OXFORD, OH - It was senior night Tuesday at Yager Stadium, and two seniors were among the prominent figures in an historic 21-20 Miami RedHawks win over Ball State. Sophomore quarterback Gus Ragland connected with seniors Rokeem Williams and Sam Shisso for a total of three touchdown passes to give MU its sixth win of the season.
That victory marked the first time a Football Bowl Subdivision team has started a regular season with six losses and finished with six victories.
(EDITORS NOTE: Pictures and more to come!!)
It also gave Miami a share of the MAC East title, although Ohio’s win over Akron Tuesday advances the Bobcats to next week’s conference title game, since OU won a head-to-head battle earlier this year. However, the RedHawks are now bowl eligible and will be waiting to see how that situation sorts out. The MAC has a number of bowl tie-ins.
Miami got on the . . .
The Cardinals offensive talent and diversity were evident against a Miami defense that was ranked No. 1 among MAC teams in total defense.
Running back James Gilbert proved tough to corral, carrying 18 times for 117 yards. Sophomore quarterback Riley Neal, meanwhile, was also a difficult catch. He ran 16 times for 108 yards with one TD and was sacked just one time. He also completed 22 of 34 passes with one touchdown and one interception.
BSU did have one turnover against Miami, and it was costly in that Heath Harding’s interception at the goal line ended a Cardinal drive that likely would have yielded points. That, however, was the game’s only turnover for either team.
The first Ball State score was a 25-yard Neal to KeVonn Mabon pass at 1:19 of the first period. That strike was set up by 40-yard Gilbert gallop to start the four-play drive.
Miami nearly struck back three plays later on a long pass down the middle, but the pass was dropped to end the first period.
When Miami failed to convert a 4th and 10 on its next possession, Ball State took over at its own 35. The Cardinals had a 1st and 10 at MU’s 18 when Riley was flushed out of the pocket. As the receiver adjusted and broke for the end zone, Riley attempted to loft it over Harding. The Redshirt junior, however, recovered to make a leaping grab for his fourth pick of the season.
Ball State did get three more points before intermission. Taking over with 2:05 remaining, BSU drove to the Miami 5-yard line. A sack and intentional grounding call moved the ball back to the 14. With just four seconds left, Morgan Hagee came on to kick the first of his two field goals on the evening.
As it had in the first half, Miami struck quickly after intermission – this time on the first play. Ragland found Williams deep over the middle. He spun off a tackle and went down the right sideline to complete a 74-yard play.
Ball State turned up the pressure on Ragland, eventually sacking him seven times by game’s end, and neither team could score until deep into the fourth quarter.
Miami started its decisive drive with 10:00 remaining. Ragland passed seven straight times before being sacked by Kevin Thurmon. That set up 3rd and 14. Ragland went to the air again and found Shisso near the right sideline. The senior scooped up a low throw and weaved his way to the end zone to complete the 27-yard play. Nick Dowd, who had missed a pair of extra points in Miami’s last outing at Buffalo, added the PAT to give the hosts a 21-20 edge.
It appeared that it would be a very short lead when Mabon took the ensuing kickoff to the house. However, a holding penalty was called on the play, and BSU went to work from its own 32 with 5:31 remaining.
Miami stuffed a 3rd and 2 run for no gain at its own 48, setting up a fourth down with just under three minutes remaining. The Cardinals elected to punt and MU took over at its own 15.
The RedHawks ground, which had been more productive this season, struggled for much of the evening. To that point, MU owned just 39 yards off 13 carries (not including sacks). The Cardinals still had three time outs left and quickly spent two.
BSU used its final time out two plays later and had Miami facing a 3rd and 8. Smith again went off the right side, but this time he burst through a hole for a 50-yard gain. Ragland took a knee for one final play, and soon Miami was celebrating with fans at mid-field.