Miami rally falls short at Bahamas Bowl
By MIKE SMITH
NASSAU, NP -- Aveon Smith's pass to Jalen Walker came up two yards short of the end zone, and the Miami RedHawks finished four points short as Alabama-Birmingham edged MU 24-20 in HomeTown Lenders Bahamas Bowl action Friday at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
Appearing in its third straight bowl (not including the 2020 Covid year), Miami fell to 6-7 on the season. Alabama-Birmingham moved to 7-6.
While UAB jumped off to an . . .
. . . early 10-0 lead, Miami scored a touchdown just before intermission and the lead see-sawed from there. Smith's 10-yard pass to Kenny Tracy put the RedHawks in front a final time (20-17) with 6:52 to play in the final quarter.
When the MU defense forced a quick turnover in Blazer territory, it appeared the RedHawks might be able to at least extend their lead. However, Miami lost two yards in three downs and a Graham Nicholson 47-yard field goal try sailed wide right.
While Miami's brief possession did not result in points, it did take almost two minutes off the clock. Rather than help the RedHawks cause, it ultimately worked against them. Blazers quarterback Dylan Hopkins hit Trea Shropshire for 49 yards on UAB's next play. It was one of six receptions for the junior, who totaled 183 yards with a whopping 30.5 average per catch. Although he registered just one touchdown, he came up with several big gains to advance UAB in key situations. All other UAB receivers combined for 69 yards.
Miami's defense regrouped and held the Blazers to nine yards over the next three plays. Down by four while facing fourth and one, Alabama-Birmingham gave the ball to Jermaine Brown. He found a crease and raced untouched to the end zone. With the PAT, UAB led 24-20.
Brown was filling in for DeWayne McBride, the nation's leading rusher, who opted out of the game. However, Brown has averaged 5.9 ypc on his own this season. He gained 116 yards and scored two touchdowns among his 24 carries (4.8 ypg) against Miami.
Given UAB was among the national leaders in rushing, MU probably could have afforded the 138 rushing yards it surrendered. However, the Blazers used their passing game enough to get 252 yards. Many of the completions kept drives moving and/or changed field position.
Miami's final possession began with 1:31 on the clock and 75 yards to paydirt. The RedHawks converted two fourth-down challanges in the final march, one on a Smith run for seven yards and one on a 12-yard Smith pass to Kenny Tracy.
A 13-yard reception by Miles Marshall moved MU to the Blazers 45 with 12 seconds left. Smith then ran out of bounds on the next play, leaving just one tick on the clock. When UAB was flagged for a face mask penalty, the RedHawks had one more chance from the Blazers 15. Smith hit Walker over the middle, but senior Reynard Ellis came in for a solid tackle at the two as time expired.
Alabama-Birmingham outgained the RedHawks 390-272. Two UAB passes -- both to Shropshire -- accounted for 96 yards. The Blazers held a 24-19 advantage in first downs and controlled the ball for 33:20.
Alabama Birmingham went up 10-0 in the first quarter. Seven came on the first Blazers drive as Shropshire scored on a 10-yard reception. Matt Quinn capped the next UAB possession with a 42-yard field goal.
Miami's defense settled down after that, but the RedHawk offense struggled until late in the second period. Taking over at its own 35, MU moved 65 yards in 11 plays to get on the scoreboard. Smith kept the drive alive with a two-yard run on fourth-and-one. He followed that with a 33-yard pass to Mac Hippenhammer for a TD. However, the PAT was blocked and that miss later took a field goal option off the table in MU's final drive. Miami trailed 10-6 at intermission.
The RedHawks forced three turnovers on the day. Only one of those resulted in points.
Dom Dzioban's punt late in the third quarter took a hard bounce, hitting the Blazers' punt returner and touching off a scramble. Miami ended up with the ball. Kevin Davis ran one-yard off the right side on the next play, and MU had its first lead.
Each team scored again on its next possession. Alabama-Birminham later added a decisive score at 1:33 of the final period, and Miami came up just short it is final drive.
Smith completed 15-of-27 passes totaling 162 yards with two TDs on the day. He also led MU rushing with 22 carries for a total of 50 yards. Tyre Shelton managed eight carries for 31 yards as Miami totaled 110 yards on the ground.
Hippenhammer had two catches totaling 43 yards with one score, Davis and Walker combined for eight catches and 69 receiving yards.
Matthew Salopek (15 tackles, 10 solo, 1 fumble recovery) and Ryan McWood (14 tackles) led the Miami defensive effort. Ambe' Caldwell notched a fumble recovery, while Rowan Zolman returned his interception 45 yards.
Hopkins completed 16-of-24 passes totaling 204 yards with one TD and one interception. Jacob Zeno also saw action, completing one-of-four for 48 yards.
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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.