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Defense sets school record in Miami's second season win

Jared Murphy trots by EMU safety Juan Giraldo into the end zone
Jared Murphy trots by EMU safety Juan Giraldo into the end zone

The Miami University football team snapped its eight-game losing streak and claimed its long-awaited second win with a 28-13 victory against Eastern Michigan University Saturday evening.

For the first time since its Week 1 win against Presbyterian College, the team gathered in the middle of the field with the marching band and sang the fight song.

"It feels great," redshirt junior defensive lineman JT Jones said. "We haven't sung it since the first game of the season, so it feels great. All the guys love it, and it's just amazing to have the band out there after the game and sing it. Just an awesome feeling."

Redshirt freshman running back Alonzo Smith shared the sentiment.

"It feels real good," Smith said. "I mean, we lost eight in a row. So getting the win, it felt real good. The whole team - great effort by everyone."

Head coach Chuck Martin cited his team's defense, which totaled nine sacks for a new Miami record. The previous single-game record was eight sacks against State University of New York Buffalo in 1999.

"Eastern hasn't been super strong on defense, they've been strong on offense," Martin said. "So we thought it was gonna be a higher-scoring shootout type of deal, but our defense played really well."

Jones' four sacks are single-game Miami record. He also notched seven tackles (six solo), including four tackles for loss. Senior defensive lineman Bryson Albright totaled three sacks and nine tackles (eights solo), including 5.5 tackles for loss.

"Coach has been harping on us that we need to rush the passer, that we need to make it a big part of our game," Jones said. "That's what we went for today … we try to make ourselves better every week, and it just fell into place today. We're ran what we usually run, stayed focused, and today it all came together. It happened."

Miami's run game, which has been fairly inconsistent throughout the season, totaled 294 yards against EMU, a new season high. Entering Saturday, the RedHawks averaged 117.8 rushing yards per game.

"Obviously, running the ball is a great sign," Martin said. "I know [EMU] doesn't have a tremendous rush defense, but the fact that we can run it and gain some yards rushing is huge. And then running the ball at the end of the game when you have the lead is huge. Last year, we could have never done that."

Eastern Michigan entered Saturday's game allowing an average of 333.6 rush yards per game, and Miami wasted no time in taking advantage of the nation's worst rushing defense.

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On the first possession of the game, Miami traveled 75 yards in 3:37 minutes. Seven of the drive's eight plays were run plays. Redshirt freshman quarterback Gus Ragland capped off the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run.

On the RedHawks' fourth drive, freshman running back Maurice Thomas set up a first-and-goal after an explosive 77-yard run. It was Miami's longest offensive play of the year and the longest run since Thomas Merriweather's 96-yard run in 2010. On the next play, redshirt freshman running back Alonzo Smith rushed over the left tackle for a 1-yard TD.

The RedHawks' largest lead of the season came after forcing an EMU three-and-out in the second quarter. Bahl passed a perfectly placed ball to redshirt sophomore receiver Jared Murphy, who trotted into the end zone in front of his defender. The extra point put Miami up 21-0 at the 10:25 mark.

After senior Dylan Mulder's 49-yard field goal, Miami headed into halftime with a 21-3 lead.

The Eagles started the second half strong with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a 2-yard TD run from senior running back Darius Jackson. Entering this weekend, Jackson ranked 21st in the nation with 99.3 yards per game, but MU held him to 47 yards.

Murphy's second touchdown of the game came soon after on a 12-yard completion from Ragland and put MU up 28-10 with 4:46 left in the third. The last time Miami scored four touchdowns in a game was against University of Cincinnati in Week 3.

Miami held the Eagles to 20 yards on their next drive, but Eastern Michigan cut MU's lead to 28-13 with a 55-yard Mulder field goal. Mulder's FG was the longest in EMU history.

Bahl and Ragland split time and completed a combined 13 of 18 passes for 150 yards. Murphy led in the air with 91 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches, while Smith led on the ground with 93 yards and a TD on 20 carries.

"The win is huge for us and gives us our head up," Martin said. "I really feel like we're getting a lot better. I don't know, I could be wearing rose-colored glasses. I'm pretty critical usually. But we're playing solid football."

Miami improves to 2-8 (1-5 MAC) and achieves its first conference win of the season, while EMU falls to 1-9 (0-6 MAC).

The RedHawks prepare for Akron University next weekend. But tonight, while fresh off a rare win, the players have other plans.

"Party," Smith said. "With the whole team."