On college football’s 150th birthday, the Miami Redhawks and the Ohio Bobcats gave everyone the gift of #MACtion as a back-and-forth tussle between the teams resulted in Miami outlasting Ohio 24-21 for its second straight win over the ‘Cats and control of first place in the MAC East. There’s a lot to unpack from the game, so let us focus on the five big takeaways from the contest.
On The Defensive
The difference in the game came down Miami making plays on defense and getting off the field, which they did in a variety of ways Wednesday night. It started with a fumble recovery by Kameron Butler on the first drive as Ohio was moving the ball and threatening to score, while forcing a missed 50-yard field goal on the following possession. The biggest defensive play came in the fourth quarter, however, as Butler and Ryan McWood combined for a huge second down sack on the final drive of the Bobcats as the defense stood its ground for the win.
The defense was constantly in the backfield of Ohio as it recorded eight TFLs on the night with Doug Costin leading the way with two. The defense didn’t exactly dominate as they got gashed by the ‘Cats at different points in the game on the ground, but it made enough plays to win and that’s what counts at this time of the year.
Big Game Gabbert
True freshman Brett Gabbert showed a tremendous amount of poise in his first Battle of the Bricks as he went 10-18 for 149 yards and the circus-catch touchdown to Jack Sorenson, and he didn’t really put the ball in harm’s way during the game (outside of the botched handoff on the last offensive play for Miami). He made some impressive throws, none better than the 63-yard strike to James Maye to flip the field and give the RedHawks a scoring opportunity. However, he still struggles with his ball placement at times (the ball will go to the receiver’s outside instead of the inside, etc.) and that will have to be watched closely going the rest of the way through the season as that can’t be fixed overnight if it’s a mechanic or muscle memory issue.
Ohio only mustered 133 passing yards on Miami defense, but the ‘Hawks didn’t really have an answer for the rushing attack of the Bobcats. Nathan Rourke evaded his way out of potential sacks multiple times to keep drives alive as he had 89 yards and two scores on the ground. Additionally, the three-back attack for OU presented problems for Miami as they all ran hard, particularly in the first half. However, the ‘Cats needed a complement to their running game Wednesday night from the receiver room and nobody really stood out.
Special Teams Showcase
In close games, special teams can prove to be the difference in the game and that proved to be the case Wednesday night. The field position battle was tilted in favor of Miami as it had two drives starting on Ohio’s side of the field and pinned the Bobcats inside their own 20-yard line twice. The most notable edge came in the kicking game as Sam Sloman drilled a 53-yard field goal to give the ‘Hawks the go-ahead score while Louie Zervos missed wide on his 50-yard attempt in the first half. When you have strong defense and special teams to go with a turnover-free offense, you’re going to win some games.
The Home Stretch
Miami has every right to enjoy the win over Ohio as the rivalry win puts it in the driver’s seat in the MAC East, but they can’t afford a letdown next week against Bowling Green with Akron and Ball State looming in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Ohio has to right the ship real quick as it hosts Western Michigan before rounding out the season with BG and the Zips. The division race isn’t over yet and next week will reveal a lot about the character of both of these teams.