OXFORD, Ohio – The Miami RedHawks jumped out to a 21-0 second quarter lead and rode a record defensive performance on the way to a 28-13 victory over Eastern Michigan Saturday at Yager Stadium.
Miami (2-8, 1-5 MAC) totaled a program-record 9.0 sacks while improving to 2-8 on the campaign and registering its first conference win. Defensive end JT Jones set a new single game individual mark with 4.0 sacks, while Bryson Albright owned three sacks, 5.5 TFL and one fumble recovery to pace a defense that limited EMU to a season-low 192 yards of total offense.
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Eastern Michigan (1-9, 0-6 MAC) has been more successful with its run game and actually gained 194 yards against Miami. Sacks and tackles for loss, however, took away 91 yards.
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Miami, meanwhile, had one of its more successful days in terms of using two quarterbacks. True freshman starter Billy Bahl connected on 10 of 14 for 119 yards with one TD and one interception. Redshirt freshman Gus Ragland completed 3 of 4 passes for just 31 yards. However, the completions included Miami’s only second half score and he chipped in a net of 42 yards with one touchdown rushing.
"We know Gus is capable of throwing it," Miami head coach Chuck Martin said. "He's a quarterback. he's not a wildcat tailback. Although he comes in and everybody starts yelling 'run,' he can throw the ball. ... He did a beautiful job on the touchdown (pass) to Murph." He did some nice things and, obviously Bill did some nice things, too."
Miami’s ground game proved to be a key factor. The RedHawks totaled 291 yards on 47 carries and held advantages in time of possession in three of the four periods. Miami, in fact, had an 11:53 to 3:07 advantage in time of possession in the fourth quarter as the RedHawks successfully put the game away.
"It was nice in the fourth quarter to be able to run the ball," Martin said. "We were running it good, so we relied more heavily on the running. ... You try to shorten the game and get out of there with a victory."
Redshirt freshman Alonzo Smith led Miami rushing with 93 net yards with one TD among 20 carries. Classmate Kenny Young added 52 yards while true freshman Maurice Thomas made two trips for 80 yards, including a 77-run to set up Miami’s second score.
The RedHawks opened scoring by moving 75 yards on eight plays. Ragland went around the right sides for nine-yard to score and Kaleb Patterson added the extra point.
Eastern Michigan appeared ready to put up its own score two possessions later. After reaching the Miami five, however, Brad Koenig sacked Roback and Albright recovered to end the threat.
It was still 7-0 Miami to start the second quarter, but that didn’t last long as Thomas turned the corner on a run around the right side and raced down the sideline. Ray Tillman’s diving stop brought Thomas down, but Smith went off left tackle for a TD on the next play.
After an EMU three-and-out, Miami quickly moved 66 yards on six plays for another score. Bahl started the drive with a 21-yard pass to Sam Martin and completed two more before finishing the journey with a 33-yard pass to Jared Murphy. The latter led MU with seven catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns.
The worst was over for EMU, but Miami’s defense wasn’t in a very giving mood. Senior kicker Dylan Mulder would provide most of the remaining Eagles points, with six coming on very long field goals. The first boot was a 49-yarder at 4:08 of the second period, narrowing the visitors deficit to 21-3 at intermission.
Martin, meanwhile, lamented a pair of missed opportunities for his RedHawks. "The lat two drives of the first half, I was disappointed," he said. "We fumble one (and) we throw a pick. Even if you get to 24-0, you put them in a really bad situation. We had a short field and we had the win in the second quarter."
Eastern Michigan created some momentum after receiving the second half kickoff as the Eagles drove 75 yards in seven plays. Shaz Vann’s 58-yard run down the right side was the big play.
"That was one of two plays I'd like to have back on defense," Martin said. "They went unbalanced. We didn't get our safety far enough over. If we get our safety far enough over it is (no gain). They ran it twice later, and it was not a factor."
Darius Jackson finished the drive by going off right tackle for two yards for a touchdown that made it 21-10.
Miami answered that score midway through the period. Taking over at their own 48 following an Eagles punt, the RedHawks rushed five times to reach the redzone.
Ragland then hit Murphy for seven and 12 yards. The redshirt sophomore’s diving catch over the middle and in the end zone put MU up 28-10 after Patterson’s PAT at 4:46 of the third quarter.
With the defenses digging in, one more score remained. Even that was hard-earned as Mulder drilled a school record 55-yard field goal at 12:24 of the final stanza. That also tied the Yager Stadium record.
Miami’s next two drives failed to produce points but ate up nearly 12 minutes of clock time. In between, Eastern Michigan gained one first down.
-- Miami completes its three-game home stand next Saturday when it hosts Akron. Eastern Michigan entertains UMass Saturday in the first of two home contests to close the season.
-- EMU running back Darius Jackson entered Saturday averaging 99.3 ypg rushing (second MAC). He carried 17 times for a net of 47 yards against the RedHawks. Shaq Vann led the Eagles with 62 net yards on six rushes. Jackson did register six points, slightly under his 8.7 ppg, which is third among MAC players.
-- "I've watched a lot of their offense on tape, and they moved the ball on a lot of people," Martin said. "i was very fearful of their tailbacks, (but) besides the misfits, we kept them completely in check and ... I felt pretty good about keeping the two quarterbacks contained."
-- Miami (-1.33 per game) and Eastern Michigan (-1.44 per game) occupied the bottom spots among MAC teams in turnover margin. Both teams fumbled twice Saturday and lost one. Each team also threw an interception. Brison Burris picked off a pass for Miami, while Anthony Brown stepped in for an EMU interception.
-- Just three points were scored off turnovers.
-- Miami drew four flags for -30 yards. The Eagles were penalized nine times for 54 yards.
-- Mid-American Conference tackle leader Great Ibe registered 12 stops on the day.