A second half offensive explosion wasn’t enough for the Miami RedHawks to overcome the Ohio Bobcats in the Battle of the Bricks.
Miami lost, 35-33, dropping the team out of first place in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) East Division.
It was a game of missed opportunities for the RedHawks. The team failed to convert on key fourth downs, and had a few costly mistakes on special teams.
Head Coach Chuck Martin didn’t think the team played well enough to earn the win.
“You make your own breaks. We were not crisp, we were not sharp. And when you’re not crisp and you’re not sharp, it seems like you’re so close, and yet so far away,” Martin said.
After both teams punted on their first possession, Ohio’s offense struck first. The Bobcats went on a methodical 12-play, 86-yard touchdown drive to score the first touchdown of the night. Sixth-year senior De’Montre Tuggle scored on a three-yard touchdown run.
On its next drive, Miami moved the ball all the way down to Ohio’s 18-yard line before a blocked field goal by redshirt senior Kaieem Caesar.
It didn’t take long for the Bobcats to score again. On second down and eight, redshirt sophomore quarterback Kurtis Rourke threw a swing pass to Tuggle, who ran 48 yards down the sideline for his second touchdown of the game.
Gabbert was intercepted on the second play of the team’s next drive, but it didn’t matter. The teams traded possessions for the rest of the half, with Ohio missing a 48-yard field goal with a minute and a half remaining.
The RedHawks trailed 14-0 at halftime.
Miami couldn’t get anything going on offense, as the RedHawks crossed the 50-yard line just once in the first half.
The Bobcats moved the ball with ease in the first half. The team gained 241 total yards, with 184 of them coming through the air.
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“We didn’t play well on either side of the ball,” Martin said.
Ohio scored two quick touchdowns to start the second half.
After Miami punted on its first drive of the third quarter, the Bobcats got the ball on Miami’s 40-yard line due to a kick-catch interference on the RedHawks.
Two plays later, Rourke found redshirt senior wide receiver Isiah Cox for a 25-yard touchdown.
Down by 21, Miami went for it on fourth and one on its own 34-yard line, but second-year running back Kevin Davis was stuffed for no gain.
Three plays later, Ohio faced a fourth down situation of its own. On fourth and nine, Rourke found Cox again for his second touchdown of the half.
At that point, down 28-0, all hope seemed lost for the RedHawks.
Miami didn’t give up, though.
On the fifth play of Miami’s next drive, Gabbert lofted a pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Jalen Walker right over the hands of an outstretched defender. Walker caught the pass in stride at the 20-yard line and ran the rest of the way for Miami’s first touchdown of the night.
The RedHawks got the ball back after a third down sack by third-year defensive end Lonnie Phelps.
A 32-yard pass to Sorenson put the team at the 15-yard line. Two plays later, Gabbert threw to Sorenson again for a touchdown.
But Miami’s kicking woes would continue.
Nicholson yanked the extra point wide to the left, keeping Ohio’s advantage at 28-13.
The miss would prove decisive as the game went on.
The RedHawks got another stop, and the offense went to work. Gabbert completed three straight passes to Sorenson, and a roughing the passer penalty put Miami inside the Bobcats’ 20-yard line.
At the end of the third quarter, the ’Hawks were knocking on the door of another touchdown. They needed a big conversion on fourth down and one.
They didn’t get it. For the second time on the night, Ohio’s defense stood their ground, driving redshirt sophomore Tyre Shelton back for a loss of a yard.
The Bobcats picked up a few first downs on its next drive, but a pass breakup by second-year defensive back Jaquez Warren on third down forced them to punt.
For a brief second on the next drive, it looked as if Miami had made a big play. Redshirt junior receiver Mac Hippenhammer caught a pass and took it all the way to Ohio’s 28-yard line.
The RedHawks were called for holding though, erasing the big play and pushing them back ten yards.
After failing to convert another fourth down, Miami gave the ball back to the Bobcats. An Ohio touchdown was wiped out due to a penalty, so the Bobcats had to settle for a field goal.
But redshirt senior kicker Stephen Johnson’s kick missed to the left, giving the RedHawks another chance.
Three completions to Sorenson put the ’Hawks inside Ohio’s 20-yard line. On third down and three, Gabbert rolled out to his right.
Looking for Sorenson, Gabbert threw his way, but the ball was tipped into the air.
It landed right in the hands of Hippenhammer, who corralled the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
Down by nine, Miami elected to go for the 2-point conversion. A double reverse led to a Walker pass that was caught by Sorenson, but he landed out of bounds.
Martin’s decision to go for two will have its critics. If the RedHawks would’ve kicked the extra point, they would still be within one possession in the final stretch of the game. Instead, the team was down 28-19, which means the team needed at least two more scores to win the game.
Down by two possessions, Miami tried to get the ball back by utilizing an onside kick. The ball traveled ten yards and was bobbled by Ohio, but the Bobcats ultimately fell on it.
The RedHawks got the ball back with a little over four minutes left in the game. On the fifth play of the drive, Gabbert threw a deep pass to Sorenson along the right sideline.
The veteran receiver jumped up and caught the pass at Ohio’s 45-yard line and ran the rest of the way for an improbable 82-yard touchdown.
It was the 13th catch of the night for Sorenson, who had a game to remember. The senior caught 14 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns. It was the most receiving yards in a game in Miami history, and tied the record for most catches in a game.
“He made a bunch of contested catches, which shows his greatness,” Martin said.
After another failed onside kick attempt, Tuggle shut the door on Miami’s comeback bid with a backbreaking 46-yard touchdown run on third and eight.
The RedHawks managed to score another touchdown on a catch by Hippenhammer, but it didn’t matter. A third onside kick attempt fell harmlessly into the hands of Tuggle, and the Bobcats ran out the clock for their second win of the season.
The final score: Ohio 35, Miami 33.
After a tough loss to its cross-state rival, Miami falls to 4-5 on the season and 3-2 in MAC play.
The team’s next game is on Tuesday, Nov. 9 against the Buffalo Bulls. The game is at Yager Stadium and will be broadcast on a national television network to be determined.