Miami coach praises team’s ‘persistance’ in MAC-opening road win

Head coach Chuck Martin of the Miami RedHawks looks on during the fourth quarter of the game on September 15, 2018 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The Golden Gophers defeated the Redhawks 26-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Head coach Chuck Martin of the Miami RedHawks looks on during the fourth quarter of the game on September 15, 2018 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The Golden Gophers defeated the Redhawks 26-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Even though Bowling Green went into Saturday’s game against Miami with the Mid-American Conference’s worst rushing defense, the visiting, injury-riddled RedHawks hardly seemed poised to run roughshod over the Falcons.

Led by Alonzo Smith's career-high 164 rushing yards, Miami piled up a startling 289 yards on the ground on the way to a watershed 38-23 win at Bowling Green's Doyt Perry Stadium. The RedHawks, 1-3 overall and 1-0 in the MAC East Division, gained more yards and scored more points against the Falcons than they had gained and scored in their combined first three games.

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“I think we came out with the mindset that we were going to be more aggressive from the start,” the senior running back said Monday, shortly before the MAC announced that he’d been named East Offensive Player of the Week. “We wanted to push the pace.”

Miami was able to take a 31-3 lead into the fourth quarter despite missing several starters, including senior wide receiver James Gardner and running back Kenny Young. Senior guard Ryan Mullen and junior tackle Matt Skibinski also made their first starts of the season on the right side of the offensive line, but the RedHawks still were able to gash the Falcons for an average of 5.6 yards per carry while losing yardage on just one play.

“We were very pleased with the win,” fifth-year coach Chuck Martin said. “We were pleased with their persistence. We were pleased with their perseverance. When you’re 0-3, you don’t have a lot of positive thoughts. That’s hard enough for adults and even harder for kids. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It was grinding week of practice. It was a quiet week of practice. We were 0-3 and we were beat up. They had reasons to doubt. They had reasons to not fight. We weren’t missing just starters. We were missing some of our best players. We talked all week about how this was an opportunity for other kids to step up. We reminded them that they didn’t come to Miami just to play. They came to start.”

Martin described Miami’s offense against Bowling Green as “clean.”

“We didn’t turn the ball over, and we had very few three-and-outs,” he added. “The defense was fantastic. We pretty much shut them down for 50 minutes.”

Linebackers Brad Koenig and Junior McMullen paced Miami’s defense. Each senior finished with four solo tackles, six assisted tackles and a sack, Koenig for eight yards and McMullen for seven. The RedHawks finished with five sacks and 13 tackles for losses.

Smith, limited by injury to just five carries in the previous week’s 26-3 loss at Minnesota, relished the opportunity to spark an offense previously dependent more on the passing of senior quarterback Gus Ragland than on the running game.

“I was definitely excited,” he said. “As a senior, people look up to me. They have high expectations.”

Junior Maurice Thomas added 48 yards on six carries despite being tackled for a loss for the first time in 21 carries this season. Ragland ran for 40 yards on six carries while going 10-of-15 for 119 yards and two touchdowns.

Martin described Miami’s injury situation as “a lot of the same.”

“Most of guys who were doubtful or out last week are still doubtful or out,” he said, pointing out that the defense lost senior cornerback Deondre Daniels on the third play of the game. “It’s not good, and it won’t be good for a couple of weeks.”

Daniels still is listed on Miami’s depth chart as starting Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. MAC matchup with Western Michigan (2-2, 0-0) at Yager Stadium in Oxford – the RedHawks first true home game since the Sept. 1 season-opening 35-28 non-conference loss to Marshall. Senior right guard Jarrett LaRubbio and tackle Tommy Doyle also are projected as returning to their offensive line slots.


SATURDAY’S GAME

Western Michigan at Miami, 3:30 p.m., 980, 1450