RedHawks defense paves way to first MAC win
By MIKE SMITH
KENT, OH -- Miami RedHawks Head Coach Chuck Martin had been complimentary about Kent State's defense leading into this week's matchup. Indeed, the Flashes were particularly tough early, but the RedHawks defense shined even brighter, holding KSU to a total of 206 yards in a 23-3 Miami (4-1, 1-0 MAC) win at Dix Stadium. It was the fourth straight victory and first MAC win for MU. Kent State fell to its second straight defeat.
Miami, playing without standout receiver Gage Larvadain (injury), struggled against a tight Flashes defense early. RedHawks QB Brett Gabbert completed just one of his first nine throws. Kent State quarterback Michael Alaimo, meanwhile, completed three passes in an opening drive that covered 59 yards and took KSU to the Miami nine-yard line. However, Silas Walters sacked Alaimo on third-and-four, forcing a field goal. Andrew Glass' 27 kick turned out to be the Flashes only points on the day.
Eventually, MU registered seven sacks and 11 TFL. Kent State notched four sacks and five TFL -- most in the second half.
Miami's first score was aided by KSU, which tried a fake punt from its own 24. The two-yard gain came up four yards short and MU took over.
Unable to advance, the RedHawks . . .
Nicholson hits three field goals; remains perfect on season
. . turned to Graham Nicholson, who remained perfect on the season with a 40-yard boot.
After forcing a punt, MU came back for more. Gabbert was starting to find his targets, and he hit three straight passes on a four-play, 59-yard drive. The last went to Cade McDonald in the left flat. He sprinted down the sideline to complete the 32-yard play and Miami went up 10-3. When Nicholson hit a 40-yard field goal on MU's next drive, the RedHawks took a 13-3 lead to intermission.
The game nearly took a big turn when play resumed. Alaimo hit Chrishon McCray in stride over the middle and he raced to the end zone for an apparent TD that would have pulled KSU within three. However, officials flagged the Flashes for ineligible man downfield, wiping out the score.
Nicholson's third field goal of the day and a one-yard run by Rashad Amos -- both in the third quarter -- finished scoring. Miami leaned on its run game and defense to finish the win.
After the slow start, Gabbert finished the day hitting 11 of 23 attempts totaling 216 yards with one TD. Joe Wilkins Jr caught three balls for 110 yards, while McDonald owned four catches for 62 yards and a TD. Amos and Kenny Tracy combined for 22 carries, 91 yards and one TD.
Kent State's Alaimo connected on 18 of 30 attempts for 170 yards. McCray ws the biggest target, catching 10 balls totaling 105 yards. Gavin Garcia paced the ground game with 17 trips totaling 49 yards.
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.