Chad Twaro, Miami University’s assistant athletic communications director and football press box announcer, delivered stunning news in a calm, cool manner when he announced a RedHawks’ flip-card change before Saturday’s game against Kent State.
“Gus Ragland will be starting at quarterback,” Twaro said, so matter-of-factly that you almost could hear a; “By the way.”
The third-year sophomore quarterback wasn’t even on Miami’s two-deep – rosters and backups. Even playing this year seemed doubtful after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament on April 10 during spring practice and underwent surgery on April 17. He returned to practice Tuesday and started Saturday in place of true freshman Noah Wezensky, who took over a game-and-a-half earlier for injured true sophomore Billy Bahl.
After two quarters of getting his bearings, Ragland went 7-for-12 for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, including a swing pass to third-year sophomore Kenny Young that turned into a 55-yard score. It finally gave the RedHawks their first win of the season, 18-14 in a Mid-American Conference East Division game before a crowd of 15,160 at Miami’s Yager Stadium.
Ragland had been working out in pads individually for about a month before being cleared on Monday to practice with the team. Third-year coach Chuck Martin wasted no time getting him into the mix.
“We knew, mentally, he was ready to go,” Martin said.
Miami’s game-winning drive started on the RedHawks’ 23-yard line with 2:30 left in the game. Sophomore running back and Talawanda product Maurice Thomas took a swing pass 17 yards and carried the ball for five more, setting up the go-ahead play.
“It was awesome,” Ragland, who also led the RedHawks (1-6, 1-2 MAC) with 36 yards rushing on 14 carries, said about the feeling going into the final drive. “We knew we were getting the ball back. You could feel it in the huddle. You could feel it coming.”
Young’s touchdown with 1:34 left in the game was the first scoring catch of his career, and it gave the RedHawks their first lead since the first quarter of the 35-13 loss at Akron October 8. Third-year sophomore running back Alonzo Smith also logged his first career touchdown catch, while senior linebacker T.J. Williams and sophomore cornerback Deondre Daniels each recorded their first interceptions, Daniels’ pick icing the game in the last minute.
Sophomore middle linebacker Junior McMullen finished with a game-high 10 tackles to lead a defense that effectively kept hemmed in the previously electrifying Nate Holley. The Kent State junior quarterback was averaging 5.5 yards per carry going into the game. Miami limited him to 3.5.
“The coaches and staff made sure to put us through everything we would be seeing,” McMullen said.