Marking the beginning of Mid-American Conference play, Miami football (2-2, 1-0 MAC) defeated Central Michigan University (2-2, 0-1 MAC) 31-14 on the road. Gus Ragland had three touchdowns on Saturday afternoon.
The Redshirt junior quarterback set the tempo from the opening kickoff. His six yard scoring run and three-yard touchdown pass to Redshirt sophomore tight end Quentin Hardy saw MU take a 14-0 advantage after the first quarter.
CMU wouldn’t go down without a fight, though. With 10:39 left in the second quarter, senior quarterback Shane Morris answered the call with a two-yard rushing touchdown to cut the deficit to 14-7.
This would be the closest the Chippewas would get, thanks to a quick response from Ragland and the ’Hawks.
Not even 1:30 after Morris’ rumble into the end zone, senior wide receiver Sam Martin was on the receiving-end of a 50-yard scoring connection — putting the RedHawks up 21-7. On the day, Martin caught two passes for 72 yards.
Seven minutes later, a 31-yard end zone burst from Redshirt junior running back Kenny Young saw the Red and White extend their lead to 28-7. Notably, Young dealt with a death in the family prior to kickoff.
“Kenny Young losing a relative, basically a brother, 24 hours before [University of] Cincinnati, plays his tail off at Cincinnati,” Miami head coach Chuck Martin said. “Goes home the last two days — we haven’t seen him since Wednesday — he comes in and plays his tail off for his teammate.”
In an effort to quell Miami’s offensive onslaught, John Bonamego’s squad closed the first half with senior wide out Eric Cooper hauling in a 28-yard touchdown pass. MU led CMU 28-14 at the end of the half.
A comeback seemed in the cards for CMU. However, the Morris-to-Cooper connection to end the first 30 minutes was the last time the hosts would score during the affair.
“First half was just really good offense by us against a lot of different looks from Central’s defense,” Martin said. “Defense, obviously, too many penalties in the first half. They made plays to get 14, but we also kept drives alive when we had chances to be off the field with penalties. We got to continue to do a better job to play smarter.”
Penalties were an issue throughout last season and were a common occurrence Saturday. Miami accumulated 10 for 102 penalty yards.
“Overzealous coming over the top on the field goal, and then a late hit on them,” Martin said. “It was probably pretty even in the first half, of both teams doing some overzealous things and hurting themselves.”
With the penalty problem persisting the second half began, but the fireworks that defined the first 30 minutes were non-existent.
The only score in the latter half of play was a 34-yard field goal from MU’s sophomore Sam Sloman. This kick put the score at 31-14, which would become the final score.
Stepping up for the ’Hawks was Redshirt junior linebacker Sam Connolly, who filled in for the injured junior Junior McMullen. Connolly’s impact was paramount, as he finished the contest with nine tackles — one of those for a loss — and one interception. For his performance, Connolly was named MAC East Defensive Player of the Week yesterday.
“Sam Connolly is a hero today. No Junior McMullen, Sam hasn’t played five downs in three years and Sam plays a whole football game, on the road, against a really sophisticated offense,” Martin said.
Despite the loss, CMU was carried by senior wide receiver Eric Cooper. The Flint, MI-product caught six passes for 81 yards and one score, good enough for an average of 13.5 yards-per-catch.
This coming week Miami will be on the road. MU will take on the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday at 5:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network.