The Miami RedHawks (2-3, 1-0 MAC) did everything they needed to do to ensure a victory against the visiting Central Michigan Chippewas (2-3, 0-1 MAC), winning in all three phases of the game in a 28-17 result on Saturday afternoon.
It was Miami who struck first with 9:29 remaining in the first quarter, as Brett Gabbert found Andrew Homer wide open in the endzone to put the RedHawks up to a 7-0 lead early in the proceedings.
An exchange of punts later, Central Michigan put themselves in position to score from about 20 yards out before Daniel Richardson took a bad sack on a broken play to move the ball back to the Miami 31 on third down. Marshall Meeder would come on to kick the ball, but missed wide from 49 yards out to put an end to the scoring threat.
Miami took advantage of CMU’s offensive woes once again to gain another passing touchdown, this time from Gabbert to WR Jack Sorenson to double the Miami lead to 14-0 prior to the end of the first quarter.
Neither team would find the scoreboard again until Daniel Richardson threw a laser in the direction of JaCorey Sullivan, who hauled in the 41-yard pass over coverage to get CMU on the board to bring the score to a 14-7 margin with 9:14 remaining in the first half.
It was a tight defensive battle to end the second quarter, with the most significant play being a sack on first-and-10 from the Miami 43 with about 1:38 remaining, when Gabbert was folded into a Kyle Moretti sack on the penultimate RedHawks possession of the half. Gabbert was injured on the play, with what looked to be an upper body ailment. He stuck around for the rest of the half, but his day would end after the halftime whistle.
CMU came out flying in the third quarter, sensing an opportunity. On the first drive of the second half, they limited the RedHawks to a five-play, 17-yard drive resulting in a punt. The Chippewas would tack on a field goal on the ensuing drive, with Marshall Meeder making up for an earlier miss with a 39-yard make right down the middle to bring the score to 14-10 Miami.
The action started to heat up after a Dom Dzioban punt pinned CMU down at their own two-yard line, with CMU eventually having to go three-and-out. Luke Elzinga’s punt, starting seven yards deep in the endzone, would find its way to the 44-yard line before jaylen Walker returned it to the CMU 27. Four plays later, AJ Mayer attempted to find Jack Sorenson in the endzone, but met CMU safety Gage Kreski instead, who intercepted him to give CMU the ball back down just four points.
CMU immediately came out firing, with Daniel Richardson finding Joel Wilson for back-to-back plays of 17 and 27 yards (which sandwiched a nullified 77-yard Remi Simmons touchdown), a 27-yard toss to Kalil Pimpleton, and finally, an 11-yard strike to Dallas Dixon for a touchdown to complete a nine-play, 95-yard drive to put CMU up 17-14.
Miami responded back in kind, using a five-play, 78-yard drive of their own to retake control on a drive dominated through the air, as Mac Hippenhammer hauled in two receptions for 45 yards to set up the RedHawks in positive territory and allow Nate Muersch to haul in a 23-yard touchdown toss to put the lead at 21-17.
CMU would take the next drive starting at their own 40-yard line after an unsportamanlike conduct penalty on the ensuing kickoff, getting to the Miami 38 before stalling out on third-down dur to two incomplete passes. CMU head coach Jim McElwain, who hadn’t really shown any aggressive flashes in the game up to this juncture, rolled the dice on a fourth-and-six from the Miami 38, resulting in a 12-yard Ben Kimpler sack on a broken play, giving Miami the ball at midfield.
It didn’t take long for Miami to take advantage of the free field position, finding Jack Sorenson on a designed WR jump screen for an 11-yard touchdown untouched to end a six-play, 50-yard drive lasting just over two minutes.
CMU would find themselves once again in a dicey position on the next drive, with starting QB Richardson injured on the previous drive-ending sack. Jacob Sirmon would lead the final drive for the Chippewas, completing eight-straight underneath passes after an initial incompletion to set up CMU in a fourth-and-1 situation to try and score points down 11.
CMU opted not to convert for the first down with just under four minutes remaining, trotting on Marshall Meeder for his third attempt of the day to try and pull the game within eight points. Meeder’s kick never had a chance, sailing wide left to start and continuing to do so afterwards from 41 yards out.
Miami would run off the clock from there, getting all the way into CMU’s redzone before kneeling the clock down in the final minute of the game.
AJ Mayer was the hero of the game for the homestanding RedHawks, finishing 13-of-18 for 179 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. Starter Brett Gabbert contributed two touchdowns on 12-of-20 passes for 170 yards.
Penn State transfer WR Mac Hippenhooper led all receivers for the game, with eight receptions for 170 yards for Miami, while Jack Sorenson picked up two touchdowns on seven receptions for 66 yards. Tight ends Andrew Homer and Nate Muersch score the other two touchdowns on their combined three receptions.
Jaylon Bester (16 yards) and Tyre Shelton (23 yards) made their first appearances of the 2021 season against CMU, while Keyon Mozee led the RedHawks with 13 rushes for 83 yards.
Defensively for Miami, LB Matthew Salopek led all tacklers with 14 tackles (nine solo), with fellow battery mate Ivan Pace Jr. collecting nine tackles. Ben Kimpler highlighted the rushing attack, with four tackles, including two tackles-for-loss and a sack. Ja’don Rucker-Furlow paced Miami DBs with two pass break-ups.
Daniel Richardson finished 22-of-41 for 326 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for the Chippewas, while Jacob Sirmon completed 7-of-8 for 52 yards in his lone drive in relief.
Dallas Dixon led the Chips with 113 yards receiving and a touchdown on seven receptions. Joel Wilsin also hauled in seven passes for 92 yards, while JaCorey Sullivan hauled in his team-leading sixth touchodown reception to go with six catches for 85 yards.
Lew Nichols, who rushed for over 100 yards his last time out, was limited to just 21 yards on 12 carries, with freshman Myles Bailey leading the CMU attack with 29 yards on eight carries.
Alpena, Michigan’s own Gage Kreski led CMU’s defensive effort with 12 tackles and an interception on the day from the safety spot, with Troy Brown (eight tackles), Troy Hairston and Rollian Sturkey (six tackles apiece) also topping the team list. LB Kyle Moretti picked up the team’s lone sack of the day, while Richard Bowens III and Devonni Reed each had a pass break-up.
CMU will regroup for another road game, this time against the 1-4 Ohio Bobcats, on Saturday, October 9 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. Miami will look to continue their winning ways on the road as well, this time against Eastern Michigan, in a contest also scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET.