The Southeast Missouri State football team put a major scare into a heavily favored opponent Thursday night.
But host Central Michigan rallied from a 14-point second-quarter deficit to win 38-27 in the season opener for both squads.
An announced crowd of 15,250 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant, Mich., saw Southeast fall to 1-17 against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.
The Redhawks had been outscored 330-26 in their past six FBS matchups. But they threatened to reverse that trend Thursday.
Southeast, which received $300,000 from CMU for its general athletic department revenue, led 24-10 midway through the second period before the Chippewas stormed back.
"Our effort was great," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said. "We have to learn from this and get back to practice."
It was 24-24 at halftime. The Redhawks took their final lead of 27-24 when senior Drew Geldbach booted a 40-yard field goal with 6 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
CMU answered with consecutive touchdown drives of 76 and 91 yards to take control.
The Chippewas went ahead for good at 31-27 with 2 minues, 19 seconds left in the third quarter.
After forcing a Southeast punt, CMU made it 38-27 with 6:32 remaining in the final period.
Southeast had one more chance to make things interesting. A 68-yard punt by junior Joe Vucic pinned CMU at its 1-yard line with 4:01 left.
"That gave us one last chance to see if we could get them off the field," Samuel said.
The Chippewas picked up two first downs and looked like they would run out the clock but they fumbled and Southeast recovered at the CMU 30 with 2:10 remaining.
But three plays lost 10 yards, knocking Southeast out of field-goal range. A fourth-down pass fell incomplete, and CMU kneeled on the ball twice to end the game.
CMU went ahead 3-0 on a 24-yard field goal with 8:53 left in the first quarter. The Chippewas would not lead again until late in the third period.
Southeast answered CMU's field goal with a three-play, 69-yard drive.
Sophomore wide receiver Spencer Davis broke loose for a 55-yard touchdown run after taking a pitch from redshirt freshman quarterback Scott Lathrop. Geldbach's PAT made it 7-3 with 7:46 left.
Geldbach's 37-yard field goal, which came after sophomore linebacker George Neuhaus' first collegiate interception, put Southeast up 10-3 with 4:26 remaining.
An 86-yard touchdown drive by CMU tied things at 10-10 with 2:06 to play in the opening period.
Southeast took advantage of a fumble recovery to regain the lead.
The Redhawks drove 62 yards, the bulk of it coming on completions from Lathrop to junior wide receiver D.J. Foster that covered 43 and 11 yards.
Lathrop scored his first collegiate touchdown on a 4-yard option run with 11:29 left before halftime. Geldbach's PAT made it 17-10.
Southeast's defense forced a punt, and the Redhawks drove 54 yards. Key plays on the drive were runs of 25 and 12 yards by senior tailback Levi Terrell.
Lathrop then fired his first collegiate touchdown pass, a 15-yard strike to Foster with 7:13 left. Geldbach's PAT made it 24-10.
CMU came back with a 70-yard touchdown drive. After Southeast was forced to punt, the Chippewas needed to march just 38 yards for the tying touchdown with 39 seconds left before halftime.
"I thought we were still in good shape at halftime," Samuel said.
Southeast used more than eight minutes on the opening possession of the third quarter that led to Geldbach's 40-yard field goal and a 27-24 advantage.
But the Chippewas finally took control.
CMU finished with a 495 to 308 edge in total yardage. Southeast had just 87 second-half yards.
The Chippewas were primarily a passing team last year, but they rushed for 324 yards while averaging 7.2 yards per carry behind a massive offensive line.
CMU had two backs rush for more than 100 yards.
Junior Zurlon Tipton gained a career-high 180 yards on 17 carries and scored three touchdowns, including from 48 and 32 yards. Sophomore Anthony Garland added 102 yards on 17 attempts.
"That's a big team," Samuel said. "They have big backs but we have to tackle better."