After Miami football’s 27-14 win over the University of North Texas Mean Green in the Frisco Football Classic, head coach Chuck Martin didn’t want to go home just yet.
“My wife says we’ve got Christmas in a couple days, though,” Martin said.
Martin will have to settle for the memories of his first ever bowl win as a Division I head coach, and Miami’s first bowl win since 2010.
North Texas quarterback Austin Aune got off to a hot start, winding around the left side of the defense for a first down on the game’s second play from scrimmage. That was all the Mean Green could muster on their first drive of the game however, and a few plays later, they punted.
Jalen Walker grabbed the North Texas punt and returned it to the Miami 34. Most of Miami’s yardage for the drive came a couple plays later, when running back Keyon Mozee dug around the left side of the defense for 15 yards and got hit late by a Mean Green defender, which tacked on another 15.
The offense stalled after that, and freshman kicker Graham Nicholson nailed a 48-yard field goal that would have been good from at least 55 yards out.
On the next North Texas drive, tight end Jake Roberts found a seam in the RedHawk defense, and Aune found him up the middle for a big gain. Then, running back Ikaika Ragsdale broke through the first two levels of the RedHawk defense for 12 yards.
A couple screen passes and a stifled run later, North Texas converted on fourth down with a carry up the middle from running back Isaiah Johnson. Two plays later, Johnson punched the ball through for a touchdown.
Gabbert was sacked for nine yards on the first play of the drive, but then Mozee wound through the North Texas defense for fourteen yards. On the next play, Gabbert flung a pass to Sorenson down the sideline. The ball hit the grass, but Sorenson drew the pass interference penalty to move the RedHawk drive up to the 50-yard line.
Two plays later, Gabbert found Sorenson streaking across the middle to get inside the 20. Running back Kevin Davis had two straight runs, then running back Kenny Tracy punched it in from eight yards out.
North Texas's Bernardo Rodriguez ripped off a line drive punt that bounced and settled 70 yards away from his foot after the Mean Green went three and out on their next drive. Miami gained a first down on a toss to Sorenson down the left sideline, but punted a few plays later after a sack stalled their drive.
The Mean Green offense really fired up on the next drive. Aune started it by pitching a pair of passes over Miami’s stacked defense to wide receiver Roderic Burns for a combined 67 yards.
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After an incomplete pass and a rush for no gain, Aune found tight end Jason Pirtle over the middle to get inside the five yard line. A play later, he carried the ball in himself on a read option.
Miami nailed a 36-yard field goal on its next drive. On the third play of the following drive, Miami’s John Saunders Jr. jumped an Aune pass and returned it 31 yards to the Mean Green 30 yard line. Gabbert promptly completed a pass down the left sideline to tight end Rhett Williams for 20 yards. Mozee ran it five yards for the score a play later.
North Texas put more pressure on the RedHawk defense the next drive. The Mean Green had five first downs on the drive and Austin Aune completed three passes for 42 yards. But on third and nine from Miami’s 14, Aune threw another pick.
Second-year linebacker Jacquez Warren (who would later be named the defensive MVP of the game) grabbed the ball on the goal line and returned it 13 yards.
“I just read (the quarterback’s) eyes and it took me to where the ball was at,” Warren said.
The RedHawks couldn’t capitalize on the turnover, but they took the possession into half, and entered the locker room up 20-14.
The RedHawks started quickly in the second half. First, Gabbert hit Davis on a swing route for two yards. Then, Gabbert launched a strike 50 yards down the sideline into the arms of Sorenson. The throw was perfect.
A couple plays later, Gabbert made another highlight reel play. Surrounded by four Mean Green rushers, Gabbert somehow found a seam and burst out for 10 yards and the first on the ground. Then, he found tight end Nate Mersch with a back shoulder throw for the touchdown, Mersch’s fourth score on just five catches this year.
The teams dueled punts for the rest of the third quarter. Early in the fourth, Miami finally got within field goal range again, but Graham Nicholson yanked his 52-yard attempt.
The game felt like it was over at this point: Miami was up a couple of scores, and the Mean Green offense hadn’t had a pulse in over a quarter. But North Texas quickly reminded the RedHawks that there was still time on the clock.
First, Aune found wide receiver Datreveon Brown on the left hash mark for 12 yards, and next Ragsdale plunged up the middle for four. Aune found Damon Ward on a comeback route next for nine, and a couple of plays after that pitched a strike to Jason Pirtle on a slant route to the Miami 28.
North Texas got down to the Miami 2 yard line on the next two plays with an 18-yard pass to Burns streaking toward the sideline, and an eight yard rush up the middle by Johnson on first and goal.
North Texas had three plays to move the ball two yards and into the end zone. They couldn’t do it.
After a loss of three yards on fourth down, Aune's pass fell incomplete in the end zone for a turnover on downs.
It was a big stop for a defense who had made key fourth down stops in past games.
“For us to get out of that with 0 points scored, just credit our defense. They’ve done that game in and game out all year,” Gabbert said.
There was still nine minutes left in the game, but the Mean Green wouldn’t see the ball again. After a gutsy first down scramble on third down to start the drive, the RedHawks methodically moved the ball down the field to ice the game.
Gabbert kneeled the ball three times to close out the 27-14 win.
Gabbert earned offensive MVP honors for the game. He completed 22-of-31 passes for 228 yards, 2 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Tracy and Mozee lead the Miami ground attack. Tracy toted the ball 14 times for 92 yards and a touchdown, and Mozee carried nine times for 77 yards. Jack Sorenson led the way through the air with 116 yards on seven catches.
With the win over North Texas, Miami finishes the year with a 7-6 record. The RedHawks open next year’s season on the road against the Kentucky Wildcats on Sep. 3.