Looking for their first non-conference road win since 2005, the Miami University football team fell just short Saturday, losing 29-23 at the University of Minnesota, falling to 0-2 on the season while the Golden Gophers improved their mark to 1-2.
Needing a touchdown to tie and an extra point to win, the Red and White drove down the field with under three minutes remaining in regulation down to the Minnesota 20-yard line only to have a Zac Dysert pass to Chris Givens broken up in the end zone as time expired.
“I think when you’re in a game with a Big Ten opponent and you’re driving the ball down the field and you have a chance to win, that is a positive,” Head Coach Don Treadwell said. “It’s going to bother you that you didn’t come out on the victory side but there’s no question we played a good team tonight that played very inspired [football] as well.”
The game was a defensive struggle through the first three quarters, with both teams battling for field position and settling for field goals after driving the ball deep into each other’s territory. Two fourth quarter Gopher touchdowns proved to be the difference in the end though, allowing Head Coach Jerry Kill to notch his first win at Minnesota after returning from a seizure that he suffered the previous week.
Dysert led the RedHawk offense, completing 27 of 47 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns, while true sophomore wide out Nick Harwell notched his third career 100-yard receiving game, pulling in 12 balls for 162 yards. Redshirt sophomore running back Erik Finklea gained 54 yards on 15 carries to go with one touchdown.
Miami had 405 yards of total offense compared to Minnesota’s 399 total yards, but it was the ground game of Minnesota, which racked up 236 yards, including 171 by quarterback MarQueis Gray, that made the difference in the end.
“He’s a tremendous athlete and if you don’t bring him down on the first hit, many times, he’s good enough and fast enough that he can cover a lot of ground and he showed that tonight,” Treadwell said. “We had a lot of respect coming in, and he just demonstrated why we had so much respect for him.”
Gray accounted for nearly 84 percent of Minnesota’s offense on Saturday, which made a huge difference down the stretch, especially in his ability to extend drives for the Gophers.
Minnesota’s 399 yards of total offense were the most given up by Miami since Oct. 16 of last season, when the Red and White gave up 401 yards to Central Michigan University.
The RedHawks played well on defense, but the team will likely adjust their strategy when they face off against Bowling Green State University this Saturday. Safety Anthony Kokal led the defense with 13 total tackles while linebacker Jerrell Wedge had 12, including four solo takedowns. However, Miami was not able to get a lot of pressure on Gray and were only able to sack him once the entire game.
The Red and White will now try to stay focused and bounce back from a tough loss in a game that came down to the wire.
“It came down to the end,” defensive lineman Austin Brown said. “We never quit and we never gave up. We just need to continue to get better and we have to put on a show this weekend.”