In a tale of two halves, an 11-point halftime lead wasn’t enough for Miami — Kent State University came roaring back to beat Miami football 17-14. Despite out-gaining the host’s 335-328 yards, and holding a 19-12 first down advantage, the RedHawks lost for the third straight week.
Miami went into their date with Notre Dame with a 2-2 record and there was optimism about the future. Yet, all that’s followed is disappointment coming in the form of a trio of losses — two on the road, one at home.
If there’s any team in the nation that can overcome this slow start, its the Red and White. After all, the program pulled off the impossible last year — qualifying for a bowl game by winning six straight contests after starting the season at an 0-6 mark.
“We’re not going to change,” Head Coach Chuck Martin said. “Same thing as last year: we’re going to keep getting better, keep playing the kids we need to be playing.”
As a result of the road defeat, the RedHawks (2-5, 1-2) continue to tumble down the Mid-American Conference standings. This recent decline sees MU locked in a tie for last place in the East Division.
Now occupying their division’s basement, some feel now’s not time for the ‘Hawks to worry so much about the future.
“We got to quit worrying about big picture,” Martin said. “We are going to play tight games. That’s what we’re going to play. We’re good enough to be in every game.”
Kent State (2-5, 1-2) entered Saturday’s matchup on the heels of a four-game skid. During the span, the Golden Flashes scored a total of 19 points, allowing for Miami to prepare for a low scoring contest.
The first half of the conference affair went according to plan for the RedHawks.
Following a scoreless first quarter, KSU got on the board first by way of a 23-yard Shane Hynes field goal at the second period’s 12:07 mark. Yet, despite Paul Haynes’ side opening up the scoring, it was all Miami after Kent’s initial three points.
With Redshirt junior quarterback Gus Ragland out with injury, junior Billy Bahl filled in and — given that he hasn’t started a game since last season — put together a fighting road performance for the Red and White.
With 8:33 left in the first half, the junior quarterback found junior wide receiver James Gardner open for a 13-yard touchdown, making the score 7-3.
To end the first 30 minutes of play, Bahl spotted an open senior tight end Ryan Smith from two yards out to increase MU’s margin to 14-3. This would be the most points scored by the visitors.
In the second half, the script flipped.
“Defense doesn’t play good in the third quarter — they give up one super-long drive; they hadn’t done that all day,” Martin said. “Then they give up a short pass for an 80-yard touchdown, now we’re up against it, and we miss a short field goal to tie it.”
Beginning in the third quarter, junior quarterback George Bollas — despite only attempting 14 passes — led the Golden Flashes comeback effort.
At the 8:43 mark, Bollas tossed his first of two third period scores, finding sophomore running back Justin Rankin for a four-yard touchdown. The score would remain 14-10 MU until the end of the period.
Hauling in one of his three grabs on the day, sophomore wide receiver Mike Carrigan created separation and was on the receiving end of an 84-yard touchdown from Bollas. The score would stay 17-14 for the rest of the game, resulting in a RedHawks defeat and a Golden Flashes comeback.
While the loss stings, Miami saw success in the running game.
“We did run the ball effectively, all day, against a team that’s hard to run against,” Martin said in his postgame press conference. “We blocked it good, ran it good, should’ve controlled it more. Again, we got to look at it, but we’re probably going to have to rely on our running attack even more.”
The next time the ‘Hawks take the field will be at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at home. The conference affair will be live streamed on ESPN3.