By Coburn Gillies, Assistant Sports Editor
The Miami RedHawks entered Saturday's game against Western Kentucky searching for their first win of the season, and they left still searching after dropping their third straight game. Once again, the defeat came in a close game, as the RedHawks fell 31-24 at home to Western Kentucky University (2-1) on Saturday.
Even though the 'Hawks dominated time of possession and outgained the Hilltoppers 424 to 404 yards, they still found themselves on the losing end this weekend.
While the RedHawks didn't get the victory they were seeking, Head Coach Chuck Martin found some silver linings in the game, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
"Big positive right off the bat for us is defense. They really, really, really, really played really good in the first half. For all but really one play, they got turnovers," Martin said, referring to Miami's 3-1 edge in turnovers.
Sophomore defensive back De'Andre Montgomery contributed to the turnover column for the RedHawks for a second straight week, as he picked off Western Kentucky's redshirt junior quarterback Mike White in the first quarter for his second interception of the year.
Defensively, Miami seemed to come out firing on all cylinders, as they held the Hilltoppers' high offense to only 14 points in the first half.
Offensively, on the other hand, the RedHawks appeared to have trouble finding their footing, especially in the first half.
"First half offense, I wasn't displeased with how we ran it," Martin said. "I watched Alabama really struggle running against [Western Kentucky]. We had a little bit of existence, particularly with no passing attack in the first half," Martin said.
Since the passing attack offense was seemingly gridlocked, Miami survived the first two periods of play by leaning on redshirt sophomore tailback Kenny Young, who set career highs with 17 carries and 68 rushing yards.
For Martin, the front-seven of the Hilltoppers, who made seven sacks, were a major contributor to Miami's difficulties through the air.
"[Quarterback] Billy [Bahl] got just a little bit off his game. Actually, he got off his game in the first half," Martin said. "[The Hilltoppers] are good up front. I mean, really good. And there were times [Bahl] was getting pressure. Other times, we did a hell of a job blocking some really tough guys," Martin said.
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During the game, there was a sense that the passing attack from the RedHawks just was not clicking. Yet, on paper, sophomore Bahl had the best performance of his career.
Bahl not only displayed elusiveness with a nine-yard scamper in the third quarter for his first career rushing touchdown, but he also had his first ever 300-yard game, throwing for 339 yards and two touchdowns.
"I mean, in the first half it was pretty messy and I just wasn't seeing it very well and came in at halftime kind of regrouped and talked to the coaches for the second half.," Bahl said. "The big thing was just trusting the O-Line. I mean, I wasn't really looking downfield as much as trying to look at what was going on up front."
A big reason for Bahl's success this season has been the emergence of sophomore wide receiver James Gardner. The 6'4" wideout continued his early-season success, adding one touchdown and 134 yards to Miami's total.
"It's just good," Bahl said of Gardner's play. "He's got a huge catch radius, so I can put the ball anywhere near him and he's going to make a play on the ball. Even if he doesn't catch it, he's going to get his hands there."
Miami returns to action Saturday on the road against archrival Cincinnati in the Battle for the Victory Bell, with the game set to kick off at 3:30 p.m.