Visiting my sister on a whim in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the long Thanksgiving weekend, I naturally poured over the college football calendar looking for some action in the mitten state. With a Saturday contest had already scheduled in East Lansing (yes, intentionally bypassing the Michigan vs. Ohio State game in the Big House), Friday afternoon would enable me to catch my 4th MAC conference game in the last two weeks. The Central Michigan Chippewas were hosting their cross state rival Eastern Michigan Eagles for a Wolverine State showdown.
I make quick work of the two hour drive up to the college football hotbed of Mount Pleasant, Michigan. The roads in the state are surprisingly amicable to drive. Wide open and straight, with 70mph speed limits, I zip across flat, frozen plains of harvested corn fields and ramshackle white barns. A few inches of snow dust the ground, but road crews had been out in force, laying a carpet of salt overnight and the tarmac is smooth sailing. As I pull into Mt. Pleasant, I sniff out some free parking in a retail lot on the corners of Broomfield and Mission Streets and bundle myself in winter clothing. A grey blanket hovers low in the sky blocking the sun, and with the mercury dipping to 23 degrees, it portends a bitter afternoon.
It’s a quick walk to Kelly Shorts Stadium, where a handful of tents and RV’s are scattered about the main parking lot. Between the frigid weather and Thanksgiving holiday, the numbers are noticeably subdued and the tailgating scene is nearly a ghost town. With most of the students out of town for the long weekend, the game itself will be a quiet one as well. I scoop up a ticket at the little wooden box office for face value of $15, as the sidewalks are completely void of ticket resellers. Grabbing a bucket of hot cocoa for the chilly afternoon ahead, I settle into a nice seat on the empty aluminum bleachers near midfield.
Shortly after the game kicks off, the Chippewas take to the ground. They feed workhorse running back Zurlon Tipton a steady diet of handoffs, and the 6-0” 220lb juggernaut produces. He runs roughshod over the hapless Eagles defense, breaking soft tackles with his pair of Clydesdale quads while stiff arming hapless safeties into the turf. All told, he streaks for four touchdowns on the day, amassing 216 rushing yards in the process. The Chips’ add some more excitement for the meager 5,214 person crowd in the second half, when speedster Courtney Williams takes the ensuing kickoff to the house on an 84 yard sprint. Upon each successive Central Michigan score, the PA announcer excitedly bellows “Fire up Chips!!!” His vocal chords get a workout for the day, as the Chippewas eventually run away with an unchallenged blowout 42-10 victory. The win evens their record at 6-6 for the season, and grants them bowl eligibility for the second year in a row.
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