Second half start sinks MU upset hopes
By MIKE SMITH
LEXINGTON, KY -- As Miami head coach Chuck Martin pointed out this week, the margin for error when facing a ranked SEC team is small.
He turned out to be all-too-right as No. 20 Kentucky used just over a minute of the second half to score 14 points and break open a close game that ended with UK owning a 37-13 season-opening victory.
Miami and the . . .
. . . 'Cats were locked at 10-all until Kentucky's Matt Ruffalo hit a 25-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter. When play resumed, freshman Baron Brown returned the kickoff 100 yards for Wildcat touchdown. Two plays later, Miami fumbled, and Kent Keidron Smith pounced on it at the MU eight-yard line.
After an incomplete pass, UK quarteback Will Levis hit Chauncey Magwood for a touchdown. With barely over a minute gone in the period, Kentucky was suddenly up 27-10.
Levis, who Martin earlier this week said could be a first round NFL selection next spring, had a big night. Kentucky managed just 50 yards of rushng (1.9 ypc), but Levis completed 21-of-32 passes for 303 yards and three TDs with one interception. Senior Tayvion Robinson, formerly with Virginia Tech, recorded six catches for a total of 136 yards to lead all receivers.
Miami did somewhat better, on the ground, totalling 111 yards. Fifth of those came from Tyre Shelton, who averaged 7.1 ypc and scored MU's only touchdown (22 yards) to open the RedHawks opening drive.
As expected, much of Miami's production was provided by junior QB Brett Gabbert. He completed 20-of-28 passes totaling 166 yards. He also rushed 10 times (28 yards) and took some hits while throwing. One of those forced him out of the game with just under eight minutes remaining. His availability going forward is important, especially since former backup A.J. Mayer transferred out during the offseason. Freshman Aveon Smith is next in line and replaced Gabbert to finish Miami's final drive.
➤ MU kicker Graham Nicholson was perfect against UK, hitting his PAT and two field goals (27- and 48-yards).
➤ Both teams had one turnover. Miami's fumble led to a quick UK touchdown. Meanwhile, RedHawk freshman Eli Blakey picked off a Levis pass at the goal line to halt an early Kentucky drive.
Blakey's pick turned out to be a limited reprieve. When Miami couldn't pick up a first down, it was forced to put from deep in its own territory. That boot was partially blocked, and Ruffolo hit a 34-yard field goal despite failing to get a first down.
➤ Miami defense recorded four sacks. Ryan McWood led the RedHawks "D" with a game-high 11 tackles.
➤ Seven players made their first starts in a Miami uniform: Blakey, Wise, John Brekke, Devon Dorsey, Miles Marshall, Yahsyn McKee and Caiden Woullard.
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.