All in a span of five minutes
Remember the name Kalil Pimpleton.
Central Michigan traveled to face archrival Western Michigan in MACtion on Wednesday night. The Chippewas entered the game as nine-point underdogs but put themselves in a good position at the halftime whistle, taking a 21–14 lead into the locker room. Or, rather, Pimpleton held a 21–14 lead over the Broncos.
Pimpleton, a 5' 9", 175-pound receiver who transferred to Central from Virginia Tech, went off in the first half, accounting for all three of his team’s touchdowns.
After a sluggish start on offense (CMU punted twice and missed two field goals on its first four possessions), Pimpleton put his team’s first points on the board with this 70-yard punt return touchdown:
The Chippewas forced WMU to punt on the next possession and, after a 61-yard run by Lew Nichols III, Pimpleton found the end zone again on an 11-yard pass play.
The Broncos had a chance to head into the half with the score tied at 14 if they just punted the ball out of bounds on their next possession.
“There’s no way they’re gonna kick the football to Kalil Pimpleton, right?” Chippewa Sports Network play-by-play man Adam Jaksa said. “You imagine [Nick] Mihalic is gonna try to kick this one out of bounds with 23 seconds left.”
Oops. Pimpleton took it back 97 yards for his third touchdown of the quarter. (Broncos coach Tim Lester said after the game that Mihalic had been told to kick it out of bounds.)
His first half stats went like this: three catches for 104 yards and a touchdown (the only Chippewas receiver to catch a pass), and two punt returns for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
Pimpleton is the first CMU player to return a punt for a touchdown since Antonio Brown in 2009 and the first to have two punt return scores in the same game since the program jumped from Division II to Division I in 1975. The 97-yarder broke the school record for longest punt return set by Jim Podoley in 1953 (90 yards).
Pimpleton is the 24th player in D-I to have multiple punt return touchdowns in a single game since 2000 (as far back as Sports Reference’s database goes) but the only one to also have 100 yards receiving in the same game.
The Broncos made sure to stifle Pimpleton in the second half, though. He only caught two more passes for 11 yards and lost a yard on his only other punt return. But CMU held on to win the game and bring the Cannon Trophy back to Mount Pleasant for the first time in four years. Pimpleton was amped up after the victory.
“I’m definitely happy to do what I can for my team,” Pimpleton said later. “They did what they could for me to allow me to get in the end zone three times. I did realize early in the game that I was being a spark to the team, so it’s like you have to keep doing that; it wasn’t enough because we were down 14–0. That first touchdown wasn’t enough, so you had to get another one. The second touchdown wasn’t enough because we wanted to get up, so you have to get another one. That’s what really was going through my head every time I touched the ball, just get points on the board.”
He sure did get points on the board.
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