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Slow start dooms RedHawks in season-opening loss

Threatening weather delayed for 2 hours, 25 minutes the kickoff for Miami’s non-conference game against Marshall on Saturday

The RedHawks opened the game acting as if the delay was about 45 minutes longer.

The Thundering Herd piled up 177 yards of total offense to Miami’s 28 while scoring on its first two drives to take a 14-0 first-quarter lead, forcing Miami to battle from behind all night on the way to a 35-28 loss before an announced attendance of 15,827 at Yager Stadium.

“Those first two drives, we didn’t play very well,” said coach Chuck Martin, pointing out crucial unnecessary penalties that kept both drives alive. “We were kind of fighting those first two drives the whole game. Getting behind and chasing that the whole game was crucial. They outperformed us. You can’t give up a 75-yard druive and then an 80-yard drive out of the chute.”

The loss was Miami’s second straight to Marshall in a season-opener, fifth straight overall in the series and 10thin the last 11 games against the Thundering Herd. The RedHawks haven’t won an opener against a Football Bowl Subdivision team since edging Ball State 14-13 in 2007. The RedHawks only first game win in that span was 26-7 over Football Championship Subdivision Presbyterian in 2015.

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Since winning six straight games to finish the 2016 season, the RedHawks are 5-9, including a one-point loss to Mississippi State in the 2016 St. Petersburg Bowl.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Gus Ragland shook off Miami’s first two punchless possessions to finish 25-of-46 for 357 yards and three touchdowns, including a three-yard touchdown pass to fifth-year senior Kenny Young to pull Miami within 35-28 with 3:31 left in the game.

“They kind of came out and did what we expected them to do,” he said of Marshall’s defense. “We just couldn’t get rolling. Those first couple of drives, we couldn’t get explosive and get a chain of first downs. Once this offense gets rolling, we can do special things. We stayed with what we wanted to do. We just did it better.”

Third-year sophomore tight end Andrew Homer made his first two career catches including a six-yard touchdown catch, on a three-play, 61-yard, 49-second drive that cut Marshall’s lead to 28-21 with 9:20 left in regulation.

Marshall regained control when Tyler King returned a punt 50 yards to Miami’s 11-yard line, setting up redshirt freshman Isaiah Green’s second touchdown pass of the game. Green, in his first career game, finished 24-of-37 for 272 yards.

Special teams hurt Miami in last season’s 31-26 loss at Marshall when Keion Davis returned two kickoffs for touchdown.

Marshall coach Doc Holliday kept secret up to gametime whether redshirt junior Alex Thomson or Green would be Marshall’s starting quarterback. He even ran misdirection with the media flip card, listing Thomson as the starter but giving Green the reins on the field.

Green responded by going 7-for-10 for 94 yards in the first quarter of his debut. He responded to Miami’s first touchdown, Ragland’s 19-yard fourth-down pass to Sorenson with 2:32 left in the first half, by marching Marshall 75 yards in 11 plays and 2 minutes, 11 seconds for touchdown that gave the Thundering Herd a 21-7 halftime lead.

Fifth-year senior running back Alonzo Smith scored on a one-yard run with 4:32 left in the third quarter to cut the Thundering Herd lead to 28-14, but Ragland’s pass to James Gardner in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from Marshall’s two-yard line was batted away.

Notes: Miami ended up outgaining Marshall by one yard in total offense and committing one more penalty for nine more yards. … Neither team committed a turnover. … Right tackle Tommy Doyle was called for a false start on Miami’s first offensive play of the season. … Sorenson went over 100 receiving yards for the first time in his career with 106 … Miami will try to break it’s 12-game losing streak against Cincinnati in the Victory Bell rivalry that dates back to 1888 when the two teams meet on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Paul Brown Stadium.

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