Miami University trailed the No. 14 team in the country by only four points at half time. After literally dropping its chance at a second half comeback, the RedHawks went on to lose by 15, keeping Ball State University’s BCS hopes alive and sending the Cardinals to their first 10-0 start in school history.
“It’s frustrating,” Miami head coach Shane Montgomery said. “I thought we went toe-to-toe with them. They’re a good football team; I don’t think they’re much better than us.”
Miami converted three first downs on just seven plays to open the game. Unfortunately, the team’s drive deflated when Ball State’s Derrick Henry forced a Jamal Rodgers fumble.
Ball State’s MiQuale Lewis then stole the show for the Cardinals, running the ball seven times on BSUs first drive. He ran the ball from the Ball State 42 all the way to the Miami one-yard line in just five plays, but was stopped at the goal line twice before a failed fourth down pass.
After their successful goal line stand, Miami took control of the ball, and of the quarter. The RedHawks started with the ball on their own one-yard line and drove down the field under the direction of an accurate Dan Raudabaugh starting in place of an injured Clay Belton. He connected with nine different receivers in the first two quarters, including five different receivers on Miami’s second offensive drive. Ultimately, the drive stalled on the Ball State 22-yard line, and the RedHawks had to bring in Nate Parseghian for the 39-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
This was the story of the night for the RedHawks: their inability to score touchdowns in the red zone. Miami failed to score a single TD from inside the 20-yard line, settling for three Parseghian chip shots on the night.
“The one thing I talked about, that we couldn’t afford to do, was to settle for too many field goals, and we did,” Montgomery said.
Unfortunately for the RedHawks though, Ball State’s offense is considered to be the best in the MAC, and they showed it on Tuesday night.
Cardinal quarterback Nate Davis went 4-4 through the air on the ensuing drive for 49 yards and the go-ahead touchdown.
The score marked five straight touchdowns used by Miami opponents to answer a RedHawk score.
This trend continued, as another short Parseghian field goal preceded another Ball State touchdown to make the score 6-14 in favor of the Cardinals.
“Regardless of how well I played, a win is the main focus,” defensive back Robbie Wilson, who finished the game with a career high 13 tackles in the game, said. “I have a job to do every time I go out there. That’s really my main focus as opposed to a career day.”
Raudabaugh quickly connected with Chris Givens on a 49-yard bomb that later appeared on Sports Center’s top 10 play’s countdown. Givens caught the ball in double coverage, spun away from one defender and then bulldozed over another before diving into the end zone. The pass was the 3rd longest play from scrimmage for Miami this season and brought the RedHawks within one point of the Cardinals.
With under a minute to play in the half, Ball State drove down the field into field goal position, knocking a three pointer through the uprights with 0.4 seconds left on the clock for a four-point halftime lead.
While the ‘Hawks stuck with the Cardinals in the first half, the same could not be said for the second half.
Ball State started out the half with the ball, but turned it over on its own 45-yard line. The RedHawks stalled for the third time in the game though, and settled for their third Nate Parseghian field goal.
The one point margin was short lived, however, as BSU scored its third touchdown of the night soon after.
Following a Jake Richardson punt, the game’s first, on Miami’s ensuing drive, the Cardinals drove back into Miami territory. RedHawk linebacker and captain Joey Hudson kept his team’s hopes alive, however, with an interception and 52-yard return to the Ball State 40.
Once again though the RedHawks failed to produce a score as Richardson punted for the second straight time following a three-and-out drive of -2 yards.
“It’s frustrating because it’s been something that’s been continually happening all year,” Montgomery said. “We give ourselves a chance, we play well at times. But when it comes down to pressure situations, we’re just not making the right plays, and our opponent is.”
Ball State would not be stopped a second straight time. Brady Hoke’s boys drove straight down the field for another score, extending their lead to 31-16.
Needing to score, Montgomery had no choice but to go for it on fourth down for the rest of the game. On two separate occasions, the RedHawks’ wide receivers suffered from stone hands in the end zone, most memorably Armand Robinson’s end-zone gaffe, in which Robinson dropped a floater mid-way in the end zone without being touched.
The now 2-8 RedHawks are off this weekend and head north to Toledo to take on the Rockets Friday November 21.