The roughly 22,000 fans who visited Oxford on Saturday witnessed a defensive battle which declared the team capable of scoring a single touchdown the victor. While both team's offenses struggled, the Miami Redhawks (2-7, 2-3) was able to outlast the Kent State Golden Flashes (1-7, 0-4) and hold on to a slim 10-3 lead to pick up their second win of the season.
Miami Head Coach Chuck Martin had an idea that it would be a low-scoring game.
"I saw Northern Illinois on offense and they looked good and scored on every possession against us," Martin said, "[Kent State] held Northern Illinois to two touchdowns and Northern didn't move the ball a lot, so I knew they were pretty good up front, they're pretty good at linebacker, they're pretty good at the secondary, and they're well coached."
There was not a single quarter where more than one score took place. No points were scored in the 4th quarter.
The game's only touchdown came on Miami's second drive of the game. RedHawk quarterback Andrew Hendrix strung together some passes before connecting on a big 30-yard pass to wide receiver Fred McRae IV to make it first and goal on the Kent State 10-yard line. A personal foul pushed the RedHawks back to the 19-yard line. On the next play, Hendrix got the snap on a designed quarterback keeper and ran 19-yards up the middle and untouched into the end zone.
Kent State's only score came halfway through the 2nd quarter when Golden Flashes quarterback Colin Reardon drove down the field and into scoring position, connecting with Casey Pierce, Josh Boyle, and Nick Holley during the drive. Kent State's drive, however, stalled out when a bad snap caused a fumble on third down and forced them to settle for a field goal, making it 7-3.
In their second drive after halftime, Hendrix wasted no time moving down the field as he connected with Jared Murphy for a 39-yard pass to get Miami in good field position. A first down and a few rushing attempts set up a field goal to make it 10-3.
On fourth and one at the Miami 21-yard line, Nick Holley was stuffed up the middle and Kent State turned the ball over to Miami to run out the clock.
Miami safety Heath Harding celebrates after the RedHawk defense stops Kent State on fourth down late in the game.
In this low-scoring effort, the defenses shined. Kent State's Nate Holley led his team in tackles with 10, bringing his season total to 101. On the other side, Miami defensive back Heath Harding had 8 tackles plus an interception. Harding, a sophomore, has emerged as a leader in the RedHawk secondary. Coach Martin holds that, though he struggled at first moving from cornerback to safety, he has been becoming much more comfortable at his new position. "He's a tough kid, he's a smart kid, and he's competitive." Martin adds, "He's done a great job and he's getting better every week."
Harding's interception came on Kent State's first drive to start the second half when the Golden Flashes were threatening after driving 49-yards to begin the 3rd quarter. Just as they were about to enter the Miami red zone, Harding came up with the big pick at the 5-yard line.
Coming off of a week in which the Miami defense surrendered 51 points to Northern Illinois, they stepped up and refused to allow a touchdown to their opponent.
"Our whole mindset this week at practice was to be aggressive and show everyone what our defense was made of," Harding said. "We felt we had a lot to prove this week so we put a chip on our shoulder and I think that showed this week."
Due to a lack of offensive production, the game saw a total of 12 punts - five from Kent State and seven from Miami. Adding to the inconsistency we've seen in the MAC this season, Coach Martin insists that this is part of the game: "You win one 42-41 and you win one 10-3, that's Division I football. You just have to muddle through some of these games and win them."