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RedHawks land another one-score loss

Matt Heckert - The Miami Student
Matt Heckert - The Miami Student

The Miami RedHawks lost a football game they had every chance to win because of lack of execution down the stretch.

Sound familiar?

For the past two seasons, Chuck Martin's Miami football program has made a habit of choking away winnable football games. Since the beginning of the 2017 season, the RedHawks have played in seven one-possession games. They have lost all of them.

That includes Saturday's 40-39 loss to the Western Michigan Broncos in which the RedHawks made nearly all the right plays to start the MAC season 2-0, but also surrendered 439 yards through the air and missed a field goal with under a minute to play in the game.

"We tried to stay cool, calm and collected," senior defensive back Joshua Allen said. "We obviously didn't do that."

While the Broncos' aerial attack gave the RedHawks fits for the majority of the afternoon, Miami made some plays to stay in the football game, especially in the first half.

To start the game, redshirt junior running back Maurice Thomas took the opening kickoff 99 yards, accounting for a portion of his 269 total yards on the day.

"We knew if we got the blocks, we'd be able to get the hole," Thomas said. "I hit it and tried to run full speed."

As the game progressed, the Miami passing attack came alive -- redshirt senior quarterback Gus Ragland completed 22 of 32 passes for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns, while sophomore receiver Dom Robinson reeled in his first two career touchdown receptions.

As the offense gelled, the defense put the RedHawks in positions to separate as the first half came to a close.

With 1:45 to go until half, senior linebacker Brad Koenig stripped the football from the hands of Bronco junior quarterback Jon Wassink. Following a RedHawk field goal, junior cornerback Zedrick Raymond forced another fumble with just over a minute to play in the first half.

Four plays later, Ragland found redshirt sophomore tight end Andrew Homer in the end zone to put Miami up 27-14 at half.

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Following a ten-point swing in favor of the RedHawks, momentum moved in the direction of the Broncos as Wassink threw for 271 of his 439 yards in the second half.

"We couldn't cover them one-on-one," RedHawks head coach Chuck Martin said. "Two of our five DB's played aggressive."

Specifically deadly for the Broncos was the receiving duo of freshman Jayden Reed and junior D'Wayn Eskridge. The pair combined for 237 receiving yards while Reed torched a young defensive backfield with four touchdowns on the day.

For Martin, a timid mindset among young players led to a poor defensive outing, especially after the ejection of Deandre Montgomery following a targeting call.

"They played back on their heels not to lose," Martin said. "If we played 35 guys today, 30 competed and played to win."

Entering the final quarter up 33-27,the RedHawk defense proved unable to prevent the Broncos from sticking the ball in the end zone. Twice in the fourth quarter, Miami found itself in the lead, in need of a stop to put the game away. That stop never came.

With 6:26 to go in the 4th, Western Michigan started with the ball down 39-34 at its own 27. After moving the sticks three times, the Broncos faced 4th and 10 at the Miami 16. In need of a single defensive stand to seal the victory, the RedHawk defense allowed Wassink to scramble his way to a first down.

Wassink rushed it in the end zone the very next play to give the Broncos the lead.

Down one with 2:53 to play, the RedHawks started their drive on their own 25, yet only managed to move the ball to the Western Michigan 32 where they were forced to try a 50-yard field goal to win the game.

If you follow Miami football, you can predict what happens next, but in case you don't: it missed wide right.

As a result, the RedHawks move to just 1-4 on the season and are set to face the reigning MAC East Champions in Akron on Saturday. Martin expects no sympathy from the Zips.

"They don't give a crap that we lost 40-39," Martin said.

Kick-off is at 3:30 p.m. The game can be watched on ESPN+.