MT. PLEASANT, Mich -- Turnovers and penalties figured prominently, particularly in the first half, of a 31-14 Miami RedHawks win over Central Michigan Saturday at Kelly Shorts Stadium.
While Miami played turnover-free ball for the first time in four 2017 starts, the Chippewas committed two turnovers – one of which was particularly costly.
Miami committed . . .
The RedHawks had sprinted out to a 21-7 lead and took possession near midfield with 3:53 remaining in the second period. When quarterback Gus Ragland went to the air on first down, Central’s Amari Coleman picked off the pass and returned the ball well into Miami territory.
It was one of two big “almost” plays for the senior. In this case, he almost had an interception, because CMU was flagged for roughing the passer on the play. That gave Miami the ball and a first down. Two plays later, Kenny Young, who had to leave the team and miss practice for part of the week, took a run off tackle for 31 yards and a touchdown.
Just one minute remained in the period when Miami took over, but that was plenty of time for some drama.
There were four seconds left when Miami elected to try a 52-yard field goal. Kicker Sam Sloman, however, slipped coming into the ball. That resulted in a line drive that was on target, but low.
Coleman, standing in the back of the end zone, jumped up and snagged the ball with one hand much like a basketball rebound. He then turned sprinter, weaving his way up field and through would-be Miami tacklers down the left sideline for an apparent touchdown that would have pulled CMU to within seven.
I “felt we dug ourselves too big a hole in the first half,” CMU head coach John Bonamego said. “I think it's a story of missed opportunities."
Forty-two points had been scored in the first half. There would be just three more on the board after the final two periods. Those came on a 34-yard Sloman field goal with 1:38 left in the third stanza.
Central Michigan’s best second-half chance to score came on a nine-play, 80-yard drive that started midway through the fourth quarter. After reaching Miami’s four, however, Matt Merrimee stepped in front of a Morris pass at the goal line and returned it 47 yards.
Morris, a senior, completed 15 of 33 for 195 yards with one TD and two picks against the MAC’s defending defensive leader.
Overall, CMU owned 228 yards passing and 117 through rushing. Jonathan Ward carried 22 times for 56 yards (2.5 ypc) to lead the way.
Senior Eric Cooper topped receivers with six catches for 81 yards and a score.
Ragland completed 11 of 19 passes for the RedHawks, who totaled 217 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air.
James Martin, returning from injury, had three receptions for 66 yards, while Sam Martin produced 72 yards and a TD with his two catches.
The RedHawks pulled in front early, driving 75 yards on nine plays with the game’s first possession. Ragland covered the final six yards on a run.
Miami added another score with 1:19 left in the first quarter when Ragland turned tight end Quinten Hardy’s first career catch into a three-yard touchdown.
Morrris halved CMU’s deficit when he raced around the left side for a 2-yard score. However, Miami, covered 77 yards for another TD on its next possession. Ragland got it started with a 24-yard pass to Jared Murphy. After a short Young run, Ragland found Martin in stride down the middle for a 50-yard TD play.
Each team added another touchdown before the half.
Miami (2-2) finishes its non-conference schedule next week when it visits Notre Dame. It will be a return visit for Martin, who was offensive coordinator for the Irish before taking the Miami job.
Central Michigan (2-2) will also be on the road against a non-conference foe as meets Boston College.