For most football teams, limiting an opponent to a 5-for-15 rate on third-down conversions would be satisfying.
Two days after being pummeled by Cincinnati in a 35-13 loss at Nippert Stadium, Miami was lamenting two of the five that got away.
The most egregious was the third-and-20 situation the RedHawks had forced the Bearcats into on Cincinnati’s first possession of the second half. One UC incompletion was negated by a Miami offsides penalty on freshman defensive lineman Lonnie Phelps. A second was overturned by a pass interference penalty whistled on senior safety Travion Banks that created a first down.
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Given new life, Cincinnati went on to score on Desmond Ridder’s 27-yard, fourth-down pass to Josiah Deguara in the end zone that helped lift the Bearcats’ lead to 21-10.
The lead increased to 28-10 after Ridder completed a 5-yard pass on third-and-3 one play before connecting with a wide-open Thomas Geddis down the left sideline for a 51-yard touchdown.
“We knew their game plan,” junior safety Mike Brown said Monday morning during Miami’s weekly media session. “We couldn’t get off the field in key situations on third down.”
The outcome left the RedHawks wondering what might have been if they’d been able to avoid the mistakes.
“That was one of the most frustrating games I’ve been a part of in a while,” sixth-year coach Chuck Martin said. “UC was doing what they do – pressure you on defense, run the ball and try to throw it over your head on offense. At halftime, we felt like the defense was playing well. It was looking like a 20-17 game. It was very frustrating. We knew at halftime that we would struggle offensively, but we gave up too many chunk plays. Prerequisite No. 1 on defense is to stop chunk plays.”
Instead, Miami (1-2, 0-2 against Football Bowl Subdivision teams) yielded four touchdowns in a span of five Bearcat possessions, sandwiched around a Banks interception on another third down, on the way to a 14th consecutive loss in the Victory Bell rivalry.
“What we learned is that we have to eliminate the mistakes,” third-year sophomore running back Davion Johnson said of the lessons learned after watching video of the game.
Part of Miami’s struggles on offense could be traced to losing to injury in the first half three starting offensive linemen – fourth-year junior left tackle Tommy Doyle, third-year sophomore left guard Pete Nank and fifth-year senior right tackle Matt Skibinski. The three had magnetic resonance imaging tests on Sunday, but Martin hadn’t seen the results Monday morning.
“It doesn’t look like any of them are season-ending – probably more of a two- or three-week thing,” he said.
That is not the ideal situation going into the final non-conference game of the season on Saturday against sixth-ranked Ohio State (3-0) at 104,944-seat Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
Fourth-year junior tight end Andrew Homer returned from injury to start against Cincinnati. Two of his classmates, wide receiver Jack Sorenson and middle linebacker Ryan McWood, saw limited action, but true junior running back Jaylon Bester remained sidelined.
“We’re hoping to get Jack and Ryan up and running this week,” Martin said.
Sophomore defensive back Ja’don Rucker-Furlow also might be getting close to returning to action after suffering an injury in pre-season camp. The Belmont High School product recently returned to practice.
Butler honored: The Mid-American Conference named Miami sophomore defensive end Kameron Butler the East Division Defensive Player of the Week after he piled up seven tackles, including two sacks and two more for losses, against the Bearcats. The award is the first for the 6-foot-3, 252-pound Butler.
Kickoffs: Miami’s game at Ohio State is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. The RedHawks’ MAC opener on Sept. 28 against defending East Division-champion Buffalo at Miami’s Yager Stadium is set for noon, Miami announced on Monday.
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