OXFORD, Ohio -- Doug Costin’s fourth quarter safety proved to be the difference Wednesday as the Miami RedHawks upset rival Ohio 30-28 at Yager Stadium.
Miami head coach Chuck Martin said he was most happy for a senior class that had not won a “Battle of the Brick’s” rivalry game against the Bobcats. MU’s last win -- also in Oxford -- was back in 2012.
"Our kids stuck in there and fought their tails off. I'm crazy proud of them," Martin said. "For those guys to win the rivalry game is pretty special for me. ... I definitely didn't want to see (the seniors) leave here without beating OU in the Battle of the Bricks."
Beyond the rivalry, the loss was a serious blow to Ohio, which fell to 6-4 overall and 4-2 in MAC play. That’s two games behind East Division leader Buffalo with two games remaining. Ohio hosts the Bulls (9-1, 6-0 MAC) next Wednesday.
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Although Ohio scored with a Maleek Irons 3-yard run on its opening drive, the first half was all-RedHawks after that point.
Alonzo Smith struck the first blow with a 3-yard TD run to cap Miami’s first possession. The hosts later went in front on Kenny Young’s
16-yard scamper down the right side to cap a a 12-play, 71-yard drive. His dive to the pylon put Miami up 14-7 at 11:12 of the second quarter.
Down 21-7 with 6:32 remaining until intermission, Ohio had time to at least narrow its deficit before the break. Instead, the ’Cats committed their only turnover of the night. Quarterback Nathan Rourke found Isiah Cox over the middle for 23 yards, but lineback Brad Koenig jarred the ball loose and Myles Reid recovered. Upon review, the fumble call stood and Miami took over. Five plays later, Smith scored on an eight-yard run. Sam Sloman’s kick made it a 28-7 lead that MU took to the locker room.
"We came out kind of clicking on all cylinders. ... We (were) just really executing everything we had practiced all week" Ragland said. "It's probably the best half we've had all year."
Ohio, the MAC leader in total offense (453/3 ypg), totaled 143 yards against Miami in the first half. Seventy-four of that came on the opening drive. Of the 143 yards, just 36 were through the air.
Miami actually gave the Bobcats’ cause a kick start on its second possession when Ragland -- under pressure -- tossed an interception that was picked off by Jared Dorsa. The Bobcats entered this week tied with Buffalo for the MAC’s top turnover margin (+9).
Despite facing a second-and-20 early, Ohio converted a fourth-and-two while covering 46 yards for it’s second score of the contest. Rourke hit Papi White for the final nine yards. Rourke completed 16-of-27 for 163 yards and two touchdowns on the night.
"We really battled Pappi in the red zone," Martin said. "He's such a great player. He made a heck of a touchdown catch."
Down by two touchdowns with just over a quarter to play, the Bobcats had plenty of time to recover-- especially since Ohio’s defense had Miami stuck in punt mode.
"We got a little bit out of rhythm (after the interception) ... and we're trying to use clock," Martin said. "Sometimes you hurt yourself by trying to slow it down."
Miami gained just one first down after taking over and was force to punt again. The RedHawks punt team actually had a good night -- except for one play. Facing fourth-and-10, MU attempted to punt from its own 43. Dorsa blocked the kick and Dylan Conner returned it 28 yards for a touchdown that pulled Ohio within seven at 28-21.
After getting good field position through a kickoff return and Ohio penalty, the RedHawks lost one yard over three plays. The punt team came on again, and this time delivered a key play for Miami. Kyle Kramer’s boot rolled out of bounds inside the Ohio 1-yard line.
Ohio used two timeouts on MU’s short drive, but Kramer hit a 63-yard punt that carried into the end zone. Down by eight with 4:40 remaining, Ohio covered the 80 yards in seven plays that took 2:18 off the clock. Rourke’s 18-yard pass to Andrew Meyer and the PAT kick left left the visitors down by two at 30-28.
Miami’s Mitch Lewis recovered Ohio’s onside kick and, after a final Bobcat timeout, MU ran the clock down. After a Kramer punt to the 11, there were just 30 seconds left. Five plays yielded 34 yards and the game ended with Costin hurrying Roarke into an incompletion.