Blocked kick saves 'W' as RedHawks nip BSU
By MIKE SMITH
MUNCIE, IN -- Miami Head Coach Chuck Martin called it an ugly win, but they still count those things and MU recorded its first 10-win season since 2010 as the RedHawks edged Ball State 17-15 Saturday at Scheumann Stadium. It was the first Miami 10-win regular season since 2003 when Ben Roethlisberger led MU to a MAC title.
The hosting Cardinals out-gained MU by nearly 150 yards (365-216) and owned a 21-12 advantage in first downs.
Most of the damage came on the ground as RB Marquez Cooper (31 carries) and QB Kiael Kelly (20 carries) ran for 137 yards each. The Cardinals totaled 274 yards on the ground and another 91 through the air as Kelly completed 14 of 19 for 91 yards.
He also threw two interceptions, and those helped Miami grab a lead that it held most of the game. However, when MU returned the favor with two Aveon Smith interceptions, Ball State took advantage and was in position to win at the end.
Smith's crucial interceptions . . .
. . . happened within three Miami offensive plays at opposite ends of the field.
Up 17-12 midway through the fourth quarter, Miami had driven to BSU's 38-yard line. The RedHawks faced third and nine when Smith rolled right and overshot a receiver. BSU's Jordan Coleman picked it off and the Cardinals then drove 81 yards before settling for a 29-yard Jackson Courville field goal at 3:09.
That pulled the hosts within two at 17-15. With Miami's offense struggling, Ball State relied on its defense to get the ball back. It took just two plays, as Smith hit redshirt senior linebacker Cole Pearce in the chest as he bitzed up the middle.
Taking over at the Miami 16, BSU was already in range for a game-winning field goal. Three plays later, Kelly sprinted six yards into the end zone. However, officials flagged the Cardinals for holding on the play, pushing them back to the 26. Kelly gained one yard on the next play, bringing Courville on for a 42-yard try. His first PAT attempt of the game had been blocked, but he subsequently hit three field goals, including a 45-yarder.
His potential game winner never reached the uprights as Kobe Hilton got a hand on it. It was the second game-altering block of the season for Miami, which also defeated arch-rival Cincinnati after blocking a Bearcat try with nine seconds remaining.
Ball State drew first blood, scoring on its opening possession covering 92 yards in nine plays. Kelly picked up two of the first downs along the way with runs of 11- and 26 yards. He then finished the drive with a 9-yard pass to Vaughn Pemberton. A PAT try was blocked.
After a Miami punt, BSU ran two plays before Raion Strader picked off a Kelly pass. His return of 30 yards put MU's offense in business at the Cardinal 13. Two plays later, Smith hit Cade McDonald on a 10-yard TD play to the right side. With a successful PAT, the RedHawks led 7-6.
After Miami's defense forced a quick punt, the RedHawks put together one of their best drives of the day. Smith completed four passes (3 to Javon Tracy) on the 74-yard trip. Rashad Amos' 1-yard run at 14:10 of the second period put the visitors up 14-6.
With Cooper and Kelly slashing their way for a combined 155 yards, the Cardinals were able to score six more points on two field goals before halftime. That left Miami with a 14-12 lead at intermission.
The RedHawks only score of the second half followed Corban Hondru's interception and 43-yard return. With BSU also drawing a late hit penalty, Miami took over at the Cardinals 20. They were still at that stripe after three plays, so MU brought in Graham Nicholson for a 37-yard field goal. It was his 22nd field goal in as many attempts this season.
-- Javon Tracy made a career-high six catches for 70 yards.
-- Smith finished the day completing 14 of 24 for 170 yards with one TD and two interceptions. He threw just three passes in the first half, completing three for 31 yards.
-- Ty Wise set a career high in tackles for the second straight week, making 19 stops. Yahsyn McKee matched his career high with 10 tackles.
-- Strader's interception was the first of his career.
-- The RedHawks only trailed for 80:04 of game time in MAC play (out of 480 minutes).
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.