First, it surprised. Then, it stunned no one. Finally, the Battle of the Bricks came down to one play and the home team storming the field.
In the end of a wild game full of momentum swings and did-that-just-happen moments, the Miami RedHawks (4-6, 4-2 Mid-American) avoided a crippling seventh loss and kept their postseason hopes alive with a 30-28 victory over the Ohio Bobcats.
“It’s a huge relief to the win the Battle of the Bricks,” head coach Chuck Martin said. “Is there a trophy or anything? I was waiting for the trophy to come, and there’s no trophy for the thing? We talk about this rivalry, and we don’t even have a trophy for it. I just assumed there was a trophy, you know? We hadn’t won it in 50 years, but how can it be such a rivalry if there’s no damn trophy? I mean, I’ll pitch in. It’s a pretty big deal.”
While there’s no official trophy, the RedHawks celebrated like there was one.
“Mo Bamba” by Sheck Wes blasted out their locker room doors and rang through the halls of the Gunlock Family Athletic Performance Center. Redshirt senior quarterback Gus Ragland, fresh off his first career victory over Ohio, walked into the postgame press conference missing both his socks and shoes.
“Honestly, this is a huge win for our program,” Ragland said. “We talked about this being a huge win for our university. It feels amazing as a senior, I’m not going to lie.”
Ohio (6-4, 4-2 MAC) entered the contest as the firm favorite and Las Vegas’s predicted victor. Rightfully so. The Bobcats had won five in a row against their biggest MAC rivals and led the conference in average scoring output this season, while the RedHawks had lost their last two games.
That was all before Miami opened the contest with a dominant 28-7 first half. Ohio gave up 28 points in its previous two games combined. It was surprising.
What followed shocked no one.
The Bobcats regained positive energy at halftime and slowly chipped away at Miami’s lead in the third quarter. In the fourth, they made it a game.
Ohio went on a 14-2 run in the final period, cutting its deficit to just two on a touchdown pass by junior quarterback Nathan Rourke to redshirt senior wideout Andrew Meyer.
A failed onside kickoff put Miami in prime position to run out the clock and end the game with 2:22 left, but it couldn’t do it. The RedHawks punted, giving Ohio 30 seconds to go 89 yards and win the game.
It gained 34 of those yards before the last play.
Even though the RedHawks rushed only three defenders on the play, Rourke felt pressure, rolled out of the pocket to his right and heaved a long-ball downfield. It fell short and out-of-bounds, ending the game and giving Martin his first win against the Bobcats in five tries.
Martin was previously 0-9 against his team’s two main rivals — Cincinnati and Ohio — during his tenure. Wednesday’s victory is also Miami’s first one-possession win since 2016.
“If you execute and make more plays, you win,” Martin said. “It’s not luck. It’s not anything. You keep fighting, and you keep battling.”
The Bobcats started the game with a six-play touchdown drive but quickly squandered their early lead. They allowed redshirt senior running back Alonzo Smith to punch in a three-yard touchdown run to knot the game at seven on the RedHawks’ first drive.
Miami continued its momentum by pitching a 21-0 second-quarter shutout to take a 28-7 lead into halftime.
After Rourke hit redshirt senior Papi White for a nine-yard touchdown with three and a half minutes left in the third quarter, Ohio embarked on its 14-2 fourth-quarter run.
The RedHawks’ lone second-half score came via safety when junior nose tackle Doug Costin forced Rourke out of the back of the end zone.
On the next Bobcat drive following the safety, redshirt junior kicker Louie Zervos missed a 29-yard field goal that would’ve made it 30-24.
Miami’s tailbacks starred in the victory. Smith tallied a game-high 94 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while redshirt senior Kenny Young led his team in catches (seven) and reception yards (67). He also scored on the ground.
Rourke passed for 163 yards and two touchdowns in the come-from-behind effort. Redshirt senior running back A.J. Ouellette proved effective with 15 carries for 168 yards but was used sparingly in the second half due to his team’s deficit.
The grind isn’t over for the RedHawks. They need to win out to remain bowl eligible.
That quest continues on Wednesday when they travel to Northern Illinois. The contest will kick off at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU.