Three fourth quarter turnovers by the defense energized the Miami football team and allowed it to pull away with a 31-10 victory over Austin Peay on Saturday afternoon.
The RedHawks' (1-1) big plays allowed them to hold the ball for 12:06 in the fourth quarter to allow them to even their record on the season. After the teams traded punts on their opening drives, the RedHawks took over with good field position at their 40 and embarked on a long drive. A 15-play drive taking 6:48 from the clock was capped by a five-yard scoring toss from Gus Ragland to Kenny Young in the flat. While Ragland's arm put up the points, it was his legs that kept the drive alive as on 4th-and-7, the junior scrambled 11 yards to the Governors' 19 to put the RedHawks in business in the red zone as they went up 7-0 with 4:35 left in the opening quarter.
APSU (0-2) answered that drive in short order with several big rushes. After an 18-yard scramble on 3rd-and-4, the Governors' next two rushes went for 25 yards and the drive finished on a 22-yard rush by quarterback JaVaughn Craig that left the score all knotted up at seven apiece late in the first.
The score remained tied until early in the second quarter, when Ragland hit his first downfield toss of the day by connecting with James Gardner for a 42-yard scoring strike to put Miami on top 14-7. Another defensive stop and short punt put the RedHawks 45 yards away from extending their lead, which they did as Ragland dialed long distance to Gardner again, this one from 34 yards out to put them up 21-7 with 9:55 to go in the half.
Miami had another opportunity for points late in the half, but a fumble on a 4th-and-2 attempt set up Austin Peay at midfield with 1:49 left. The Red & White responded defensively, forcing the Governors back 13 yards and ending with a sack to maintain their two score lead at the break.
The Governors put together a long opening drive of the second half, but the RedHawks' defense did not break in the end, forcing a field goal try that missed wide right. A Miami miscue two plays later gave Austin Peay another chance as it recovered a fumble at the MU 23. Again, Miami forced a field goal try, but Cole Phillips connected on his 37-yard try to cut Miami's lead to 21-10 with 8:14 left in the third quarter.
Miami's offense sputtered in the third quarter as it was unable to gain a single first down and losing a yard while Austin Peay put up 133 yards in the quarter and entered the fourth driving into plus territory at the RedHawk 27. The RedHawks caught a break as the quarter began as a Jeremiah Oatsvall pass deflected off his receiver's hands and Tony Reid was there for the interception to quell that drive. After achieving a first down, however, MU's offense stalled again and it punted to set up APSU with favorable field position at its own 47.
Once again, the RedHawk defense came up big with a turnover on the very first play from scrimmage, De'Andre Montgomery knocked the ball loose from Oatsvall on a scramble and Tony Reid recovered at the Governors' 40-yard line. With a short field to work with, Miami's offense engineered a touchdown drive capped by a short one-yard touchdown rush by Leonard Ross. That scoring run came right after a 12-yard scamper by Alonzo Smith on 3rd-and-12 got Miami inches away from the goal line and made it a 28-10 MU lead with 7:54 remaining.
A fortuitous bounce on the ensuing kickoff gave the RedHawks the ball again at the Governors' 25-yard line as Reid again pounced on the loose ball after the kick landed on the ground. Four plays later, Sam Sloman drilled a 41-yard field goal to up the lead to 31-10 with 5:28 to go, capping the scoring on the day.
Miami outgained Austin Peay 295-270 on the day with both teams ending up with three turnovers. Gardner paced the offense with five catches for 117 yards and hauled in two of Ragland's (11-of-23 for 145 yards) three touchdown passes. Smith finished with 85 yards rushing on 22 carries to lead MU's ground attack. Defensively, Montgomery finished with a team-high nine tackles and forced two fumbles while Reid nabbed an interception and pounced on a loose ball after a kickoff.
The RedHawks are back home next Saturday (Sept. 16) when they host rival Cincinnati in the Battle for the Victory Bell. Opening kickoff is at 8 p.m.