Miami went into the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s 51-42 Mid-American Conference loss at Buffalo with the momentum of having scored two touchdowns in less than three minutes to come back from a 42-28 deficit to 42-42.
The RedHawks couldn’t maintain the surge. The East Division-leading Bulls scored a touchdown with just under nine minutes left in the game and tacked on a field goal to make it a two-possession game with 3:54 left in regulation.
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The outcome was familiar for Miami fans who watched their team fight back from a 14-point deficit with less than five minutes to play to force overtime on Oct. 20 at Army, only to come away with a frustrating 31-30 loss.
RedHawks coach Chuck Martin senses the frustration of a team that has played well for six weeks, but has only three wins to show for it.
“Frustration for sure,” he said Thursday. “We’ve had six straight weeks where we’ve played good football. We’ve got to continue to preach about and practice finishing. The kids are frustrated. The offense is frustrated because they played well enough to win the game. The defense is frustrated because they didn’t play well enough.”
Miami (3-6, 3-2 MAC East) tied Army for the most points scored against a Bulls defense that went into the game leading the conference in total defense and scoring defense. The RedHawks scored their most points since edging Massachusetts, 42-41, back in 2014 – Martin’s first win as Miami’s coach.
The Bulls responded with the most points scored against Miami since Notre Dame piled up 52 at South Bend on Sept. 30, 2017.
It all added up to Miami sitting two games behind Buffalo and a game behind Ohio in the East with three to play, starting with the RedHawks game against the Bobcats on Wednesday at Yager Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for either 7 p.m.
Miami then is scheduled to travel to DeKalb, Ill., to face West Division-leading Northern Illinois on Nov. 14 before wrapping up the regular-season schedule with a home game against Ball State on Nov. 20.
Winning out not only would put the RedHawks in position for a bowl bid, but it would help keep them in the running for their first division championship since 2010, snapping at seven the number of seasons Miami hasn’t appeared in the MAC Championship game. That already is the longest stretch since the conference split into divisions and added a championship game in 1997.
Of course, they won’t be able to do it alone. They need help from unlikely sources. The Bulls have to lose all three of their remaining games, including against sub-.500 Kent State and Bowling Green. Miami also has to beat Ohio and hope the Bobcats can upset the Bulls.
What makes that whole scenario becoming reality even more unlikely is a defense Martin referred to on Thursday as “depleted.” Senior safety De’Andre Montgomery was listed as a starter on the depth chart, but Martin revealed that Montgomery was due for a magnetic resonance imaging test. He could join linebacker Junior McMullen and defensive tackle Nate Trawick as seniors who most likely are done for the season.
“We possibly could get some guys back for Ball State,” Martin said.