OXFORD, OH – Eastern Illinois quarterback Mitch Kimble tossed two touchdown passes over the last 3:57 Saturday as the Panthers pulled out 21-17 victory over Miami at Yager Stadium.
Miami twice held 10-point leads in the contest, but it could not shake Eastern Illinois. MU out-gained the Panthers in rushing, passing and total yards. It also went plus-one in turnovers, but penalties repeatedly stymied drives and proved costly on defense, as well. The RedHawks were penalized 12 times for 89 yards, while Eastern Illinois drew three flags for 39 yards.
"The tell-tale sign for us today is penalties," Miami head coach Chuck Martin said.
Miami scored first . . .
"We just ran one of our play actions and Rokeem ran a great route," Bahl said. "I just put the ball up there and he made a great play on it for the touchdown."
Eastern Illinois closed the gap later in the corner following a “turnover trade.” Miami got the ball first when DeAndre Montgomery picked off Kimble with a sliding interception catch. Two plays later, Nick Horne picked off a Bahl pass and returned it 17 yards to the MU 47.
"That pick was bad. I just didn't read the right guy," Bahl said. "I've still got to cut down on mistakes and put our team in better situations."
The Panthers took advantage with a 13-play scoring drive. Kimble completed five passes and ran the ball twice – picking up a first down with his second carry. His three-yard pass to Addison Bounds with 57 seconds left, along with the PAT, made it 10-7 game.
Miami came out of the locker room after half time determined to run. There were nine run plays in a 13-play drive. Bahl completed three of four passes along the way, including a 14-yard score to James Gardner for a TD that seemed to give momentum back to Miami.
"They played a lot of man (to man coverage) the whole game and they brought a lot of blitzes," Bahl noted. "As the game went on, we kind of tried to exploit that (by running the football). We weren't getting all that good of looks in the pass game."
Both teams missed field goal attempts in the second half. EIU’s try came with 3:14 remaining in the third quarter. A snap and hold issue, however, prevented any kick.
Miami, already up 17-7, put together a 16-play, 73-yard drive midway through the final stanza. When Eastern Illinois forced a 4th and 3 at the 15, MU went for a field goal. The try, however, hit the left upright and careened away.
Kimble proved nimble -- at least effectively nimble. He avoided pressure on several occasions and also picked up critical yardage for first downs that kept drives alive. He was not only sacked just once, but led the Panthers in rushing (10 carries/49 net yards).
"He was the type of guy that would find an open hold and just hit it," Miami linebacker Paul Moses said.
With 3:53 to go, Miami needed to mount a drive. That proved difficult when it drew a holding penalty on the first play from scrimmage. Four plays later, Miami was punting.
Eastern Illinois took over at its own 49 and embarked on a decisive eight-play drive. A 14-yard Kimble run on third down moved the chains. The Panthers also got a first down when MU defensive tackle J.T. Jones was hit with a roughing the passer penalty. After review, he was disqualified. Three plays later, Kimble hit Devin Church in the flat and he threaded his way into the end zone. Just 56 seconds remained when Nick Bruno’s kick gave the Panthers a 21-17 advantage.
Eastern Illinois again utilized a squib kickoff, making it difficult for Miami to get a significant return, and the RedHawks could only reach their own 37 before time expired.
"Eastern Illinois played best when the game was on the line," Martin said.
Miami, which fell at Iowa, 45-21, in Week One, will face another tough test next week when they entertain pass-happy Western Kentucky.