After three consecutive Saturdays of letdowns and losses, the Miami RedHawks finally grabbed their first victory of 2018.
Spurred by the resurgence of their running game, the ’Hawks (1-3, 1-0 Mid-American) rushed for a season-high 289 yards to defeat Bowling Green 38-23 at Doyt L. Perry Stadium.
“You always feel good when you win,” MU head coach Chuck Martin said. “It doesn’t matter who you play, how you win, win a low-scoring game, win a high-scoring game, win a blowout, it doesn’t matter. Winning makes you feel good, so we feel a little bit better.”
The running game couldn’t have reappeared at a better time for the injury-riddled RedHawks who were missing several starters, including redshirt senior running back Kenny Young and senior receiver James Gardner.
“We felt like, going into this game, we should be able to run the ball some,” Martin said. “Looking at the halftime stats, everyone that touched the ball was averaging like 10 yards a carry, so they were reading off the carries and the yardage, and I’m like, ‘I don’t care who you give it to, just keep giving it to him because everyone is averaging eight to 10 yards a carry.’”
Miami attempted to establish the run from the first offensive play of the game. Redshirt senior quarterback Gus Ragland didn’t throw his first pass until the Red & White’s third drive.
Another reinvigorated element of the RedHawks’ offense was the big play.
Two plays of over 29 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown scamper by redshirt junior running back Maurice Thomas, resulted in Miami taking its first lead of the season. The score was also the team’s first touchdown since Week One.
A field goal by junior kicker Sam Sloman extended Miami’s lead to 10-0 on its first offensive drive of the second quarter.
After the Falcons responded with a field goal of their own, the RedHawks went back to the big play.
Redshirt senior running back Alonzo Smith found a hole and carried the ball 34 yards to the two-yard line. Ragland used his legs to punch it in two plays later, boosting Miami’s advantage to 17-3.
On the RedHawks’ final drive of the first half, Ragland found redshirt sophomore tight end Andrew Homer for a touchdown to make it 24-3 with under a minute before intermission.
The onslaught continued into the second half, as Ragland connected with redshirt sophomore Jack Sorenson for a 31-3 lead with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
That score held into the fourth quarter.
Playing against mostly second-string defenders, Bowling Green scored 20 points in the fourth period, but its deficit proved too much to overcome.
The ’Hawks added another touchdown and held on to take a 38-23 victory in their MAC-opener.
Miami won the total-yards battle with a slight 408-385 edge.
Although Ragland passed for two touchdowns and had his best game since Week One, it was the runners that set the tone for the RedHawks.
Smith led the group with 164 yards, while Thomas, Ragland, and redshirt freshman running back Davion Johnson each had a touchdown on the ground.
BG’s freshman quarterback Jarret Doege starred in its comeback attempt, throwing 237 yards and two touchdowns.
Martin believes a win will do wonders for his team’s confidence – something lower than usual due to the 0-3 start.
“It was a hard week,” Martin said. “We were 0-3 and we didn’t feel good. It’s not like we were blaming. You could say, ‘Well, just brush it off.’ We’re not brushing it off. We’re human beings. We work hard at this and we were 0-3. It was a pretty somber group all week, but it was a pretty focused group.”
MAC-play continues next weekend, as the RedHawks host Western Michigan for Miami’s family weekend game on Saturday. The contest is set for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff and will be broadcast on ESPN+.