RedHawks roll past Central Michigan

Miami played its first meaningful November game in least six years on Friday, but the RedHawks made it look routine.

Third-year sophomore quarterback Gus Ragland set career highs with 218 passing yards and four touchdown passes and classmate Kenny Young scored two touchdowns, one on a career-best 72-yard run as Miami rolled to a 37-17 Mid-American Conference win over Central Michigan.

A crowd of 14,270 showed up at Miami’s Yager Stadium for the biggest home game since the RedHawks won the MAC championship and went to their last bowl game in 2010.

The fourth straight win leaves the RedHawks (4-6, 4-2), who were picked in a preseason media poll to finish fifth in the MAC East Division, in sole possession of second place, one game ahead of Akron and one behind first-place Ohio with two games left in the regular season. Six wins would make Miami eligible to play in a bowl game.

“We had a great victory today,” said Miami coach Chuck Martin, a Chicago native who draped a Cubs World Series championship T-shirt over the podium before opening his postgame media conference. “That’s a darn good football team we beat — a very rewarding football game.”

Miami was perfectly balanced offensively, finishing with 218 yards rushing to match Ragland’s passing number. The defense limited CMU (5-5, 2-4) to 43 yards of total offense in the second half after giving up 249 in the first half.

“I didn’t feel bad about the defense in the first half,” Martin said. “We were making them earn it. We were close to getting stops in the first half. We got stops in the second half. We definitely got more pressure.”

Each team punted once as they combined for 448 yards of total offense in the first half, which ended with Miami leading, 20-17. Ragland, making his fourth career start at quarterback, went 10-of-15 for 144 of Miami’s 199 offensive yards and three touchdowns, one each to junior tight end Ryan Smith, fourth-year junior wide receiver Sam Shisso and third-year sophomore wide receiver Jared Murphy. Ragland also led Miami with 26 yards rushing in the first half.

CMU quarterback Cooper Rush, whose uniform number was changed from 10 to 21 before the game, went 15-of-22 for 188 yards. He threw one interception, safety Tony Reid’s grab of a tipped pass that the RedHawks converted into their second touchdown.

Reid, a junior who went into the game leading the RedHawks in unassisted tackles and second by one behind sophomore middle linebacker Junior McMullen in total stops, was ejected after being penalized for targeting a Chippewas receiver late in the first half. The junior will be eligible for Miami’s next game.

Central Michigan (5-5, 2-4 MAC) capitalized on the penalty with a 45-yard field goal on the second-last play of the half by senior Brian Eavey, matching his longest of the season. Eavey entered the game 4-of-12 on field goals this season.

Young broke loose for his 72-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage of the second half. His previous best was a 62-yard non-scoring run in Miami’s 40-26 win at Bowling Green.

Sophomore Nick Dowd added a 34-yard field goal to give the RedHawks a 30-17 lead with 8:00 left in the third quarter before Ragland connected with Young for a 22-yard touchdown pass with 13:16 left in the fourth quarter.

Fifth-year senior defensive end J.T. Jones clinched the win by recovering a fumble forced by fourth-year junior defensive end Zach Smierciak at the CMU 21 with 4:55 left.

• The RedHawks are off until Nov. 12, when they travel to Buffalo for their final East Division game of the season. The Bulls are 2-7 and 1-3 after losing to Ohio on Thursday.