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2016 MAC Recap: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. Miami RedHawks

Miami falls to a good Western Kentucky squad.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Miami (Ohio) Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a spirited effort, Miami fell 31-24 to a talented Western Kentucky team in Oxford Saturday after trailing 14-3 late in the first half. To say that the RedHawks started slow would be an understatement, as four of their seven first half possessions ended in a three-and-out and no drive in that half lasted longer than seven plays. The team turned it on late though with three of their last five possessions ending in touchdowns, but it was too little, too late as the Hilltoppers recovered a desperation onside kick to end the rally and the game.

Billy Bahl showed spurts of good play, but continued to struggle with his consistency by going 20-of-41 for 339 yards, two touchdowns, but took seven sacks on the day. The best thing of the day for Miami was no doubt the play of James Gardner with Rokeem Williams missing the game due to injury. Gardner had 136 yards on five receptions, including an impressive 70-yard score. The ground game for the ‘Hawks crashed to Earth with an abysmal 2.2 yards per rush.

The offense struggled on third down by going 5-of-17 as well as turning trips into the red zone into touchdowns wit one out of three trips being successful in that regard. The Miami defense gave the offense multiple opportunities to score with three turnovers, and held WKU to 2-of-11 on third down and 1-of-4 on red zone touchdowns. Special teams were a dramatic advantage for Western Kentucky as it had 10 more net yards per punt, nearly 30 more net yards per kickoff, and was able to make plays in the return game that Miami simply couldn’t.

Now Miami needs to find a way to get a win in 2016, a task that’ll be a tall order next weekend when it takes on Cincinnati in Nippert Stadium in the Battle for the Victory Bell. The RedHawks have been able make things hard on the Bearcats the past couple of years, but UC will be more than ready to make up for their showing against Houston on Thursday.