The latest meeting in the Battle of the Bricks lived up to the hype as the Miami RedHawks survived a late rally from the Ohio Bobcats to win 30-28 to beat the team from Athens for the first time since 2012 (which was also a nailbiter until the very end). With two losses in MAC play, it’ll be difficult for Ohio to catch up to Buffalo in the MAC East. On the other hand, Miami is in pretty good position to close out the season strong and claw its way to bowl eligibility for the second time in three years. What else did we learn from last night’s game?
Offense Playing Fast
After giving up the first score to the ‘Cats in the first quarter, Miami quickly took control in the first half with a balanced attack that proved to be difficult to defend. Alonzo Smith led the way with 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the ‘Hawks rushed for 158 yards and added another score from Kenny Young. Gus Ragland managed the game well with 199 passing yards and a TD to Luke Mayock, but three sacks and an interception prevented Miami from closing out the game much earlier (despite the fact that the interception was an outstanding defensive play by the Ohio defensive lineman).
Defense, Defense, Defense
Even though the unit has lost five starters due to injury, Miami’s defense played superb football against an Ohio offense that was rolling pretty much everybody in MAC play and holding that group to three offensive touchdowns is no small feat. A.J. Ouellete had a monstrous night on the ground with 168 rushing yards (which make you wonder why he only had 15 carries), but the offense was held to 5.8 yards per attempt, 6-14 on third down, and allowed three sacks on the night. Brad Koenig had a typical Brad Koenig game (eight tackles, a TFL, and a forced fumble) while Zedrick Raymond and Josh Allen made an impact on the back end with a PBU each.
The Third Phase
To say that special teams were huge in this game would be an understatement as the third phase affect three scoring chances in the fourth quarter. First, Louie Zervos a 29-yard field goal a the beginning of the quarter in what was Miami’s only stop in the red zone. Next, a bad snap leading to a rushed Kyle Kramer punt let to a blocked punt return for a touchdown to make it 28-21 Miami. On the ensuing drive, Kramer made amends as he pinned the Bobcats on their own one-yard line to set up the eventual safety and the only Miami points in the second half. It just goes to show you how much special teams can affect a football game.
Despite the win, the RedHawks need better execution down the stretch if they are going to make the jump that they need to make as a program. There were dropped passes, turnovers, sacks, bad penalties, and chunk plays for Ohio’s offense that allowed the Bobcats to get back into the game. Give credit to Miami for battling in all three phases in order to finally beat OU under Chuck Martin, who I’d imagine is relieved after coming so close to beating the ‘Cats in the past.
Two More Left
For Ohio to win the MAC East, it would have to beat Buffalo and Akron to close out the season (not impossible) and UB would have to lose the last game of the regular season at Bowling Green (a bit of a stretch but stranger things have happened). Meanwhile, Miami has a tough road to hoe for bowl eligibility as it hits the road to take on arguably the MAC’s best team in NIU before wrapping up the season at home in the Redbird Rivalry against Ball State. These two teams have some meaningful football to play down the stretch so it’ll be fun to see how they handle their business.