Another game down to the wire, another loss for the Miami RedHawks.
Ending up on the wrong side of one possession games has become a theme for Miami in the Chuck Martin era, where the RedHawks dropped to 5-18 in Oxford on Saturday night.
For the second-straight season, Miami failed to complete a comeback bid against the Marshall Thundering Herd and begin the season with a tough loss to the Conference USA foe.
The RedHawks have not won an opener against an FBS opponent since the team slid past Ball State in Muncie in 2007. Several late opportunities were present and the team showed resiliency in the second half, but the game-tying touchdown never occurred.
Led by redshirt freshman quarterback Isaiah Green, Marshall marched down the turf at Yager Stadium in no time. Chase Litton’s successor drove the Thundering Herd 75 yards into Miami’s end zone in under three minutes. After forcing a punt, Marshall notched a 14-point lead with a long and productive 80-yard drive, trapping Miami in a hole early on.
Miami’s first experience in Marshall territory resulted in running back Alonzo Smith getting stuffed on 4th-and-short. But the RedHawks executed on their ensuing trip in a similar situation. On 4th-and-4 from the 19, Miami left the special teams unit on the bench and trusted senior quarterback Gus Ragland instead. Ragland connected with wide receiver Jack Sorenson for the first Miami touchdown of 2018.
The defense did no favors for Ragland and Co. Marshall scored on its third-consecutive 75+ yard drive to extend its lead to 21-7 before halftime. Miami received several opportunities to inch closer after the break, but it would be the Thundering Herd who would make their mark in an end zone next — this time, stemming from a 90-yard drive.
Wide receiver Tyre Brady was the recipient of a 30-yard touchdown pass from Green. The star wideout opened his senior season with nine catches, 116 receiving yards, and two key, second half touchdown receptions.
The 28-7 lead wasn’t insurmountable, as Miami proved its offense’s full potential in the following sequence. The RedHawks utilized wide receiver Jack Sorenson for long-yardage plays to set up touchdowns on two of their next three drives. Alonzo Smith scored the first touchdown, and tight end Andrew Homer caught the second one near the goal line.
The latter of the two scores occurred after a sub-one minute possession, which started with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Now, 28-21, the quick score allowed Miami to remain within the game.
However, the potential game-tying possession ended in a punt, which would serve as the turning point of the evening. Running back Tyler King dashed his way 50 yards after corralling the kick, nearly reaching the end zone — only to be stopped by the punter.
Two plays later, and after a holding penalty negated a Marshall score, Brady shed off a pass interference by the RedHawks and managed to snag in a 21-yard touchdown reception. After the extra point, Marshall would lead 35-21 in an all-touchdown game.
Miami responded by speeding straight toward the Thundering Herd end zone. An over-the-shoulder grab by James Gardner against the sideline set up a halfback screen to Kenny Young, good for a touchdown.
Then, Miami was gifted with a nice stroke of luck. After a squib kick bounced over King’s head on the following kickoff, King picked up the ball and decided to run it out of the end zone. The ill-advised decision resulted in Marshall starting its drive from its own 2. Miami forced a punt, but the offense could not piece together its fifth touchdown drive of the day.
On a do-or-die 4th-and-15, Ragland’s pass was tipped by Marshall defensive tackle Channing Hames at the defensive line. Hames nearly picked it, and with Miami out of timeouts, the incompletion would seal the game for the Thundering Herd.
After a 7-point loss, Miami has not emerged victorious from a one-score game since November 22, 2016 in seven tries. The RedHawks have shown glimpses of talent on both sides of the ball, but late-game execution has not been the team’s forte.
Speaking of long droughts in Oxford, Miami will follow up this contest by facing its bitter rival in Paul Brown Stadium. The Cincinnati Bearcats have won 12-straight Victory Bells over Miami, dating back to the 2006 season.