Defense, big plays key RedHawks win over Kent State
By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH -- Caiden Woullard's field goal block on Kent State's first drive of the day was one of several key plays that enabled hosting Miami to edge the Golden Flashes 27-24 Saturday at Yager Stadium.
After losing their conference opener at Buffalo last week, the RedHawks bounced back to raise their record to 3-3 overall 1-1 MAC. Kent State fell to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in league play.
"It's been a hard week to come off that loss (at Buffalo)," Martin said. "If you have any chance to stay in this (conference) race, you have to win."
Tyre Shelton scored two touchdowns and . . .
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. . . Graham Nicholson booted two long field goals (49 and 45 yards) to pace the offense. Matt Salopek registered two sacks and Ryan McWood recorded 11 tackles for a RedHawk defense that held the league's top scoring offense to seven points through two-plus quarters.
The Flashes passing game started clicking after intermission, and quarterback Collin Schlee tossed two touchdown passes after Shelton's second touchdowns (a 3-yard run) put Miami up 24-7 with 9:20 remaining in the third period.
Schlee's TD passes were sandwiched around a Nicholson field goal, so KSU made it 27-21 at 12:18 of the fourth quarter. After forcing a RedHawk punt. Kent State still had 9:09 remaining.
Schlee found Devontez Walker for a 43 yard gain to move KSU in the red zone. However, MU's defense forced the visitors into a 4th and 13 at the Miami 21. Andrew Glass came on and was successful from 38 yards on his second try of the day.
It appeared as though Kent State would quickly get the ball again as the RedHawks drew a pair of quick flags to set up a 1st and 20. Freshman quarterback Aveon Smith, however, came up with another key RedHawk play when he zigzaged his way though the Flashes defense for a 31-yard gain that kept the drive going.
Although KSU was loading the box, Miami stayed on the ground, rushing eight more times and picking up two more hard-earned first downs before stalling at the Flashes 28-yard line. Facing fourth and six with 1:12 left and KSU out of time outs, the RedHawks eschewed a 45-yard field goal attempt. Smith then validated the decision with a 16-yard pass to tight end Jack Coldiron. After a kneel down to close the verdict, Miami celebrated a homecoming win that raised its extended its winning streak at Yager Stadium to 16 games.
"I (just) thought we had a chance to end this thing," said Martin, also noting a field goal try would have been from 45 yards and it would only have put MU up by six.
In Kent State's previous outing, the Flashes rolled up 736 yards while edging Ohio 41-24 in overtime. Miami limited KSU to 415 yards and then matched that figure with 415 of its own. Both teams committed one turnover, with each miscue setting up opponent points -- three for Miami and seven for Kent State.
A muffed punt reception KSU led to the game's first points as Nicholson followed with a first quarter field goal from 49 yards. After Kent State went three-and-out, the RedHawks struck quickly. Smith hit Miles Marshall on a 72-yards play with MU's first play. Shelton covered the last two yards to give MU a 10-0 lead.
Miami again forced a quick punt in Kent State's next drive and then scored four plays into its own drive. Kevin Davis took it off the right side 41 yards, leaving MU up 17-0 with 1:09 still left in the opening stanza..
KSU finally got on the board thanks, in part, to Khali Saunders' interception at the Flashes 35-yard line. Eight plays late, Schlee hit walker for a 27-yard score to close first half scoring.
Overall, Schlee completed 23 of 40, good for 306 yards with three touchdowns. Two went to Walker, who finished with 11 catches for 159 yards. Dante Cephas caught nine balls for a total of 118 yards and one TD. Bryan Bradford (9 carries, 43 yards) and Marquez Cooper (13 carries, 32 yards) led Kent State rushers. Marvin Pierre paced defenders with 13 tackles.
On the Miami side, Smith completed 9 of 14 passes for 179 yards. Marshall (2 catches, 89 yards) and Coldiron (3 catches, 60 yards) were the only receivers with more than one catch.
"He's giving us a chance (to win)," Martin said of Smith, who was third or fourth on the depth chart in 2021. Former backup AJ Mayer transferred out and starter Brett Gabbert suffered a serious injury in the opener at Kentucky. Martin noted Smith came up big on a pair of key plays -- picking up the key first down to start Miami's last drive and closing out the victory with his fourth down pass to Coldiron later. "I know he's open, but you've (still) got to hit him. It's fourth and six, and the game is on the line."
The RedHawks run game, which has been improving over the last couple weeks, accounted for 236 yards (4.7 ypc) and all three TDs. Davis (8 carries, 72 yards, 1 TD) and Smith (10 carries, 71 yards) led the way.
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.