In a team-wide effort, the Miami University football team won its season opener for the first time since 2007. Several team members – not just the “same five people like last year,” head coach Chuck Martin noted – contributed to the RedHawks’ 26-7 victory over Presbyterian College (0-1).
“Way more people contributed to this win,” Martin said. “Last year … you typically came out of Monday [film sessions] and [saw] the same guys made plays every week … I think [this] Monday, there’s going to be offense, defense, special teams, so many more players aren’t going to feel bad about the things they screwed up because they’ll feel like ‘yea, I made that play’ and it was a key play on a drive where we scored a touchdown. Or ‘I made that catch’ or ‘I scored that touchdown’ or ‘I made that block’ or ‘I made that tackle.’ Even on special teams, there were a number of guys who played tons of snaps on special teams who had never played and now they’re running down and making plays.”
Despite the team’s inexperience (56 percent of the roster consists of freshmen or sophomores), some of the biggest plays came from newcomers.
Redshirt freshman Chris Hudson scored the first touchdown of the game on a 10-yard completion from redshirt senior Drew Kummer, giving Miami (1-0) a 7-0 lead at the 8:26 mark in the first quarter.
It was Hudson again who set up Miami’s second touchdown. The receiver shook off multiple defenders and drove to the 1-yard line on a 37-yard completion from Kummer. Redshirt freshman running back Alonzo Smith punched it through for the TD with 5:43 left in the second quarter, increasing MU’s lead to 13-0 (extra point kick was blocked).
After a 40-plus minute weather delay, redshirt sophomore running back Darrell Bridges put Presbyterian on the board with a two-yard touchdown run. A good extra point reduced Miami’s lead to 13-7.
However, Miami took off in the fourth quarter.
Redshirt freshman running back Kenny Young broke loose for a 26-yard run. Kummer followed with a 52-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Rokeem Williams. The RedHawks failed on a two-point conversion, claiming a 19-7 lead with 12:53 left in the fourth quarter.
At the 6:48 mark, Smith added another touchdown to Miami’s lead with a 1-yard run. Two plays earlier, his 26-yard rush brought the offense into scoring position.
Martin said the game’s biggest positive was the mindset of his players on the sideline.
“There wasn’t that constant every-time-something-went-wrong feeling that we were on a sinking ship, which was pretty much [how it was] last year every time we didn’t make a play,” Martin said. “Whether we had to punt or whether we didn’t score, it was kinda the end of the world for our sideline. … When you have a [Division] I-AA coming in and you’re the favorite, you’re kinda feeling like you should have the game more in control and it’s 13-0, and then it’s 13-7. We answer with a stop and two beautiful drives offensively and we score points and put the game away. Last year, you panicked and panicked and panicked until we gave the game away.”
“Today was just a different feeling on the sideline. It was a different feeling when we went to the hotel last night, just a calmer, more confident – I think they know they’re better and they know what they’re capable of.”
Kummer was 14-of-19 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. After much speculation about which of the three QBs would be Miami’s starter, Martin announced Monday that Kummer had the job. Kummer’s first possession of the game was a futile three-and-out, including a rush for no gain on second down and an incomplete pass to redshirt junior Fred McRae on third.
“There were a little nerves,” Kummer said. “After the second series, we were able to put together a drive, and after that, it was just like practice.”
Young finished the game with 59 rushing yards on 10 touches and 18 receiving yards, while Smith totaled 86 yards on 12 attempts. Redshirt sophomore receiver Jared Murphy notched his first career 100-yard game, catching five passes for 101 yards.
“Awesome,” is how Kummer described his offensive counterparts after the game. “Chris [Hudson] can go get the ball wherever you throw it … Alonzo [Smith], tough guy. I mean, it’s hard to bring him down. When someone hits him, they need three or four guys to bring him down … Kenny [Young], the offensive line, the receivers, tight ends – they all played great today.”
The defense wasn’t quiet either.
After missing the 2014 season with an injury, redshirt senior defensive back Brison Burris forced a fumble in the end zone on PC’s first drive of the game, preventing touchdown. Sophomore Tony Reid recovered the fumble for a touchback.
Reid came up big for the defense again on Presbyterian’s second possession, intercepting quarterback Tamyn Garrick in the end zone to save another touchdown.
“Honestly, it’s the glory of God,” Reid said. “I pray every game and tell him to put himself in my body and just let me perform the best game that I can.”
Burris finished the game with six tackles (five solo). Several of his fellow defensemen also had big games: senior Kent Kern had nine tackles (four solo), sophomore Paul Moses had seven (three solo), senior Bryson Albright had six (three solo) and junior TJ Williams had five (three solo).
“We came up with a unit name called ‘the mob’ and that’s the code that we’re living by now,” Reid said. “So we just fight for the ball, do whatever you gotta do just to get it back and have offense in great field position.”
Miami’s season continues on the road next weekend against No. 20 University of Wisconsin.