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Miami smokes Bowling Green at home for bowl eligibility

Redshirt junior defensive end Kameron Butler gets a sack on Bowling Green quarterback Matt McDonald to force a fumble in a Nov. 16 34-7 win over the Falcons. Linebacker Matthew Salopek recovered the fumble, which led to a Miami touchdown.
Redshirt junior defensive end Kameron Butler gets a sack on Bowling Green quarterback Matt McDonald to force a fumble in a Nov. 16 34-7 win over the Falcons. Linebacker Matthew Salopek recovered the fumble, which led to a Miami touchdown.

Fans could barely see sixth-year senior tight end Andrew Homer and redshirt junior defensive end Kameron Butler as the pair walked out to midfield for the pregame coin toss.

Smoke engulfed the field after a smoke machine malfunctioned as the RedHawks ran onto the field before Tuesday night's contest against the Bowling Green Falcons. Luckily, no one was injured.

But it was a foreshadowing for the oddness to come in the first quarter.

Up 7-0 after a 63-yard rushing touchdown by redshirt first-year running back Terion Stewart, Bowling Green lined up to punt on its own 35-yard line.

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Chris Cavalaris, in the game as a special teams player (neither offense or defense), blocked the punt. First-year defensive lineman Caiden Woullard picked up the ball and ran it to the three-yard line.

Miami Head Coach Chuck Martin says Cavalaris had been begging to get in on special teams, and made his mark on the game early.

“Nobody in this building works harder to try to help Miami football win. And he doesn’t get reps… nobody has worked harder just to try to even be out there for that moment, let alone go out there and succeed,” Martin said.

Two plays later, second-year running back Kevin Davis took the end around to the left side for a 3-yard touchdown, tying the game at seven.

Or so the RedHawks thought.

Instead, true first-year kicker Graham Nicholson’s PAT was blocked. Senior defensive back Devin Taylor picked up the block and ran with it, looking for a scoop-and-score 2-point conversion. He got all the way down to Miami’s 36-yard line before being brought down by a slew of RedHawks.

In the second quarter, sophomore quarterback Brett Gabbert faked an end around before lobbing a deep pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer for a 63-yard touchdown. 

The touchdown gave Miami a 13-7 lead it would not relinquish.

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On its next drive, Miami decided to go for it on fourth and 10 at Bowling Green’s 35-yard line. Gabbert’s pass was intercepted over the middle by redshirt first-year Deshawn Jones Jr.

The interception cost them important field position. If Bowling Green simply let the ball hit the ground, the Falcons would’ve had the ball at the 35-yard line. Instead, they regained possession all the way back at the 11-yard line.

The mistake would prove to be costly. Penalties forced Bowling Green to punt from its own 3-yard line. An eight-yard return by redshirt junior wide receiver Jalen Walker gave the RedHawks the ball just 35 yards away from the end zone. 

A strike to sixth-year senior wide receiver Jack Sorenson put the ball at the one-yard line, and redshirt sophomore running back Tyre Shelton punched it in on the next play.

Miami led 20-7 at halftime.

The RedHawks extended the lead on the first play of the second half.

Sorenson, who was quiet to his standards in the first half, caught a short pass from Gabbert and ran the rest of the way for an 83-yard touchdown.

Miami got its only turnover of the game later in the third quarter.

On the first play of a new drive, Butler took down senior quarterback Matt McDonald and knocked the ball out of his hands. Redshirt first-year linebacker Matthew Salopek fell on it, giving the RedHawks the ball at the 24-yard line.

It was the seventh sack of the night for Miami’s defense, who would end up with eight on the night. Butler and fellow defensive ends Dominique Robinson and Lonnie Phelps each recorded two sacks.

Usually, a team needs to send a blitz to sack a quarterback as many times as the RedHawks did. According to Martin, that wasn’t the case.

“We rushed four guys all game,” Martin said.

Two plays later, Gabbert handed the ball to Shelton, who was patient before making a spin move to the left side to get into the end zone.

It was the second touchdown of the day for Shelton, who hadn’t gotten into the end zone all season.

“Finally,” Shelton said. “It felt amazing.”

Miami’s 34-7 win over Bowling Green makes the team bowl-eligible for the third time in four years. The last time the RedHawks played in a bowl game was January 6, 2020, when the team lost to Louisiana in the Lending Tree Bowl.

Martin was excited for his team to reach bowl eligibility.

“When I got here, being bowl eligible was about the farthest thing from our minds… we’re really excited about it and we’d love to go to a bowl game. Like, bowl games are fun. It’s a good reward for 12 months of hard work.”

Senior defensive back Mike Brown was not quite ready to celebrate, though.

“No celebrating yet,” Brown said. “We gotta get this win next Saturday.”

The RedHawks are back in action on Saturday, Nov. 27 against the Kent State Golden Flashes. The winner of the contest will go to the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship Game on Dec. 4 in Detroit.

“We’re excited and we’re gonna have 11 great days of preparation and we’ll try to play our best football and try to win a game,” Martin said.

Miami’s game against Kent State is in Kent. The game kicks off at noon and will be broadcast on ESPN+.