Weekend Recap: Miami Football Wins MAC, Basketball Picks up Road Win
By: Jack Mueller
If you’re a fan of Miami University Athletics, you were spoiled this weekend. The Football program won it’s biggest game in recent memory, and set themselves up to play in a major bowl game after beating #23 Toledo to take home the MAC crown.
Not a football fan? No worries! The RedHawk basketball team traveled to Marshall University in West Virginia and walked away with their first road win of the season against a formidable foe behind some stellar play from a class of freshmen that look like they’re going to be staples of Miami’s program for years to come.
There’s plenty of action to cover from this weekend, so let’s jump right into it.
Miami Wins MAC Championship, Takes Revenge against Toledo
The Mid American Conference Crown is on its way back to Oxford.
The Miami RedHawks were crowned MAC Champions on Saturday, after defeating the Toledo Rockets 23-14 at Ford Field in Detroit. Miami avenged their loss to Toledo earlier in the season behind a brilliant defensive effort and some clutch plays on offense and on special teams. With the victory, the RedHawks claim their first conference title since 2019, and their first eleven win season since 2003.
In front of over 20,000 fans at the home of the Detroit Lions, the RedHawks battled hard for all sixty minutes and came away the victors behind some incredible individual performances. Aveon Smith had arguably his best game of the season under the brightest lights, racking up over 200 yards in the air and on the ground, including a 53-yard scramble late in the fourth quarter to set up Miami’s game sealing score. ESPN’s Paul Carcaterra added that Smith’s run “will be remembered in Oxford for a long time” while crowning the quarterback the offensive player of the game.
Once again Miami’s ground game was crucial. Feature back Rashad Amos again handled the majority of the responsibility in the rushing game and did not disappoint. The redshirt sophomore racked up over 100 yards from scrimmage, and would reach the promised land twice to score Miami’s two touchdowns on the day. The RedHawks as a whole nearly doubled their rushing totals from the October matchup between these two teams.
The performance on the other side of the ball was equally as important to Miami’s success on Saturday, as the RedHawks were able to hold Toledo to just 109 yards on the ground, over 80 yards less than were allowed in the aforementioned regular season game. The MAC’s top defender, Matt Salopek, had nine tackles and played a major role in neutralizing the Rockets’ ground game, as well as the MAC’s offensive MVP, Toledo’s Dequan Finn. Finn found success in the passing game, registering over 270 yards in the air and adding a touchdown pass, but couldn’t string together enough drives to keep Toledo in the game. On the Rockets’ final drive, down nine points, Finn set his sights on the end zone, but Miami defensive back Yahsyn McKee was in the right place once again, picking off the pass and securing Miami’s victory.
Miami’s defense as a unit was nothing short of incredible in the second half, as Toledo was held scoreless for 24 minutes from midway through the third quarter until the game clock hit zero. Even when the RedHawks seemed to be losing momentum down 14-13, and after missing a chance to take the lead following Graham Nicholson’s first missed field goal of the season, the defense would stand strong, giving the offense plenty of opportunities to take the lead. With 13 minutes to play, Nicholson would redeem himself with a 40 yard field goal make, giving the RedHawks a lead they would carry all the way back to Ohio.
The unsung heroes of the game, as they have been so many times this season, was the special teams unit. In every facet of play, the RedHawks dominated the Rockets on special teams plays. Austin Ertl made his presence known immediately, as the lineman blocked Toledo’s field goal attempt on the first drive they threatened to chip away at Miami’s early 10-0 lead. Ertl would strike again late in the fourth quarter, as his second field goal block prevented the Rockets from making it a one possession game with under a minute to play. Toledo would recover the blocked kick, but immediately gave the ball away after McKee’s interception.
Despite registering their first ranked win since 2014, Miami still finds themselves on the outside looking in at the Top 25. The 11-2 RedHawks received over thirty votes in the latest AP Poll, but still find themselves below Power 5 schools such as #25 Tennessee (8-4), #22 Oklahoma State (9-4) and #21 Oregon State (8-4). In the CFP rankings, Miami missed the cut as Liberty (13-0, C-USA Champ) and Southern Methodist (11-2, American Conference Champ) were the lone schools outside the power five to make the cut.
Miami will have two weeks to rest on their laurels and prepare for their final game of the 2023 season, which will be against Appalachian State in Orlando. The two teams will meet on the campus of the University of Central Florida in the Cure Bowl on December 16th.
RedHawks defeat Thundering Herd, Improve to 4-3
Not to be outdone, six hours away in West Virginia, the Miami basketball team picked up their first road win of the season, defeating Marshall on their home floor in a tightly contested 79-74 victory. Once again, Miami’s freshman class was instrumental in leading the RedHawks to the win.
The first year guard duo of Mekhi Cooper and Evan Ipsaro shone brightest for Miami in this contest, as the pair combined for 33 points on 55% shooting (70% from three point range). Ipsaro once again was remarkably poised on offense, as for the second consecutive game he did not register a turnover as he continues to play well beyond his age.
Darweshi Hunter bounced back from a down game vs. Spalding (2 points), adding eleven points, five rebounds and five assists as the team leader in minutes with 32. Hunter, alongside Bryce Bultman (8 points, 7 rebounds) have been the veteran leadership that Travis Steele’s young roster has needed in order to impress so far this season.
Junior transfer Bradley Dean had his best game to date as a RedHawk, adding 14 points on 5-11 shooting, and once again was a nuisance on defense, stealing the ball three times, bringing his season total to 12 (1.7 steals per game). If Dean can use this game to find a purple patch of form, the RedHawks will have another dangerous wing player that can kill you from any level on offense while still being an asset on defense. Still without 7’1’ center Reece Potter and last years key piece Anderson Mirambeaux, it will be incredibly intriguing to see how these RedHawks perform when they get back to full strength.
The win serves as a massive confidence booster for Steele’s team, and they will need all the confidence they can get with Ohio State, Davidson and Wright State next up on the calendar. Miami will take I-70 east to Ohio’s capital to face the Buckeyes on Wednesday, December 6th at the Schottenstein Center.