DETROIT — Ryan Radcliff threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cody Wilson with 5:11 remaining to give Central Michigan the lead, and Western Kentucky was stopped on fourth down when a field goal would have tied the game in the final minute, giving the Chippewas a 24-21 win in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Wednesday night.
Lance Guidry, coaching the Hilltoppers on an interim basis before Bobby Petrino takes over, decided to play for the win on fourth and 2 from the 19 with 51 seconds left, but Kawaun Jakes threw incomplete.
Western Kentucky (7-6) fell just short in its first bowl since joining college football’s top tier in 2009.
Avery Cunningham blocked a punt for Central Michigan (7-6) to give the Chippewas a short field before Wilson’s TD.
Radcliff went 19 of 29 for 253 yards and three touchdowns, but Central Michigan needed to rally late. 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.
With Western Kentucky still ahead, 21-17, the Hilltoppers had to punt from their end zone. Cunningham blocked it, and the Chippewas finally secured it and had 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’s pass intended for Jack Doyle fell incomplete.