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College Football: Running game powers Miami to second straight win

RedHawks rush for season-high 295 yards in 31-6 win over Kent State

Chuck Martin admitted that he didn’t have much to complain about in Miami’s game on Saturday against Kent State.

The RedHawks geared up for the most grueling stretch of their 2018 football season with perhaps their best game on Saturday.

Facing back-to-back road trips to far-flung Army and Buffalo, a home game against preseason East Division-favorite Ohio and another long trip to face West Division-leading Northern Illinois, Miami scored touchdowns on three consecutive second-quarter possessions on the way to a 31-6, Mid-American Conference East Division win over Kent State on the RedHawks home field at Yager Stadium.

“We prepared really good all week,” Martin, Miami’s fifth-year coach said during the post-game media session. “The key was running the ball. The offensive line did a great job.”

Before a crowd of 5,003, Miami set season highs with 504 yards of total offense and 295 rushing yards while picking up its first win in four home games. Senior running back Kenny Young gained 90 yards and scored a touchdown on 10 carries and caught three passes for 47 yards, tying sophomore Jack Sorenson for the team lead in receiving yards, as the RedHawks posted their biggest win since a 32-point victory over Akron on Nov. 3, 2011.

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“It’s important to get any win,” Martin said. “It’s important to win conference games, at home or on the road. I like winning every game.”

Miami knew Kent State’s defense was suspect, but that didn’t keep the RedHawks from diligently preparing, Young said.

“We treat every game the same,” Young said. “We prepared the same throughout the week. We didn’t think we would blow them out,”

A Kent State touchdown with 36 seconds left cost Miami its first shutout since a 7-0 win on Nov. 14, 2007.

Senior quarterback Gus Ragland was 16-of-24 for 209 yards and a touchdown and scored on a run before being relieved by junior Alex Malzone with 10 minutes left in the game, and sophomore Jaylon Bester logged his first career touchdown.

Miami’s defense piled up five sacks by five different players while keeping hemmed in electrifying Kent State quarterback Woody Barrett, including senior defensive end Pasquale Calcagno’s 11-yard sack.

“It’s not much of an accomplishment for me personally, but as a unit, we did very well,” Calcagno said.

“The kids watched the tape,” Martin said, pointing out the challenges posed by Kent State’s fast-paced, no-huddle offense. “Our guys knew Kent was good. They got some great stops. They knew they had to get off the field. They handled the tempo stuff. The kids felt good about what they were doing.”

Miami (3-4, 3-1), which has posted back-to-back wins for the first time since its epic six-game winning streak to end the 2016 regular season, remains a half-game behind first-place Buffalo in the MAC East. The Bulls beat defending division-champion Akron 24-6 on Saturday. Miami is scheduled to wrap up its nonconference schedule with a noon game next Saturday at Army.

Ohio dropped to third in the East at 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the MAC after losing 24-21 at NIU.

The RedHawks snapped the scoreless tie with a methodical 11-play drive, covering a season-high 98 yards and capped by Ragland’s three-yard run three seconds into the second quarter. Miami converted two third downs on the drive with senior running back Alonzo Smith gaining 10 yards on third-and-one from the RedHawks 23 and Young going for 26 on third-and-two from the Golden Flashes 32-yard line

After Kent State freshman Matthew Trickett, the reigning MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week, missed a 43-yard field goal, Miami embarked on another lengthy drive, going 74 yards in 10 plays. A fourth-down pass interference on Kent State kept the drive alive, and Young capitalized with a three-yard run up the middle on a direct snap.

Ragland picked up his own fumble of a shotgun snap and gained three yards during the drive.

The RedHawks overcame Sorenson’s muff of a punt return, stiffening to set up their third scoring drive. They needed 14 plays to go 86 yards with Maurice Thomas converting a fourth-and-one from Kent State’s 14 with a two-yard run, setting up Ragland’s two-yard TD pass to wide receiver Luke Mayock with 4:21 left before halftime.

The touchdown catch was Mayock’s first of the season and second of his career.

Miami built a time-of-possession advantage of 18:59-11:01 while outgaining Kent State, 317-144, on the way to a 21-0 halftime lead.

Freshman defensive back Sterling Weatherford stopped Kent State’s deepest penetration of the game, to Miami’s 18-yard line, with his first career interception. Weatherford picked off a tipped pass with 11:25 left in the third quarter.

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