RedHawks defeat Buffalo to clinch MAC East
By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH -- Very little has come easy, but the Miami RedHawks have officially persevered through a difficult course to become MAC East champs.
Miami (9-2, 6-1 MAC) got it done again Wednesday with a 23-10 victory over Buffalo (3-6, 3-4 MAC). The Bulls never led, but they nearly pulled within five points with 2:49 remaining when Cole Snyder hit Marlyn Johnson on an 80-yard pass play. However, Miami's Michael Dowell dislodged the ball just before Johnson reached the goal line. Although a Bulls player recovered the ball, his foot was out of bounds at the time. Miami took over on a touchback and ran most of the remaining clock off before downing a punt deep in UB territory to effectively end any threat.
"There's Michael Dowell . . . never giving up" Miami Head Coach Chuck Martin said of the senior defensive back. "It's a pretty awesome way to end it."
Buffalo's only touchdown of the game came on a 13-play, 75-yard third quarter drive. Miami appeared to . . .
. . . have UB stopped twice, However, UB's fake punt play on fourth-and-four turned into a 27-yard gain when Tadd Barr's jump pass found Darrell Harding open down the middle. Four plays later, the RedHawks appeared to force a field goal, but MU was called for offsides. Given a first down, the Bulls scored three plays later on a 3-yard run by C.J. Ogbonna. That pulled Buffalo within three at 13-10.
Martin called the Buffalo drive disappointing. He noted that while there were some personnel issues and MU ended up with its regular defense on the field for the Buffalo punt, his team had repped Buffalo's fake punts. "We knew they had the pop pass. We were yelling, 'Watch the pop pass,' and (then) they throw the pop pass."
Miami got the seven points back at 10:45 of the final quarter when Rashad Amos scored from two yards out. Buffalo limited the sophomore, who eclipsed 100 yards in each of his previous two games, to 82 yards Wednesday. However, he still scored two TDs.
With quarterback Aveon Smith contributing 60 yards on 14 carries and Kenny Tracy adding a key 37-yard run, the RedHawks totaled 180 yards on the ground.
Smith, who has Miami undefeated in his three starts since taking over for injured standout Brett Gabbert, completed 9 of 16 passes on the night despite the injury absence of several Miami receivers. Javon Tracy stepped up against UB, catching five balls totaling 123 yards. Two of the receptions set up field goals, while another paved the way for a touchdown.
Buffalo totaled 278 yards of offense, with UB passers completing 7 of 17 attempts for a total of 147 yards. Cole Snyder provided most of it, hitting 6 of 14 attempts. Only one Bulls receiver had more than one catch (Mike Washington - 2).
Ogbonna missed on two passes but ran 16 times for a team-high total of 50 yards and one score. Ron Cook Jr. added 49 yards as Buffalo totaled 131 yards on the ground.
Neither team scored in the first period.
"We knew they are really stingy on defense," Martin said. "They're second in the league in scoring defense coming in (and) they give up about 295 (yards) a game in the MAC. (They are) really good against the run."
He continued, "Their defense dominated early. Our defense dominated (as well). It was a lot of nothing."
Miami finally broke through on a Nicholson field goal midway through the second quarter.
Amos scored his first TD on a 30 yard run to put MU up 10-0 with 2:50 left, but the Bulls covered 47 yards in 11 plays to get within field goal range. Alex McNulty's 48-yard kick split the uprights as time expired.
Buffalo's third period TD was its final score, while Miami added three in the third period and 10 more fourth quarter points.
"We said all week: 'There is no way it's going to be easy, guys. There's zero chance," Martin said.
Buffalo hosts Eastern Michigan (Tuesday, Nov. 21) to finish its season. Miami, completes its regular season Saturday, Nov. 25 at Ball State. That will give the banged up RedHawks an extra few days to heal.
Martin said his team, now sitting at 9-2 overall, would really like to reach 10 wins, The 'Hawks are now guaranteed a spot in the MAC championship, where they will face Toledo in a rematch of their Oct. 21 game..
"Our kids have been amazing all year. They earned it," Martin said. "These kids have really bought into that (idea) -- we're just going to keep rolling with anything that happens."
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.