With a 23-10 win over the University at Buffalo at Yager Stadium on Wednesday night, the Miami University RedHawks won 2023 the Mid-American Conference (MAC) East Division title and secured a spot in the MAC Championship game on Dec. 2 in Detroit.
“These kids have worked for 11 months to get this — these kids have been working their whole lives for this,” Miami head coach Chuck Martin said. “… In your life, these moments are hard to get. It’s what we do this for.”
The RedHawks never trailed in the game.
Neither team scored in the first quarter, but about halfway through the second quarter, Golden Graham Nicholson knocked through a 25-yard kick to put Miami on the board.
On their next drive, the RedHawks went 88 yards on just six plays and scored a touchdown, extending their lead to two scores.
Buffalo kicked a field goal as time expired in the first half. Miami opened the second half with a field goal, and on the next drive Buffalo scored a touchdown to make the score 13-10 in favor of Miami.
After the teams traded punts, Miami scored a touchdown of its own to once again extend its lead to two scores. Miami would kick another field goal on its next drive to push the score to 23-10, where it would stay until the game was over.
With just under four minutes remaining, Buffalo completed a pass to receiver Marlyn Johnson, who broke free from the RedHawk defense. Johnson motored 80-yards down the turf at Yager Stadium, but RedHawk senior defensive back Michael Dowell chased him all the way down the field and punched the ball out just before the goal line.
“We had some missed tackles, and I was just trying to pursue,” Dowell said. “At that point, you’re not just trying to tackle, but you’re trying to get the ball out. I punched out the ball and it was just a good play at the right time.”
It was ruled that the Buffalo player who recovered the fumble in the end zone was out of bounds when he did, and the officials ruled a touchback. Instead of 23-17 with about three minutes left, the RedHawk lead remained at two scores, and Miami got the ball back.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
“You can’t give up on a play, we preach it every day,” Martin said. “And then there’s guys like Michael Dowell who just live it. He didn’t learn that at Miami … It’s probably just how God made him.
Since losing to the University of Miami 38-3 in Week 1, the RedHawks are 9-1.
“After the game at Miami, I’m walking with our police guy,” Martin said. “And I barely knew him back then. I’m just wondering what he’s thinking like, ‘What a waste of time walking with this loser.’ Where [the team] has gotten to since has just really been fun to be around.”
After losing star quarterback Brett Gabbert Week 8 against the University of Toledo, the RedHawks won the following three games to secure a spot in the MAC Championship.
Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Aveon Smith did what he needed to against Buffalo. After passing for just 50 yards last week against Akron, Smith completed 9-of-16 passes for 146 yards and added 60 rushing yards.
“You lose Brett, who’s the best player in this league, the [team’s] competitor and the battery,” Martin said. “But Aveon steps in and he does what he does … You go through life, and if things get you down you have less chance for success. If things don’t get you down, it still won’t always work out, but these kids have really just kept rolling.”
Redshirt-sophomore running back Rashad Amos scored two touchdowns and added 82 yards on the ground. First-year wide receiver Javon Tracy had a career-best day with five catches for 123 yards.
The RedHawks will play Ball State next Saturday, Nov. 25, at noon in Muncie, Indiana. While the RedHawks' spot in the MAC Championship game is secured, the stakes for the final game of the regular season are still high, according to Martin.
“You’ve got a chance to go 10-2 regular season, how could you not be excited about that,” Martin said. “That’s our next goal and then we’ll worry about Detroit … We got a chance to play Ball State, let’s go play Ball State. That’s what we do. We’ll play our guys.”