Miami Seals Division Title with Win over Buffalo
By: Jack Mueller
The RedHawks are going to Detroit.
Miami secured their place in the MAC Championship by defeating the University of Buffalo Bulls 23-10. The RedHawks improve their record to 9-2 with the win, while Buffalo falls to 3-8.
Miami’s defense was dominant once again, as the MAC’s best unit showed why they have been so hard to break down all season, stifling Buffalo’s offense for the majority of the contest. Ty Wise and Matt Salopek were seemingly everywhere, registering 25 tackles between the pair of them (Wise: 15, Salopek: 10) but the biggest play of the game was in the secondary.
With three minutes left in the fourth quarter, the RedHawks kicked the ball to the Bulls up 23-10 after Graham Nicholson’s third field goal, his 22nd consecutive make on the season. Needing a touchdown to stay alive, Buffalo Quarterback Cole Snyder found Marlyn Johnson who, after a couple missed tackles, found himself with nothing but green grass between him and the end zone. Out of seemingly nowhere, senior defensive back Michael Dowell punched the ball out of Johnson’s hands from behind, and despite the Bull’s best efforts, the ball trickled out harmlessly for a Miami touchback, effectively ending the game.
“I was just trying to pursue… It was a great play at the right time and I’m just happy I could help the team” said Dowell postgame.
As expected, Miami’s rushing attack was key to their success on offense. Sophomore running back Rashad Amos tallied his second consecutive contest with two scores, reaching the end zone twice and adding another 82 yards on the ground to bring his season total to 812 yards. Aveon Smith was much more successful in the passing game than he was against Akron, the redshirt sophomore Quarterback completed nine passes for 146 yards, and was once again effective on the ground, adding 60 rushing yards.
Javon Tracy was undoubtedly Smith’s number one target on the day, racking up 123 yards on five catches, the longest of which was a 52 yard strike down the left sideline that set up Amos’ second score of the day. Tracy was key to getting Miami’s passing game up and running, which will be a key point to watch in Miami’s next two games.
Javon Tracy is taken down near the goal-line. This catch would set up a touchdown for the Redhawks (Photo by: Jack Mueller)
Neither team could get their offense going early on, as both Miami and Buffalo called upon their punt unit twice in the first quarter. The Bulls put together the first lengthy drive of the day, a 13 play, 52 yard drive that came to an end when Buffalo failed to convert on fourth down. Miami got their offensive unit rolling in the 2nd quarter, scoring on two consecutive drives to open up a 10-0 lead after a 30 yard score by Amos. Buffalo managed a field goal before the half to keep it a one possession game, but Miami’s first drive after the break ended in another field goal to maintain their ten point lead.
Buffalo would respond with a nine play, 60 yard drive that ended in a rushing score by quarterback CJ Ogbonna to bring his team within three. The junior QB was the Bulls leading rusher, ending with 50 yards on 16 attempts (despite being under center, Ogbonna did not register a pass attempt).
Miami would respond immediately, as Javon Tracy’s clutch catch and run brought the RedHawks down to the two before the aforementioned second Rashad Amos score. Miami would stop the Bulls on their next drive before converting another field goal to build the largest lead of the game.
If Buffalo had scored on their long pass that resulted in a fumble out of the end zone, it would have made for a nervous last few minutes, but Dowell’s clutch play iced the game for the RedHawks. Aveon Smith would kneel the clock out, confirming Miami’s victory and booking their place at Ford Field, a trip that many of the Redhawks roster will be making for the first time.
“I’ve been here ten years, the most fun I’ve had is going there (Detroit), … for fans, families and friends, having that venue in this league makes the experience so special” said Coach Martin.
Miami will play Ball State at noon on Saturday, November 25th with the chance to earn their 10th win of the regular season for the first time since 2003. The RedHawks will head to Detroit the following week to face the Toledo Rockets, the only team to hand them defeat in the MAC this season. But now, weeks have passed, and this is a different Miami team that fell 21-17 to the Rockets; there is no doubt that the RedHawks will walk into the motor city hungry to settle the score.