The celebration started well before the clock hit zero.
After senior kicker Sam Sloman drilled his fourth field goal of the game Saturday — this one to put Miami ahead of Central Michigan, 26-21, with 30 seconds left at Ford Field — his teammates lifted him into the air as the RedHawk faithful chanted his name.
Six plays later, a group of RedHawks batted down the Chippewas’ final-second Hail Mary attempt, and the game ended.
Miami stormed the field, basking in its first Mid-American Conference Championship since 2010.
The RedHawks ran toward midfield, jumping around before gravitating toward the west end zone.
They grabbed championship signs, grey t-shirts and black hats.
They dapped each other up and hugged their coaches.
Noticing the dozens of flashing cameras on the field, the RedHawks gathered together, chanting “I’m t’d up, hey!”
While the attention surrounded his players, head coach Chuck Martin quickly sought out the Chippewas. He congratulated them for their performances in Saturday’s game and all season long.
“I wanted to shake their hands,” Martin said. “I wanted to go tell some Central Michigan players how good I thought they were and what kind of season they had.”
The stadium facilities team set up a stage at the 50-yard line for a trophy ceremony. The RedHawks migrated toward it and cheered, as redshirt junior wide receiver Jack Sorenson, redshirt junior cornerback Manny Rugamba and Sloman won player of the game awards on their respective sides of the ball.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
They offered the loudest roar of all when Martin’s son, Max, raised the MAC Championship trophy.
As the ceremony ended and the media dispersed from the field, the RedHawks didn’t let the celebration die.
“I can’t leave yet,” senior tight end Quentin Hardy told Rugamba, as they stood on the Miami sideline.
“I know, I don’t want to give up this moment,” Rugamba responded, surveying the scene.
Many players found their families. The hugging continued.
Senior defensive lineman Doug Costin went into the stands and snuck up behind his parents. He saw them peering onto the field, wondering where he was.
“Who you guys looking for?” Costin asked, right behind his parents.
“We’re looking for Doug,” Costin’s mom said, as she turned around.
Then, she saw him.
“Just her smile and happiness, that was the best for me,” Costin said.
Costin carried a sign around during the entire celebration. On Monday, it was still in his car. He planned to bring it to all of his exams this week.
Holding a different sign, sophomore defensive lineman Kam Butler hopped up on Miami’s bench, just behind a table of postgame snacks — orange slices and bananas. Butler waved the poster around, hyping up the team’s fans. None of them had left.
Central Michigan’s side was empty.
Seeing several of his former teammates — Heath Harding, Sam Martin, Gus Ragland and more — Sorenson walked over to the front row of the stands. He went to high-five them, but one of them grabbed his arm and yanked him up over the ledge into the crowd with them.
“It’s really cool,” Sorenson said. “We saw those guys put in so much groundwork and kind of lay the foundation for what we got to build off of, which is really awesome. So, the win for us was just as important to them, which is really cool. The chance to celebrate with them was really priceless.”
Once the RedHawks made their way to their locker room, their rendition of the Miami fight song rang through the bowels of Ford Field.
Martin, Costin, Sorenson and Sloman smiled their way through the postgame press conference. Seemingly, every answer revolved around how excited they were.
On the bus ride home, the RedHawks remained in good spirits. The victory still felt surreal, but it was beginning to set in.
“We kept looking at each other, and people just kept repeating, ‘Wow, we’re really MAC Champs right now,’” Costin said. ‘“This really just happened.’”
Going against his typical routine, Martin decided to ride home with his family. He wanted to enjoy the moment with them after celebrating with his team up to that point. They stopped for dinner at Carrabba’s Italian Grill.
“The energy in my car was really good, though,” Martin said. “The Martins were jacked up.”
As the party persisted on the bus, the team came to a realization, Costin said.
“Once we got two or three hours in, coming home, we were like, ‘Man, this would’ve really sucked if we lost.”’