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RedHawks lose Bahamas Bowl in heartbreaking fashion

<p>Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium on the day of The Bahamas Bowl</p>

Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium on the day of The Bahamas Bowl

The RedHawks have their backs against the wall. Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) is up 24-20 in the 2022 Bahamas Bowl, but Miami has the ball with 54 seconds left. The thing is, it’s fourth-and-four. And they’re 57 yards away from the end zone. And they’re out of time outs.

But on the next play from scrimmage, redshirt first-year quarterback Aveon Smith hurls a strike to sophomore running back Kenny Tracy for 12 yards and the first down. After an incompletion, Smith fires a pass down the middle between three defenders that redshirt junior receiver Miles Marshall somehow squeezes. Miami sprints up to the line. Smith makes like he’s going to spike the ball, but then pedals back into the shotgun. He grabs the snap as the clock drops to 0:13, but it's quickly apparent no one is open.

I’m screaming in my living room: DON’T RUN DON’T RUN DON’T RUN!! And then: NOOOOOOOOO. Smith takes off for the sideline instead of throwing the ball away, and somehow gets out of bounds before the clock hits zero. But the clock had hit one. Then a flag flies.

It’s a facemask foul against UAB. The penalty moves Miami up to the UAB 15-yard line. Miami has one more snap. Aveon takes it and fires another strike down the middle, this time to redshirt senior receiver Jalen Walker. Walker grabs it between two defenders around the four, and for a second it looks like he’s going to power into the end zone. But he gets wrapped up at the two, and the final whistle sounds to signal the unceremonious end to an incredibly entertaining game. Miami 20, UAB 24 in the Bahamas Bowl.

Miami looked great to start its first drive on Friday. Redshirt first-year quarterback Aveon Smith hurled a 15 yard pass completion to redshirt sophomore tight end Jack Coldiron on the first play from scrimmage. Another 15 yard pass and a few decent rushes got Miami onto UAB’s side of the field, but the RedHawks stalled out and couldn’t convert on first down. 

UAB took the field position and marched 68 yards in five plays for a score. Miami went three-and-out next, and after UAB went 45 yards in ten plays leading up to a field goal. The score would stay at 10-0 until there were just 34 seconds left in the half, when Smith hit his favorite target, redshirt senior receiver Mac Hippenhammer, streaking into the end zone for a 33 yard score. Sophomore kicker Graham Nicholson missed his first extra point of the season. True first-year defensive back Rowan Zolman intercepted a UAB pass as time ran out in the first half, and both teams headed for the locker rooms with Miami down 10-6.

Miami quickly stalled out on its first drive of the second half, and sophomore punter Dom Dzobian launched a punt toward the hot Bahamian sun. The ball plunges to the grass a yard in front of UAB’s Starling Thomas V and takes a wicked bounce off his hands. A mad scramble ensues and when the pile finally broke up, Miami’s Ambe’ Caldwell was holding the ball at the four yard line. Sophomore running back Kevin Davis punched the ball in a play later to make the score 13-10 Miami.

UAB answered quickly with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a touchdown. And Miami gave it right back with a 12-yard, 75-yard drive that ate up 6:37. With 6:52 remaining in the fourth quarter, it was 20-17 RedHawks.

Two plays into their next drive, UAB fumbled. Here, it really looked like it was Miami’s game. The RedHawks’ post-fumble drive started on the UAB 28, but Miami lost two yards over the next four plays. Nicholson missed the 47 yard field goal and the score stayed 20-17 Miami.

UAB went 70 yards in five plays on their next series, and Miami got the ball back down four with 1:33 left. The rest is history.

The Bahamas bowl, the first game of the 2022 bowl season, was incredibly entertaining. Miami’s defense had a great first half, but couldn’t do much to stop UAB in the second. The Miami offense wasn’t great, but it was two yards or a couple of made kicks short of good enough.

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Aveon Smith finished 15-27 for 162 yards and 2 touchdowns. Since Brett Gabbert announced his intention to return to Miami football in 2023 last week, this was an incredibly important game for Smith’s slim chances to dethrone him as the starting quarterback. He probably didn’t do enough, but there’s still a full offseason and preseason before the ‘Hawks hit the field again.

Miami starts the 2023 season Sept. 2, 2023 at Miami (Fl).