Central Michigan did enough at the start of each half to win its first Division I-A bowl.
Ontario Sneed scored twice early and Doug Kress returned an interception for a touchdown on the opening possession of the second half Tuesday night, helping the Chippewas defeat Middle Tennessee State, 31-14, in the Motor City Bowl.
"You always want to set the tempo early in the game," Sneed said. "Their defense had trouble matching up with us the way we were running and passing the ball."
Central Michigan (10-4) was led by interim Coach Jeff Quinn, who was promoted three weeks ago when Brian Kelly was wooed away by the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Chippewas lost the 1994 Las Vegas and 1990 California Raisin Bowls.
The Blue Raiders (7-6) played in a Division I-A bowl for the first time in their eighth season at college football's highest level.
Sneed's one-yard run and 29-yard reception gave the Chippewas a 14-0 lead with 5:53 left in the first quarter and Kress' 56-yard return put the Mid-American Conference champions ahead by three touchdowns early in the third.
Central Michigan defensive end Dan Bazuin, an NFL prospect, had a scare with a knee injury in the first half but returned after a halftime evaluation.
The 10th Motor City Bowl drew a record crowd of 54,113 at the home of the NFL's Detroit Lions. "People laughed at us when we started this bowl," Motor City Bowl Chief Executive George Perles said. "I don't think people can do that anymore."