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Recap: Ohio’s MAC title hopes take major hit at Miami (OH), RedHawks win 30-28

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Miami snaps 9-game losing streak in one-score games.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Miami (Ohio) Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Quinton Maxwell unleashed all of the power in his arm as five seconds remained on the clock. His Hail Mary attempt landed well short of the end zone, out of bounds.

When the ball hit the ground, Miami (OH) (4-6) overcame a plethora of its demons in a 30-28 win over Ohio (6-4). The RedHawks, losers of 11 of the last 12 games in the “Battle of the Bricks,” finally earned a long-awaited win over their neighboring rival — a first since 2012.

Chuck Martin’s program also finally eked out a win in a one-possession game. Miami had long struggled in close games, dropping each of its last nine contests decided by eight or fewer points. The upset over the Bobcats in Oxford marks the RedHawks’ first one-score victory since November 22, 2016. Miami had to stave off an Ohio drive that launched from its own 20-yard line with 30 seconds off the clock, and the injury-riddled defense managed to accomplish the task.

A Maleek Irons rushing touchdown opened the night for the Bobcats, but Miami built its victory on the foundation of 28 unanswered points to follow up the act.

A targeting penalty set the RedHawks up in favorable field position on the first drive, and two key third down conversions on Gus Ragland passes set up an Alonzo Smith touchdown run. The power running back led all Miami ball carriers with 94 rushing yards on 10 attempts, good for two scores.

Miami would build on its lead after having a stranglehold on the Ohio offense. Kenny Young gifted the team its first advantage of the night by sprinting to the sideline on a jet sweep and diving into the end zone to make it 14-7. Then, the team scored for its third time of four drives with Ragland tossing a dime to 6’5” wide receiver Luke Mayock.

In attempt to regain the offensive momentum that guided the team to three-consecutive dominant victories, Ohio opened its down field passing game. But a fumble on a 25-yard completion stalled the drive, allowing the RedHawks to further pounce on the Bobcats’ struggling defense. Smith’s 8-yard rushing touchdown set up a 28-7 lead at the halftime.

It wasn’t over yet. Ohio cashed in Ragland’s lone interception for seven points at the tail end of the third quarter. Rourke began targeting senior wide receiver Papi White more often, and White’s juggling 9-yard touchdown on third and goal elevated the Bobcats’ hopes in Oxford.

Ohio missed a field goal on its next drive, which would prove to be costly given the final score of the game. But the Bobcats’ comeback only gained ground after a pivotal special teams play in the fourth quarter. Miami’s blocking suffered on fourth down, and Ohio managed to rush to a scrambling Kyle Kramer. With a horde of Bobcats swarming him, Kramer had no chance of booting a respectable punt, and the kick was blocked and returned for an easy 28-yard touchdown. Ohio trailed by just one score with under 10 minutes to go.

The Bobcats’ defense, led by Evan Croutch, held firm the entire second half. The unit refused to allow a single point, and Miami proved that its best offensive play of the half was on special teams. Kramer redeemed himself with a beautiful 47-yard punt, which rolled out of bounds at the Ohio 1-yard line.

Backed up in a dangerous area, Ohio was unable to escape. On 3rd-and-6, Rourke faced immense pressure and was pushed out of the back of the end zone before he could release the ball. The game-defining safety secured a 9-point lead for the RedHawks with under six minutes to go.

Ohio did everything in its power to undo the effects of the safety. The defense recorded one of its five three-and-outs of the half, and Nathan Rourke went straight to work with the offense. The Bobcats completed a desperation 80-yard drive in just over two minutes, finishing with an 18-yard touchdown pass to White.

At 30-28, the Bobcats received one last gasp after failing to recover the onside kick. Miami punted the ball away, allowing Frank Solich’s squad 30 seconds to overcome the minuscule deficit. Ohio ran an array of screen passes, utilizing a pitch to A.J. Ouellette to land on its on 45-yard line with five ticks on the clock. Maxwell checked in for arm-strength purposes on the final play, but his Hail Mary pass didn’t land near the end zone, allowing Miami (OH) to celebrate an upset on its home turf.

Ohio dominated the second half, but the 21-point halftime deficit proved too large to overcome in a matter of 30 minutes. Rourke, typically a threatening mobile quarterback, was limited to 16 yards on 13 carries, and his passing didn’t come to life until the middle of the fourth quarter. Ouellette carried the offense with 168 rushing yards on 15 carries, but it wasn’t enough to preserve MAC title hopes.

Now, Ohio loses control of its own destiny in the conference. No matter what happens in the matchup against 9-1 Buffalo next Wednesday, Buffalo clinches the division with a win over 1-8 Bowling Green on Week 13. Additionally, Ohio has already matched its 2017 loss total with four defeats.

Meanwhile, Miami (OH) keeps its bowl hopes alive after the RedHawks’ best win of the season. Miami must travel into the Huskies’ den in DeKalb and stave off Ball State at home to leave the regular season with a 6-6 record. Last time Miami attained bowl eligibility, the RedHawks began 0-6 and rattled off six-straight wins, so the RedHawks’ upperclassmen are definitely familiar with the situation at hand.