By MIKE SMITH
AMHERST, Mass – After stumbling through a first half in which their offense totaled 41 yards, the Miami RedHawks rallied after intermission to post a 20-13 win over UMass Saturday at McGuirk Stadium.
True freshman quarterback Billy Bahl, who completed just 3 of 9 passes for a total of 18 yards in the first half connected on 9 of 14 for 142 yards over the final two quarters. His 14-yard pass to freshman Chris Hudson with 7:32 left in the game provided the winning score and lifted MU to its first road win since Sept. 29, 2012 (22 straight losses).
Still, it was Miami’s defense and a second-half run game that put the visitors in a position to win.
Both UMass (10) and Miami (13) ranked at or near the bottom of MAC teams in turnover margin. Each had just one turnover Saturday, but both were costly.
RedHawks running back Kenny Young lost the ball late in the third quarter on a hit by Trey Dudle-Giles. Peter Angeh recovered for UMass at the Miami 36 and four plays later, UMass regained the lead. Marquiss Young bounced outside and ran 28 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. Laurent’s PAT put the hosts up 13-10.
Miami responded with a 12-play drive on its next possession. Bahl’s third-down completion to tight end Ryan Smith for 24 yards moved the ball to mid-field. Two plays later, Bahl found Rokeem Willaims for 23 yards.
Miami got one more first down on an eight-yard pass to Nate Becker before the Minutemen defense stopped MU at the 12. Patterson came on to boot a 28-yard field goal that knotted the score at 13-all with 11:05 remaining in the contest.
Senior defensive end Bryson Albright, who shined in his final game as a RedHawk, sacked Frohnapfel to start the Minutemen’s next drive. Backups Allan Koikoi and Brad Koenig – stepping into an injury-ridden Miami lineup – broke up passes on the next two plays and UMass was forced to punt.
Miami got good field position at its own 45 and used six plays to score a decisive touchdown. Bahl hit Williams twice along the way (14 and 18 yards) and finished the trip with a 14-yard pass that Hudson pulled in with a defender on him.
With the PAT, Miami led 20-13, but there was still 7:32 to play. Frohnapfel completed three passes as UMass moved to the RedHawks 17. The Minutemen were facing fourth and three when Miami’s defense came up with a key turnover.
Freshman linebacker Junior McMullen was unblocked on his way to Frohnapfel, forcing a quick throw. Albright, a light-but-athletic defensive end, dropped back into coverage and picked off the Frohnapfel’s pass over the middle. He returned it 11 yards to the Miami 22, and the RedHawks took over with 4:46 remaining.
UMass spent a pair of time outs before a false start MU penalty set up fourth and nine. Smith got the call again and slammed up the middle, getting past the first down marker by inches. Although Miami could not pick up another first down left UMass with 32 seconds and 81 yards to go after a RedHawks punt.
A desperation multi-lateral play to end the contest resulted in an illegal forward pass penalty that negated a would be fumble and Miami touchdown when it was picked up and returned into the end zone.
Miami finished the season at 3-9 (2-6 MAC), winning two of its final three contests. “I thought we kind of turned the corner at Western Michigan,” said Miami head coach Chuck Martin, who credited the host of younger players for stepping up, especially after a slew of injuries hit Miami during the Akron game a week before Saturday’s finale.
UMass, which is leaving the MAC after this season, has one more game remaining. The Minutemen face Buffalo on the road Friday (4:30 p.m. ET).