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AKRON, Ohio – A pair of No. 9s came up aces for the Central Michigan football team on Saturday.

Marion Lukeswho wears uniform No. 9 on offense, delivered a career performance and No. 9 on defense, Thomas Incoommade the play of the day – maybe the play of the season – in leading CMU to a 28-21 Mid-American Conference victory over Akron at the Zips’ InfoCision Stadium.

The victory, CMU’s first of the season in league play, could not have come at a better time as CMU snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 2-5, 1-2 MAC.

“You have your slumps; you have your ups and you have your downs,” Lukes said. “We’re Chippewas, we handle adversity; that’s what we do. We’re a band of brothers. That’s what we preach every day, we go over that every day and I trust my brothers.

“We weren’t pointing any fingers at each other after we lost those games. That stuff’s in the past; we go at it day by day, week by week, game by game.”

Lukes finished with 249 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns in place of injured starter Lew Nichols IIIwho did not the make the trip because of injury.

The plan called for Lukes and Myles BaileyNichols’ two backups, to share the load. But Bailey left the game with a broken wrist, leaving it to the 5-foot-9, 195-pound Lukes to tote the mail.

The sophomore delivered, rushing for 160 yards and two TDs, catching four passes for 71 yards and one TD, and returning a kickoff 18 yards for good measure. He touched the ball 31 times, averaging just over 8 yards per touch.

All of his numbers from scrimmage were far and away career highs.

“When you get the ball more and more, you’re definitely going to get into a rhythm,” Lukes said. “You start to feel yourself especially when you start breaking off big-time runs, and start making people miss, hitting people with moves you’ve been practicing the whole year. When you actually get to do that it just gives you the confidence to keep doing it.”

As sensational as Lukes was, Incoom delivered the most impactful play.

The 6-4, 265-pound defensive lineman scooped up an Akron fumble and raced untouched 63 yards for a touchdown with under two minutes remaining to break a 21-21 tie. The dramatic played turned the game in CMU’s favor after Akron had rallied from a 21-7 deficit to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter.

Akron drove from its own 48 to the Chippewa 32 when quarterback DJ Irons’ handoff to running back Clyde Price fell harmlessly to the turf and bounced away. Incoom was the first to reach it and was off to the races.

“When I saw the ball, the first thing I did is my eyes got wide,” Incoom said. “I had the ball in my hands and I was like, I put the game on my back and bring the victory home.”

It was the first collegiate touchdown for Incoom and the first time he had hit the end zone since he played tight end in high school in Stone Mountain, Ga.

Ironically, the difference-making play was an unforced error in the backfield after the Chippewas had done a solid job all game long of pressuring Irons, a dual-threat who broke loose on a 53-yard TD run on the third play of the game.

The Chippewas recorded a whopping eight sacks among a dozen tackles-for-loss and held the Zips to 20 rushing yards.

“The key was not to let him out of the pocket because he’s a really good, athletic dude,” Incoom said. “We had to pressure him and close the pocket and try to get him down and I think we did a pretty good job doing that.”

The victory could not have come at a better time for a team that needed a win in the worst way.

“To see the joy and smiles on those kids’ faces … It wasn’t pretty but there’s some excitement in there,” CMU coach Jim McElwain said, motioning to the Chippewa locker room. “We found a way to win and we were searching for that and that’s going to carry us forward as we continue this.

“We haven’t gotten a lot of wins on the road so we’re going to be proud of that. I don’t care who it is we’re playing, getting a win on the road is good. I can’t tell you how much this team means to me personally. Great group of young men and sometimes I think I’ve been failing them because we haven’t been able to get over the hump. Just happy for them.”

The defense
Jarvarius Sims and Dakota Cochran made eight tackles apiece to lead CMU’s defense.

Linebacker Kyle Moretti finished with 1 ½ sacks, while LaQuan Johnson, Incoom, Robi Stuart, De’Javion Stepney and Ed Conoran had one each. Several other Chippewas were credited with one-half sack each and CMU made 12 tackles-for-loss on the day.

That up-front aggressiveness came at a price. The CMU defensive front was flagged several times for offsides and three of those penalties came consecutively when Akron drove for the game-tying touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.

“Take the undisciplined offsides away, our D line controlled the game and made it tough on them,” McElwain said, adding that the key to beating Akron was in limiting the dangerous Irons, who threw for 255 yards and a touchdown. “We knew that we had to try to keep him contained.”

Irons scored on the third play of the game on a long run and was a constant threat to break another one throughout the day.

“We screwed up the very first drive and we left the guy uncovered and he goes running 80 yards downfield or whatever,” McElwain said. “But after that (the defense) settled in and shut him down pretty good.”

Trick Play

With the game tied, 7-7, the Chippewas faced fourth down at the Akron 11-yard line midway through the second quarter.

CMU lined up in field goal formation for what appeared to be a chipshot – a 28-yarder – for Josh Rolston. But holder Luke Elzinga took the snap and flipped the ball behind him, over his head, to Rolston, who ran to the right and was pushed out of bounds for a first down at the 1.

One play later, Lukes scored to put CMU in front, 14-7.

“I knew we had to do something,” said McElwain, whose two placekickers – Rolston and Marshall Meeder — were a combined 3-for-9 on field goals entering the game. “We’re struggling, obviously, kicking the ball.”

A Day of Firsts

Lukes’ first TD came on a 37-yard pass play, when he took a short dump-off from quarterback Daniel Richardsonwho was under pressure, and then raced untouched for the end zone. His third TD of the day came in a 9-yard run in the third quarter.

Lukes’ first TD was the first scoring reception of his career and he now has four touchdowns. The first of his career came in CMU’s 38-24 loss to South Alabama earlier this season.

Running back Christian Brownpressed into duty because of the injury to Bailey, got his first career carry in the second quarter. He carried five times for 21 yards on the day and also returned one punt for minus-1 yard.

A redshirt freshman from Temperance, Brown has played in all seven of CMU’s games this season. He has seen action on special teams in the Chippewas’ first six games and had returned a kickoff 17 yards – the first time he touched the ball in a CMU uniform – last week in CMU’s 17-16 loss to Ball State.

“We felt that our best room is our running back room,” McElwain said. “Those guys have just been waiting for a chance to play. Marion’s number came up and he answered it. And let’s not forget Christian Brown. He came in off the bench and did some great things as well.”

Air Game

Richardson completed 13 of 21 passes for 138 yards. He did not throw an interception.

Lukes’ four-catch, 71-yard day led the Chippewa receiving corps; Carolos Carriere had three catches for 15 yards, while Noah Koenigsknecht had two receptions for 28 yards.

On the Ground

The Chippewas finished with 199 yards rushing, marking a season high against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent. CMU’s previous high (130 yards) came last week in the loss to Ball State. The season high (287) came in the victory over Football Championship Subdivision Bucknell.

Next

The Chippewas entertain Bowling Green in a MAC game on Saturday, Oct. 22 (1 p.m.). The Falcons improved to 4-3, 2-1 with a 17-13 win over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.


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