Billy Smith gained 162 yards on 40 carries, including a 15-yard touchdown run, to lead the Chips.
“I wasn’t around in the 1900s,” head coach Herb Deromedi said after the game, “but I think it has got to be the biggest victory in our history.”
Big though it was, the Chips beat Michigan State again in 1992. And you don’t have to go back to the 1900s to find the greatest sports moment in CMU history.
On Dec. 14, 1974, the Chippewas beat Delaware 54-14 in Sacramento, Calif., to win the NCAA Division II football championship for the first and only national title in school history.
“I don’t think there was a dry eye as we were leaving that locker room … I think the thing I remember most about that team is how close they were,” Roy Kramer, the team’s head coach that season, recalled in 2004 and in 2014.
“They were very, very close. They had such a bond between them and they had such pride, particularly once we got moving toward that national championship. It was a bond that they never lost.”
Dick Dunham led the way, running 68 yards through a huge hole for a touchdown on the game’s first play from scrimmage. He finished with 121 yards and a title-game record four touchdowns.
Future NFL quarterback Mike Franckowiak completed 11 of 13 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown. He also kicked two field goals and six extra points as the Chips capped a 12-1 season, the most wins in a season in school history.
Safety Steve Bograkos was named Defensive Player of the Game.
And CMU wasn’t just loaded with playing talent.
Kramer posted a record of 83-32-2 in 11 seasons at CMU and went on to make an indelible mark on college football history. After becoming commissioner of the SEC in 1990, he devised the SEC championship game, the first of its kind, and the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), which preceded the College Football Playoff.
“You can talk about the players, you can talk about everything else, but the whole key was Roy Kramer,” Deromedi said in 2014. “I mean, what he did and how he put that team together, how he coached that team, how he handled situations.”
Deromedi, who served as Kramer’s defensive coordinator in 1974 and took over as head coach in 1978, went on to become the winningest coach in school and MAC history.
“It’s when we get older that you realize what you had as a coaching staff,” Bograkos said in 2014. “Not when we were younger, not when we were playing, but now? Yeah, especially now. When I talk about, I always say that most of our success was our coaches.”
Today, Kramer and Deromedi are both in the College Football Hall of Fame and CMU competes in the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A. The Chips moved up just a few weeks after winning their D-II national championship.
The title, CMU’s Hall of Fame profile of the 1974 team noted, “was a wonderful prelude to Division I football.”
Above: Roy Kramer and Central Michigan celebrate their 1974 NCAA Division II championship. (Courtesy Central Michigan University Archives)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Campbell
• Tuesday: Central Arkansas and Central Florida
• Wednesday: Central Michigan and College of Charleston
• Thursday: Charleston Southern and Charlotte
• Friday: Chattanooga and Chicago State