Chuck Martin was looking around for a trophy.
Miami’s football coach figured there had to be one for the team won the annual “Battle of the Bricks” rivalry game against Ohio, and he assumed he hadn’t seen one only because the RedHawks hadn’t beaten the Bobcats in his first four seasons.
He fully expected to be lifting one after Miami held on for a 30-28 Mid-American Conference East Division win over Ohio on Wednesday.
“It’s a huge relief,” he said. “Is there a trophy? You assume in a rivalry that there’s a trophy. Where is it? I’ll pitch in.”
Senior running back Alonzo Smith gained 94 yards and scored two touchdowns on 20 carries, senior running back Kenny Young added a rushing touchdown and senior quarterback Gus Ragland went 20-of-32 for 199 yards and a touchdown as the RedHawks (4-6, 4-2) snapped a five-game losing streak in the series.
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“It feels great,” said Ragland, whose class beat the Bobcats in its final opportunity. “It’s a huge win for the program. It’s a huge win for the university. It feels great as a senior.”
The RedHawks went into the game knowing they officially were out of contention for a spot in the MAC Championship game.
Buffalo’s win on Tuesday over Kent State meant the best Miami could do was tie the Bulls for the East Division championship, but they owned the tiebreaker after beating Miami on Oct. 30.
Miami responded with perhaps its best half of the season, opening up a 28-7 lead. After Ohio pulled within two on a touchdown pass with 2:24 left in the game, freshman tight end Mitch Lewis gathered in the Bobcats’ onside kick, and Miami was able to run enough time off the clock to force Ohio into desperation mode.
Punter Kyle Kramer downed a 47-yard punt inside Ohio’s one-yard line midway through the fourth quarter after Ohio (6-4, 4-2) had pulled within a touchdown. The RedHawks took advantage as senior defensive and Pasquale Calcagno nearly sacked Bobcats’ quarterback Nathan Rourke before junior nose tackle Doug Costin forced Rourke out of bounds for a safety and a 30-21 lead with 5:52 left in the game.
The game-winning safety was the first forced by Miami since 2011.
“You definitely don’t hear that a lot as a defensive lineman,” Costin said about being involved in a game-winning play.
Ohio scored a touchdown following an interception of a Ragland screen pass in the third quarter and another off a blocked punt following a bad snap with 9:14 left in the fourth quarter.
The interception snapped at 156 Ragland’s streak of consecutive passes without one.
By halftime, Ragland had passed for 185 yards and a touchdown, moving into fourth place past Sam Ricketts on the career passing yards last and snapping a tie with Josh Betts for third in career touchdown passes as Miami was building its three-touchdown lead, helped by going 6-for-7 on third-down conversions.
Ohio received the opening kickoff and quickly grabbed a 7-0 lead with a six-play, 74-yard drive kept alive by A.J. Ouellette breaking free for 58 yards on third-and-one from the Bobcats’ 35-yard line.
Miami answered with a seven-play, 73-yard drive that featured Ragland third-down completions of 33 yards to sophomore tight end Andrew Homer and 17 to junior wide receiver Luke Mayock. Smith went three yards up the middle for the game-tying touchdown.
Miami converted two third downs while going 71 yards in 12 plays. Young outran the defense and dove into the end zone at the pylon for the go-ahead touchdown with 11:12 left in the first half.
Ragland and Mayock teamed up on a 12-yard fade pattern in the left end zone to complete a 66-yard, eight-play drive with 6:32 left in the half. Linebacker Brad Koenig forced a fumble that linebacker Myles Reid recovered, and Smith converted the turnover into a touchdown five plays later, dragging tacklers into the end zone on an 8-yard run.
Miami had as many points by halftime as Ohio has allowed in its previous two games combined.