Visiting Eastern Kentucky employed a”bend-but-don’t break defense.” Miami provided a mistake-prone offense. Throw in one well-timed and executed trick play by the Colonels, and the result was a 17-10 victory by Eastern Kentucky over the Miami RedHawks Saturday at Yager Stadium.
The setback left Miami 0-2 on the season and extended the nation’s longest Football Bowl Subdivision losing streak to 18 games. Adding to the pain was the fact that EKU, now 2-0 in 2014, is a Football Bowl Championship division program.
Playing from behind most of the way, Eastern managed to tie the game at 10-all with a late third quarter field goal. As the end of regulation drew near, Eastern found itself with good field position at mid-field. Facing a second-and-seven, EKU pulled out the trick play.
According to Martin, the trick play was one bad moment in an otherwise solid performance by the MU defense.
“Our defense did a great job,” he said. “The first 10 (EKU) points, they weren’t even on the field for. … They’ve got a ways to go, but I think (the defense) will be a good unit for us.”
Several key stats would have strongly suggested a Miami win. The RedHawks had 23 first downs to 12 for EKU and also had a 419-280 edge in total offense. In fact, forty-three of the Colonels’ total yards came on the trick play.
“Points is what matters, not stats,” Martin said. “It was a game we should have won as a football team, and we didn’t. … The plays were there, but we didn’t do it consistently enough to get the ball in the end zone and win the game.”
Miami jumped on Eastern right away, moving down the field for a touchdown in just three plays. Jared Murphy covered the last 40 yards with a pass from quarterback Andrew Hendrix. Less than a minute had elapsed, but few could have suspected the RedHawks had just scored their last last TD of the day.
While the defense was limiting Eastern Kentucky to one third down conversion on 13 tries over four quarters, Miami’s offense was frequently stymied by its own penalties and turnovers.
Both teams nearly reached double digits in penalties, with EKU getting flagged eight times for 94 yards and Miami nine times for 61.
“Obviously, illegal procedure is a major issue for us (with) all the times we go backward,” Martin said.
The RedHawks also hurt their cause with six turnovers – three interceptions and three lost fumbles. Turnovers led to all 10 Colonels points prior to the final touchdown. “They were hanging and waiting for us to make a mistake. We fumble a punt and give them three points. Then we throw a pick-six and the game is tied for no reason,” Martain said. “Other than (the trick play), they stopped them the whole game. “
Miami put together a 12-play drive early in the second quarter, but as they had in Week No. 1 versus Marshall, the RedHawks bogged down in the red zone. When it got to fourth and one at the EKU four-yard line, Martin opted to go for the field goal.
Kaleb Patterson’s attempt was blocked by Devin Bodes and recovered by Murphy at the Eastern 28. The Colonels then mounted one of their most promising drives of the day. However, after reaching the Miami 20, Jared McClain’s pass was intercepted by Quinten Rollins in the end zone to end the threat.
Miami was on the move and had crossed midfield when Hendrix was hit by Trey Thomas. The ball popped loose and was recovered by Marquise Piton, who returned it into Miami territory before fumbling himself.
Eastern appeared to be working its way into field goal position in the final seconds of the half. But after reaching the MU 23, the Colonels drew a holding call that pushed them outside field goal range.
Miami reached the EKU four-yard line on its first drive of the third quarter but again could not punch it in. Patterson came on and this time was able to split the uprights with what would be Miami’s only field goal of the day.
Eastern Michigan managed to tie the game less than three minutes later when junior safety Stanley Absanon stepped in front of an out route to pick off a Hendrix pass. Absanon was already full speed when he caught the pass and sprinted untouched down the left sideline.
Although there was 3:53 left in the third quarter, neither team was able to reach the scoreboard again until the final trick play. Miami’s defense continued to thwart the Colonels and the Colonels continued to pressure Hendrix with blitzes. He was sacked five times for minus-33 yards on the day and was under heavy pressure on a number of other occasions.
“Offensive issues – that was the game. We couldn’t run the ball, and we couldn’t protect our quarterback,” said Martin, who called out himself.
“I am the head coach, and I am the offensive coordinator,” he said. “I didn’t have us prepared for what Eastern Kentucky decided to throw at us. We’ve got to figure out how to run the ball and protect our quarterback in the very near future. Obviously, we’ve got some tough opponents coming up.”
Despite the setback, Martin indicated he remained confident his team can still win.
I think we’re going to come out of this hole, and … win more than a few games this year before the season is over,” Martin said.
After starting the season with two home games, Miami hits the road for three weeks. First on the itinerary is a trip to the Big House to face Michigan next week. After that it is rival Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium and then MAC East foe Buffalo.