Central Michigan running back Marion Lukes (9) during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – In an exhilarating Mid-American Conference game at Kramer/Deromedi Field at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Marion Lukes and Jase Bauer showcased their skills with a total of 308 rushing yards and three touchdowns, helping the Central Michigan football team secure a 37-31 victory over Northern Illinois.
This win not only improved the Chippewas’ record to 5-4 in the conference but also kept them in contention for the West Division title. With a record of 4-5, NIU’s hopes for the division title were also kept alive. Both teams are currently two games behind Toledo with three games left to play.
CMU coach Jim McElwain expressed his satisfaction with the win, stating, “It’s great to come out with a victory. This week, we challenged the program and its legacy of toughness that was built by Coach Roy Kramer and Coach Herb Deromedi. We questioned that legacy a bit, but now we understand that being a Chippewa football player means so much more than just the individual; it’s about the entire team.”
Lukes had an exceptional performance, rushing for a career-high of 202 yards on 21 carries. Bauer also contributed with 106 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Bauer, the Chippewa quarterback, showcased his passing ability as well with 116 yards and a touchdown on 9-of-16 passes.
Lukes became the first Chippewa player to surpass the 200-yard mark since Bert Emanuel Jr.’s remarkable performance of 293 yards in a game against Buffalo last season.
In the second quarter, Lukes scored an impressive 46-yard touchdown, showcasing his skills in a Halloween night snow shower. Lukes commented on his performance, stating, “Funny enough, I was watching LeSean McCoy highlights before the game, and his snow games are just insane. When I saw the snow, I was thinking about letting loose and doing all the things I know I can do. It was a special moment.”
The Chippewas dominated the first half, leading 24-3 at halftime and extending their lead to 37-11 in the third quarter after Bauer’s 1-yard touchdown run. However, the Huskies made a comeback by scoring the final 20 points of the game, narrowing the gap to 37-31.
With 3:27 remaining, NIU scored a touchdown, putting pressure on the Chippewas. However, CMU’s defense held strong, and sophomore defensive back Nahree Biggins intercepted an NIU pass at the Chippewa 41-yard line, securing the victory. It was Biggins’ first career interception, and Lukes expressed his joy for his roommate’s accomplishment.
Lukes praised the offensive line for their exceptional performance, stating, “Coach has been pushing the offensive line and the running back crew to get the ball moving. We haven’t been performing to the best of our abilities, but tonight, the offensive line did an amazing job of opening holes, resulting in those big plays we saw.”
The Chippewas finished the game with an impressive 331 rushing yards, their highest of the season, in a high-scoring game that saw nearly 1,000 total yards of offense.
Looking ahead, the Chippewas will face archrival Western Michigan (3-6, 2-3) on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Bauer emphasized the significance of this upcoming game, as the Chippewas seek redemption for last year’s loss to Western. He said, “This is a big one moving forward. Last year, they beat us at home in a tough game. We’ve kept that with us throughout the offseason. It’s a game we’ve marked on our calendar, and I can’t wait to go out there and get the win.”
Alex Martin is your guide to the global phenomenon of football. With a focus on international leagues and tournaments, he provides match commentary, player interviews, and behind-the-scenes stories from the world of football.