forced him to scrap those plans.
Western Kentucky started aggressively. Down 7-0, the Hilltoppers ran a flea-flicker on their first play from scrimmage, with Antonio Andrews running to his right, then tossing the ball back to Jakes, who found Rico Brown for a 70-yard gain. Two plays later, Jakes scored on a 6-yard run to tie it.
Central Michigan answered with a 73-yard drive that ended with Andrew Flory’s 29-yard touchdown reception, his second of the quarter.
David Harman’s 50-yard field goal put the Chippewas up 17-7, but Jakes threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Doyle, with the tight end making a one-handed catch to pull Western Kentucky within three.
Western Kentucky took a 21-17 lead in the third on a 1-yard scoring run by Kadeem Jones, which capped an 80-yard drive.
• Joe Krivak, Maryland’s football coach from 1987-91, died Tuesday night, the school said. He was 77.
Krivak was quarterbacks coach for Bobby Ross in the 1980s, working with Boomer Esiason, Frank Reich and Stan Gelbaugh. After Ross left for Georgia Tech after the 1986 season, Krivak was promoted to head coach.
Maryland went 20-34-2 under Krivak, who resigned after the 1991 season.