Big plays allowed RedHawks to overcome injuries in win at Buffalo

The Miami RedHawks take the field for their game against Kent State at Yager Stadium in Oxford Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016.
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The Miami RedHawks take the field for their game against Kent State at Yager Stadium in Oxford Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016.

Miami coach Chuck Martin was pretty happy with the game his RedHawks played while winning 35-24 at Buffalo on Saturday — at least in the immediate aftermath.

He was a little more disgruntled after watching the video.

“I told the team (on Sunday) that I didn’t think it was our best performance defensively, but we made a ton of big plays,” Martin said Monday during his weekly media session.

None were bigger than the two turned in by sophomore De’Andre Montgomery. On back-to-back Bulls’ possessions in the third quarter, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound defensive back returned an interception of a Buffalo bubble screen 20 yards for a touchdown and scooped up a fumble and returned it 92 yards for a touchdown, personally pushing Miami’s lead to 32-10 with 2:13 left in the quarter.

Montgomery, who was named the Mid-American Conference East Division Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, leads Miami with four interceptions.

“He’s a good play just waiting to happen,” Martin said. “He has a knack for making plays. I can’t remember jumping a bubble screen for a pick-six. He’s a good player who’s always around the ball.”

The RedHawks improved to 5-6 overall and 5-2 in the MAC East with their fifth consecutive win and third straight on the road. According to the Miami sports information department, no team in NCAA history has finished 6-6 after opening the season 0-6. Only two teams finished 5-6 after starting 0-6 in the era before the NCAA allowed a 12th game to be added to schedules.

“We’re super excited for our fifth straight win and third straight on the road,” Martin said. “You know how hard it is to win on the road in the MAC. It’s pretty key for our program to go on the road and find a way to win.”

The win left Miami a half-game behind Ohio in the MAC East and hoping that the Bobcats are upset by Central Michigan at Mount Pleasant, Mich., on Tuesday, which would create a tie for first place and leave the RedHawks in position to qualify for a berth in the MAC championship game.

“Six weeks ago, people would’ve been saying, ‘Who’dve thunk that?’’ Martin said.

Miami had to overcome losing three offensive linemen – redshirt freshman left guard Matt Skibinski, freshman center Danny Godlevske and senior right tackle Collin Buchanan – in the hours before the game, but the RedHawks still were able to jump out to a 20-0 lead.

Martin expects Buchanan to be back for the regular-season finale against Ball State on Nov. 22 at Yager Stadium in Oxford, and while the third-year coach welcomed the nine-day break between games, he was impressed with the performances of backups such as junior Randy Heideman at right tackle and sophomore Mitch Palmer at center.

“Heideman didn’t wake up on Saturday thinking he was going to play 55 snaps,” he said. “We got a great effort from those guys up front. We’ve been dying for this break for a long time.

“It’s insane,” he added about losing players to injuries during warmups for the second straight game. “We were up front with the guys about the injuries. We were like, ‘Hey, if you want more adversity, you’ve got it.’ They were uncharted waters. I’ve never had anybody get hurt in pre-game warmups in 25 years of coaching. If somebody wrote a script like that, nobody would believe it. It’s been a fun movie to be a part of.”

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