Ragland, Reid lead Miami past Austin Peay in home opener

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Ragland, Reid lead Miami past Austin Peay in home opener

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ST. PETERSBURG, FL - DECEMBER 26: Defensive lineman Braxton Hoyett #95 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs tries to block a pass by quarterback Gus Ragland #14 of the Miami (Oh) Redhawks during the second quarter in the St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field on December 26, 2016, in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett, Jr. /Getty Images)

Miami’s magic numbers against Austin Peay on Saturday were “3” and “14.”

The latter is the jersey number shared by quarterback Gus Ragland and safety Tony Reid. The former sums up their contributions

Ragland threw three touchdown passes in the first half and Reid overcame missing two days of practice while dealing with Krohn’s disease symptoms that prompted a colonoscopy on Friday to come up with three takeaways in the fourth quarter in the RedHawks’ 31-10 win over the Governors.

“Reid had a rough week, but you wouldn’t know it,” coach Chuck Martin said. “The pick was interesting. He actually got beat a little. He’s always hitting people and around the ball.”

“It’s just something I’ve accepted,” said the junior, who had almost as many takeaways as he had tackles, of his condition. He finished with five unassisted stops to go with an interception and recoveries of a fumble and a Miami onside kick.

Junior wide receiver James Gardner caught five passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns and sophomore kicker Sam Sloman added a 41-yard field goal in the fourth quarter as Miami earned its first 2017win after losing at Marshall on Sept. 2.

Senior running back Alonzo Smith gained 85 yards on 22 carries to help send Austin Peay, a Football Championship Subdivision program that plays in the Ohio Valley Conference, to a 29th consecutive loss.

“Austin Peay was like we thought,” Martin said. “They had a really good defense a week ago against Cincinnati, and they’re problematic on offense. Every play is almost a triple option. The offense played well in the first half. The second half was all defense. We were on our business.”

After building a two-touchdown halftime lead, Miami’s offense couldn’t find a rhythm. The Governors limited the RedHawks to minus-one yard of total offense in the third quarter.

“I think we saw how good the defense was playing,” Ragland said. “We have the utmost confidence in our defense. We saw they weren’t going to be able to score, so we were trying to slow the game down. We knew that, as long as we didn’t turn the ball over, we had a good chance of winning.”

Reid made a sprawling interception of a pass that bounced off a Governors’ receiver on the first play of the fourth quarter to stop one drive and recovered a fumble forced by De’Andre Montgomery near midfield on the first play of the visitors’ next possession.

Third-year sophomore running back Leonard Ross converted Reid’s recovery with a one-yard plunge to give Miami a 28-10 lead with 7:54 left in the game.

“We probably should’ve been a little more aggressive in the second half offensively, but we didn’t think they could score on our defense,” Martin said. “We made enough plays to win.”

Montgomery forced another fumble that was recovered by junior safety Daryus Thompson at Austin Peay’s 37-yard line late in the game.

The RedHawks executed coach Chuck Martin’s preferred game plan – possess the ball and keep the other team’s offense off the field – to perfection while building a 21-7 halftime lead. Miami held the ball for 19 minutes and 11 seconds in the first half while piling up 207 yards of total offense. The Governors kept the ball for 10 minutes and 49 seconds while gaining 114 yards on offense.

The RedHawks finished three consecutive drives with touchdowns after punting on their first possession.

Ragland finished the first half 9-of-17 for 115 yards with no interceptions. Gardner had three catches for 87 yards, and Smith gained 60 yards on 14 carries before halftime.

Gardner’s first touchdown reception was particularly impressive. With a defender leaning on him, he made a leaping catch inside the five-yard line, did a 360 and hopped on one foot before diving for the end zone, stretching just far enough to get the ball over the goal line.

Junior running back Kenny Young also had a five-yard touchdown catch that wrapped up an impressive Miami drive that consumed 60 yards and six minutes, 48 seconds in 15 plays.

Miami led 14-7 and forced an Austin Peay punt that was fielded by senior Jared Murphy at the RedHawks’ 29-yard line, but the Governors drew an illegal formation penalty and could manage only 19 yards on the re-punt – a net Miami gain of 26 yards, from its own 29 to Austin Peay’s 45.

The RedHawks capitalized with Ragland’s third touchdown pass of the half and Gardner’s second scoring catch, a 34-yard connection that gave Miami a 21-7 lead with 9:55 left in the second quarter.

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