By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH – One week after giving up 51 points to Northern Illinois, the Miami RedHawks defense earned a measure of redemption in a 10-3 MU win over Kent State at Yager Stadium.
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"Last week was just not a good showing on our part at all. We had a lot to prove this week, so we played with a chip on our shoulder, and I think that showed today," said Miami safety Heath Harding, who contributed a key third quarter interception.
The RedHawks, more recently known for their offense – particularly the passing of quarterback Andrew Hendrix – needed their defense to pull out their second win of the season. Hendrix struggled with the passing game, completing just 11 of 28 for a season-low 120 yards.
Hendrix did provide the game’s only touchdown when he shook off an MU personal foul penalty on the previous play to score on a 19-yard run up the middle with 4:12 remaining in the first period.
Miami was flagged eight times for 62 yards in the contest. Several came late in the game when the RedHawks, deep in their own territory, wanted to mount a long drive to eat up valuable clock time and yardage.
Instead, the RedHawks were forced to punt, and Kent State took over near midfield. Trailing 10-3 with 4:58 remaining, KSU started the drive with a big 13-yard run by quarterback Colin Reardon.
When the drive bogged down, Reardon hit Nick Holley for eight yards and a first down at the MU 30.
Reardon followed that with an incompletion and then a nine-yard run. Miami, however, stopped Reardon for no gain on third-and-one. Holley got the handoff on fourth down and was met by the middle of Miami’s defense. The measurement showed him short of the first, giving Miami possession. After a two-yard gain, Hendrix ran again – this time for 17 yards and a first down to put the game away.
"It was a hard-fought effort. A tough effort," said Kent State head coach Paul Haynes. "Everyone will sit there and talk about the defense and the offense … but there are things we didn't do (on both sides) to win the game. Penalties killed us in the first quarter, keeping drives alive that would have changed the field. And on offense, we have to continue to get stronger. That's the bottom line. We are not strong enough up front. We have a lot of young guys who have to get stronger."
In a rare occurrence, Miami had more running yards (167) than passing yards (120) in the contest. Although the passing game struggled, Hendrix provided most of the ground yardage, turning 15 carries into 104 yards.
"I felt like we could have run for more. If we manage the run game better, (we) probably could have been (at) 200," Martin said. "Too many times we checked out of runs we didn't really want to check out of. (That) was really an issue today, which was frustrating, because we had good run looks."
Reardon completed 21 of 39 for 201 yards and one interception. Nick Holley carried 11 times for 48 yards to pace a Flashes running game that totaled 79 yards.
Our defense "took a big step forward as far as aggressive nature, (being) confident ... (and) edging the ball," Martin said. "We had an edge-sharp defense, and that is prerequisite number one to play good defense. (We had) much better tackling."
Miami got on the board first, scoring the game’s only TD on Hendrix' run to cap MU’s second drive.
Kent State, meanwhile, was forced to punt on its first four possessions. The fifth drive resulted in points, but also marked the first of several missed opportunities.
After taking over at their own midway through the second period, KSU used 10 plays to set up a first and goal at the Miami five. Holley gained three yards on the next play, followed by an incompletion. A pitch sweep to Ernest Calhoun went amiss when the pitch turned into a fumble and loss of five yards.
Kent State managed to move the ball in the second half. What the Flashes didn’t do well was finish.
Nine plays into the opening drive of the second half, Miami’s Heath Harding picked off a Reardon pass over the middle at the RedHawks five-yard line.
After Miami used 10-plays to go just 34 yards. Kent State returned to MU territory. But with fourth and three to go, Reardon’s pass went incomplete.
Hendrix hit Jared Murphy on a 39-yard pass over the middle on the next play. The RedHawks got to Kent State’s 23 before facing a fourth and three. Kaleb Patterson came on and nailed a 41-yard field goal with plenty to spare. That put Miami out front 10-3 with just 40 ticks left in the third quarter.
After a Miami punt, Reardon and Holley led Kent State back into the Miami red zone. Facing a fourth and five with 8:10 left, KSU called on Melchiori. His 30-yard field goal try, however, was wide left.
Kent State got the ball one more time, but MU’s defense came up with the third and fourth down stops.
Kent State second half drives, in order, order ended with: interception, downs, punt, missed field goal, and downs.
Miami remains at home next week, hosting a hot Western Michigan Broncos squad (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.). Kent State is home against Toledo on Tuesday, Nov. 4 (8 p.m. ET).