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Wednesday night's football game had a plethora of ramifications for the Miami RedHawks -- the final home game of the season was the last chance for seniors such as Tony Reid, Heath Harding and Ryan Smith to play at Yager Stadium to become one game closer to bowl eligibility.
When Eastern Michigan and Miami take the Yager Stadium field Wednesday, it will be a matchup of two programs that have experienced heartbreak during the 2017 campaign.
College football is a sport characterized by its uncertainty -- right when a team makes a statement and cements itself as the cream of the crop, it turns around the next week and drops a game to an underdog.
The 2017 Miami RedHawks' football season began with optimism and thoughts that Chuck Martin had finally turned the corner with his program, making the Red and White a favorite to win the MAC East. After countless disappointing losses, the RedHawks' season has turned into a collection of missed opportunities, yet coming into their Halloween matchup against Ohio, Miami had one last chance to flip the script on the 2017 story.
Entering Saturday, the Miami football team appeared to be one loss away from falling apart -- the RedHawks were nursing a three-game losing streak, including two gut-wrenching conference defeats to go along with a blowout at Notre Dame. With a loss Saturday, the Red and White would have moved to 1-3 in the MAC East with little to no chance for making a run at a division title. With that pressure in mind, the 'Hawks played an angry, physical and determined football game, defeating the Buffalo Bulls 24-14.
When Gus Ragland threw an interception for a touchdown giving the Cincinnati Bearcats a win over their rival Miami RedHawks, there was a sense of shock among the Miami community after such an improbable end to a game that looked to be a certain win. Yet hope still remained after that Week Three debacle, as the goal of a MAC championship was still attainable.
The 2017 season was supposed to be a breakout year for the Miami RedHawks football program. Following an unexpected six-game win streak in the 2016-17 season, the 'Hawks returned starting quarterback Gus Ragland with experienced weapons on offense and an aggressive defense full of veteran playmakers. However, at the halfway point of the season the 'Hawks sit at a disappointing 2-4. With the exception of Notre Dame, the RedHawks have had their chances to be 5-1, but improbable turnovers at crucial junctions has doomed Miami.
At this time a year ago, the Miami RedHawks were winless five games through the season; the idea of a share of the Mid-American Conference East title or a bowl berth against an SEC opponent seemed like a pipe dream, yet that is exactly what happened to Chuck Martin and Co.
Notre Dame is rich in college football culture. Between "Touchdown Jesus", the "Play Like a Champion" sign, Notre Dame Stadium and the famed Rudy, few schools in the nation can match the tradition South Bend boasts.
The Notre Dame's Fighting Irish is one of those rare programs in college football that seem to reload year after year, and be among the most talented in the nation every season. The Miami RedHawks knew this ahead of Saturday's tilt in South Bend -- Coach Chuck Martin likened the game to a recess pick-up game where Notre Dame gets the first 85 picks, leaving Miami with the leftovers.
In 2012, Everett Golson, Manti Te'o and Brian Kelly led the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to a 12-0 regular season and a berth in the BCS National Championship game in one of the most memorable runs in college football history. Current Miami (2-2, 1-0 MAC) head coach Chuck Martin was a part of that 2012 Irish coaching staff. Saturday, he will return to the South Bend sideline, but this time as a visitor.
The stars appeared to align for the Miami RedHawks (1-2, 0-0 Mid-American Conference) last Saturday night. In front of a packed Yager Stadium, the 'Hawks were playing well, feeding off the nighttime crowd and looked to be on their way to their first win over the University of Cincinnati since 2005. However, after a late interception for a touchdown, the buzzing crowd turned silent as the Bearcats walked away with their 12th straight victory over Miami.
For nearly 59 minutes Saturday night, it appeared the Miami RedHawks (1-2, MAC 0-0) were going to defeat the Cincinnati Bearcats (2-1, 0-0 AAC) for the first time since 2005. With 1:07 remaining, the more than 20,000 fans inside Yager Stadium saw an interception for a touchdown to give Cincinnati the lead for good.
The 2017 edition of the Miami RedHawk football program took the field Saturday at Yager Stadium for the first time this season, and controlled the game from start to finish. Following an underwhelming week one performance against the Thundering Herd of Marshall, a physical run game combined with opportunistic defense and sound special teams led Chuck Martin's squad to a 31-10 victory over the Austin Peay Governors (0-2, 0-0 Ohio Valley Conference).