“It feels great,” said junior middle linebacker Ty Wise, who finished with 15 tackles. “We’ve worked hard for it.
Rashad Amos scored two touchdowns, the second helping the RedHawks gain some breathing room with a 20-10 lead on a two-yard run with 10:45 left in the game, as Miami improved to 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the MAC, one game ahead of Ohio.
The transfer from South Carolina finished with 82 yards on 15 carries.
Junior kicker Graham Nicholson added three field goals, including one from 23 yards with 3:11 left in the game for a 23-10 Miami lead. Nicholson is a MAC-best 22-of-22 on field goals this season.
The Bulls looked poised to cut the lead to 23-17 on an apparent 80-yard touchdown pass from Cole Snyder to Marlyn Johnson, but video review revealed that Miami senior nickel back Michael Dowell had forced a fumble at the 1-yard line and Johnson was out of bounds as he tried to recover.
“I was trying to run him down, but I didn’t want to just tackle him,” Dowell said. “I wanted to punch it out. It’s exciting, for sure. I wanted to put myself in the best position to help the team. I’m glad I was a able to do it.”
“Michael Dowell is Michael Dowell,” coach Chuck Martin said. “No one prepares harder. He came out of nowhere. He never gives up, never gives up, never gives up.”
Dowell’s play made Miami’s trip to Detroit real for Martin. The championship game is scheduled for Dec. 2 at Ford Field.
“It sunk in after the strip,” Martin said. “We’ve worked hard for it. It feels good. That’s our goal every year.”
Sophomore quarterback Aveon Smith put Miami in position for the touchdown with a 52-yard pass down the left sideline to freshman wide receiver Javon Tracy, who started in place of injured wide receiver Gage Larvadain.
Smith was 9-of-16 for 146 yards. He also gained 60 yards on 14 carries.
The Rockets are the defending MAC champions. They clinched the West Division title with the help of a 21-17 win over Miami at Yager Stadium on Oct. 21.
Miami needed a win or a loss by Ohio University to clinch the program’s sixth championship game appearance since the game was created in 1997 and second under 10th-year coach Chuck Martin. The RedHawks also went and won in 2019, beating Central Michigan, 26-21.
Miami owns the tiebreaker with a 30-16 win at Ohio on Oct. 28.
Miami has won 16 MAC championships, including three championship game victories.
The last time the RedHawks won as many as six regular-season conference games was when they finished 6-2 in 2019. They haven’t won as many as seven regular-season conference games since going 7-1 on the way to the MAC championship in 2010.
The last time they won at least nine regular-season games was 2003 when they went 11-1 on the way to winning the MAC championship and beating Louisville in the GMAC Bowl in 2003.
Senior tight end Luke Bolden had his first two receptions of the season in the first half.
The teams combined for 11 punts and just four penalties with one turnover.
The two teams combined to punt on their first six possessions before Miami took advantage of solid field position to get on the scoreboard. Starting at Buffalo’s 44-yard line, the RedHawks worked their way down to the 7-yard line before settling for Graham Nicholson’s 25-yard field goal with 8:25 left in the second quarter.
After another Bulls punt, Smith led Miami on a six-play, 88-yard drive capped by Amos’s 30-yard scamper around left end, helping the RedHawks open up a 10-0 lead with 2:50 left in the half.
Buffalo responded with a 12-play, 77-yard drive that led to Alex McNulty’s 48-yard field goal as time expired.
Miami opened the second half with a nine-play, 80-yard drive for a 13-3 lead after Nicholson drilled a 37-yard field goal. Smith completed a 37-yard pass, third-and-seven pass to redshirt-freshman wide receiver Javon Tracy to keep the drive alive.
Buffalo used a 27-yard pass on a fake punt to keep a drive alive, and an offside by senior cornerback Yashyn McKee kept the drive alive while the Bulls were kicking a field goal. The Bulls capitalized with junior quarterback CJ Ogbonna’s 3-yard run, helping cut Miami’s lead to 13-10 with 2:14 left in the third quarter.
Saturday, Nov. 25
Miami at Ball State, Noon, CBS Sports Network, 980, 1450