It was a wild ride as the broken, beaten, scarred Miami RedHawks (1-0) found a way to emerge victorious in a 38-31 decision over the Ball State Cardinals (0-1) in the Redbird Rivalry. Despite the talent on BSU’s sideline, the championship poise by Miami was revealed by some unlikely contributors. What else was apparent in the game and what does it mean going forward?
Miami was down to their second-string QB and their fourth-string RB, but AJ Mayer and Zach Kahn both made it happed in the victory over Ball State. Mayer looked good as he went 16-24 for 212 yards and three touchdowns, but there was some bad as he took three sack, coughed up the football, and nearly threw an interception in the late stages of the game. Brett Gabbert isn’t in danger of being Wally Pipp-ed yet, but if he’s unable to go at Buffalo, the ‘Hawks have a backup that can win games in Mayer, something that is a rarity in modern college football.
Kahn grinding out tough yards against the Cardinal defense was needed after an injury to Davion Johnson, and he cam through with 42 yards and a pair of scores on nine carries. He’s a guy that would never be accused of being an explosive player, but there is something to be said about a back like Kahn who just goes as hard as he can on every play.
Although they ultimately lost the game, the Cards have to feel really good about their chances in the MAC West. Drew Plitt outplayed both of Miami’s QBs to the tune of 309 passing yards and a TD, and the interception at the end of the game was more of a great individual effort on Ryan McWood’s part than a mistake on Plitt. Caleb Huntley and Justin Hall had monster games with the former rushing for 130 yards and two scores, while the latter accounted for 246 all-purpose yards and a pair of TDs.
It’s not like the defense was bad either as they got seven stops on third down, and recorded ten TFLs and forced two fumbles. What ultimately did the defense it was its performance in the red zone, where it allowed five RedHawk touchdowns in seven trips. With Miami being as banged up as it was on offense, it should not have been as easy as it was for them to score. If BSU is able to right the ship on that side of the ball quickly, we’re looking at a major player in the West.
The Ultimate Opportunists
Both teams had multiple opportunities to win game over the course of the evening. For Miami, the fumble in the red zone could have changed the complexion of the game but the defense forced a three-and-out and the RedHawks ended up tying the game with a touchdown anyway. Miami gave up nine third-down conversions and a number of explosive plays defensively, but it made up for it with five sacks and the McWood interception to set up the game-winning touchdown. It wasn’t perfect, but the Red and White made the plays necessary to win.
On the other hand, the two missed Jack Knight field goals will haunt the Cards for a while as the tone of the game would have been completely different if those kicks went in. Likewise with the fumble recovery that led to a three-and-out. The ultimate difference in the game was that Miami, depleted as it was, made the most of its opportunities and Ball State did not. The ‘Hawks passed the first test of its title defense while the Cardinals have to find a way to close out games if they want to get to Detroit.