DETROIT -- Senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff threw three touchdown passes, including a go-ahead, 11-yard scoring strike to Cody Wilson with 5:11 remaining, and Central Michigan edged Western Kentucky 24-21 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field on Wednesday.
Radcliff completed 19 of 29 passes for 253 yards with no interceptions. Wilson caught 10 passes for 101 yards for the Chippewas (7-6), who won their last four games. Central Michigan's Zurlon Tipton carried 23 times for 101 yards, his seventh straight 100-yard rushing performance, and teammate Andrew Flory added 105 receiving yards on three catches -- two of them for touchdowns.
Kawaun Jakes passed for 199 yards and a touchdown for the Hilltoppers (7-6), who were making their first bowl appearance since becoming an Football Bowl Subdivision member in 2009.
WKU junior running back Antonio Andrews had 184 all-purpose yards to give him 3,161 for the season. He came up shy in his bid to break Barry Sanders' record of 3,250 set during his Heisman Trophy-winning 1988 season for Oklahoma State.
Western Kentucky took its first lead at 21-17 with 1:24 remaining in the third quarter on Kadeem Jones' 1-yard plunge, capping a 16-play, 80-yard drive. Jones lost the ball as he extended it, but the officials ruled he crossed the plane before Central Michigan recovered the fumble.
Central Michigan appeared to regain the lead with 9:21 remaining on a Tipton carry on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The play was originally ruled a touchdown, but the Hilltoppers called timeout, and the replay booth ruled Tipton was down just shy of the goal line.
The Chippewas got the ball back on the Hilltoppers' 26 after partially blocking a Hendrix Brakefield punt. With the aid of two pass-interference penalties, they took the lead for good on Wilson's touchdown grab.
Defensive coordinator Lance Guidry, who coached the Hilltoppers on an interim basis in place of Willie Taggart, passed up on a chance for a tying field goal in the final minute. He had Western Kentucky try to convert on fourth-and-2 at the Central Michigan 19. The gamble failed, as Jakes threw an incompletion on a pass intended for tight end Jack Doyle.
Taggart accepted the South Florida head coaching job after the regular season. Controversial ex-Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino has been named Taggart's replacement.
Flory caught two first-half touchdown passes as the Chippewas led 17-14 at halftime. Flory had just 14 receptions during the regular season but was thrust into the lineup because of suspensions. Titus Davis and Courtney Williams, two of their top three wideouts, were suspended earlier in the week for violating team policy.
Flory opened the scoring when he caught a Radcliff pass at the Hilltoppers' 45-yard line and raced untouched into the end zone on a 69-yard play. Western Kentucky tied the game on its first possession with the help of some trickery. Jakes hit Rico Brown for a 70-yard gain on a flea flicker, and Jakes scored two plays later on a six-yard run.
Flory gave Central Michigan a 14-7 advantage when he beat one-on-one coverage over the middle for a 29-yard score. David Harman's 50-yard field goal with 9:59 remaining in the half gave the Chippewas a 10-point lead, but Jakes responded with a six-yard scoring toss to Doyle.
Harman had a 46-yard field goal try blocked late in the half.
NOTES: The Chippewas are 3-4 all-time in bowls, including 2-2 record in the bowl at Ford Field, previously named the Motor City Bowl. They have a 5-3 overall record at Ford Field. ... Wilson extended his streak of at least one reception to 42 games. ... Jakes' second-quarter touchdown pass was the 51st of his career, breaking the school record set by Justin Haddox (2003-06). ... Central Michigan fullback Tyler Lombardo suffered a knee injury on the opening kickoff and did not return. ... Western Kentucky defensive end Quanterus Smith, the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year, missed the game with a knee injury. ... Mid-American Conference representatives had a five-game losing streak in the bowl before Wednesday. ... The Hilltoppers made their first appearance in Michigan since losing to Northern Michigan in 1977.