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No offense? Not a problem! Defense and special teams lead RedHawks to shock upset of Big Ten’s Northwestern

<p>Miami fans celebrate in the rain outside Ryan Field after the RedHawks’ 17-14 upset over Northwestern.</p>

Miami fans celebrate in the rain outside Ryan Field after the RedHawks’ 17-14 upset over Northwestern.

Running back Keyon Mozee was the shining star of a struggling Miami University offense on Saturday, as the RedHawks won 17-14 over Northwestern. The RedHawks clinched the game with about a minute remaining on a 36-yard Graham Nicholson field goal.

The first major play came with just over eight minutes left in the first quarter. As Miami quarterback Aveon Smith lined up to throw, he had the ball stripped by Northwestern’s Cameron Mitchell – but neither Mitchell nor another adjacent Wildcat defender could pick up the ball. 

RedHawk right tackle Reid Holskey fell on the ball to spare Miami a costly early turnover.  

Northwestern wouldn’t be denied for long, though. 

A methodical drive with some excellent throws by quarterback Ryan Hilinski got the Wildcats to the doorstep. While running back Evan Hull’s third-and-goal rush from the 1-yard line was stuffed, Miami safety Eli Blakey was penalized for offside, and Hilinski snuck over the goal line on the subsequent play to give Northwestern a 7-0 lead.

Miami got a tremendous break when Blakey forced a fumble and Ryan McWood recovered it at the RedHawk 24 with 13 minutes left in the second quarter. 

The offense finally found first gear, and drove down the field with a miss from Smith intended towards a wide-open Miles Marshall, and Marshall who would have almost certainly strolled in for a touchdown notwithstanding. However, they stalled out after a series of penalties inside the red zone, and Graham Nicholson hit the post from 38 yards out to keep the score at 7-0. 

With the final drive of the half – following an excellent punt block from the RedHawk special teams unit – Miami finally put a drive together. They capped it off with a 12-yard pass from Smith to Mac Hippenhammer to tie the game at 7 going into the break.

Neither offense found much of anything in the third quarter. The RedHawk special teams got their second punt block of the game, but couldn’t capitalize on the good field position. 

Punter Dom Dzioban, who had already uncorked punts of 57 and 59 on the night, pinned Northwestern inside their own 15, but Miami allowed Hilinski to find a 29-yard-pass on 3rd and 17 to get Northwestern out of danger.

Northwestern would end up driving down the field, but opted to attempt a 4th and 4 instead of a field goal and saw the pass fall incomplete. 

On the following drive, Miami marched into the red zone, but Nicholson’s field goal attempt was blocked. 

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After a few more stalled drives from either side, a methodical Wildcat drive was finished by running back Cam Porter punching in a 2-yard touchdown run after receiving a direct snap to give Northwestern a 14-7 lead.

The RedHawks wouldn’t have to wait long for an answer, though: three plays later, Mozee ripped off a 66-yard run before being pushed out of bounds at the 1-yard line. Smith snuck over the goal line on the next play to tie the game back up with just over seven minutes left in the fourth.

As the rain began to fall over the stadium, the game reached its climax. 

The RedHawks, beginning at their own 23, drove 58 yards in 13 plays and took over six minutes off the clock before Nicholson knocked through a 36 yard field goal to give Miami the lead. 

The game was sealed with yet another turnover for the RedHawks, their third of the night, as Northwestern receiver Malik Washington’s fumble was recovered by Miami defensive back Ja’Von Kimpson as time ran out.

Coach Chuck Martin’s first win over a Power Five opponent as Miami head coach (and only second-all-time against FBS out-of-conference opponents, after last year’s bowl win over North Texas) takes the RedHawks to 2-2 to end the out-of-conference slate. 

Northwestern concedes its second straight upset after last week’s loss to FCS Southern Illinois as the Wildcats fall to 1-3.

@VesteyTMS

vesteymj@miamioh.edu

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