Miami football: Missed ‘opportunities’ doomed RedHawks in first MAC loss

Miami (Ohio) head coach Chuck Martin stands in the end zone prior to an NCAA college football game against Cincinnati, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

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Miami (Ohio) head coach Chuck Martin stands in the end zone prior to an NCAA college football game against Cincinnati, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

OXFORD -- The Miami RedHawks won the total yardage battle on Saturday in their Mid-American Conference game at Eastern Michigan.

Winning the game was another matter.

For the first since 2013, Miami was unable to generate an offensive touchdown in a MAC game while losing, 13-12, to the Eagles.

The last time the RedHawks’ offense didn’t score a touchdown in a MAC game was during a 24-6 loss at Kent State on Nov. 13, 2013. That was a week and a day after Miami also didn’t score a touchdown of any kind during a 45-3 loss to Bowling Green at Yager Stadium in Oxford – a couple of the low points during a season in which the RedHawks finished 0-12 overall and 0-8 in the MAC.

Miami piled up 385 yards of total offense on Saturday in Ypisilanti, including 259 passing yards by fourth-year sophomore quarterback A.J. Mayer, but the RedHawks couldn’t push the ball into the end zone and had to settle for four field goals by true freshman Graham Nicholson, including a career-best 49-yard kick that helped him improve to 5-of-6 on attempts from 40 to 49 yards and 7-of-8 overall.

Miami slipped to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in the MAC going into its first game against an East Division team on Saturday. Akron, also 2-4 and 1-1, and the RedHawks are scheduled to meet at 2:30 p.m. at Yager Stadium.

Eastern Michigan had been the MAC’s highest-scoring team going into the game with an average of 32.6 points per game, but Miami limited the Eagles to their second-lowest scoring output of the season, bettered only by Wisconsin, which allowed them to score just seven points.

“Obviously, that was a tough one,” Miami coach Chuck Martin said. “ ... We figured it would be a low-scoring game. It was a grind the whole game. We were in position to win a big road game. We just missed on some opportunities. We tried five field goals. If we convert one with a touchdown, we win the game. We generated the offense every time we had the ball. We didn’t have to finish all five tries. We just had to finish one.

“We outplayed them on the road. We just didn’t finish drives. It was a very frustrating day. Overall, I like how the team played. We just had some self-inflicted wounds. We had a game plan, and we executed the game plan, but you have to finish drives. We had so many opportunities. We just have to pitch-and-catch better.”

One way the RedHawks hurt themselves was with seven penalties for 63 yards. Eastern Michigan was flagged four times for 30 yards.

The loss left Miami tied with Ohio and Akron for second place in the MAC East Division, one game behind 3-3 and 2-0 Kent State, the RedHawks’ opponent in the regular-season finale at Kent State on Nov. 27.

“Across the board, it was a close game,” sixth-year senior defensive end Ben Kimpler pointed out. “We can still get to Detroit in December.”

The reference was to the MAC Championship Game at Ford Field, won by Miami in 2019.

Mayer completed 16-of-38 passes against Eastern Michigan with sixth-year senior wide receiver Jack Sorenson making seven catches for 123 yards. Fourth-year junior running back Tyre Shelton led the rushing attack with 41 yards on nine carries. Martin was optimistic that third-year sophomore quarterback Brett Gabbert and fifth-year senior running back Jaylon Bester might be back on Saturday after missing the Eastern Michigan game with injuries. Both players missed the second of the 28-17 win over Central Michigan on Oct. 2.

“Both of them are getting better,” Martin said. “They’re active and moving around, not just standing around. They’re doing everything they can to get ready. They’re pushing to get ready. If they’re not ready by Saturday, they’ll be really close to being ready.”


Akron at Miami, 2:30 p.m., ESPN+, 980, 1450

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