Playing in a small Ohio town named after the finish site of the fabled first marathon, the Bobcats ran all over their visiting conference rivals. The RedHawks, on the other hand, struggled to run anywhere.
Ohio University ripped off 226 rushing yards while only allowing 52 en route to a 28-7 victory over Miami University and their first 3-0 start in MAC play since 1997. The win gave OU its fourth consecutive triumph against the RedHawks and its largest margin of victory over MU since 1960.
“It was a total team loss,” head coach Mike Haywood said. “We didn’t play very well on offense, defense or special teams.”
Miami silenced Ohio’s homecoming crowd early with a 10-play opening drive for a touchdown. Redshirt freshman quarterback Zac Dysert orchestrated the attack with 71 yards on four completed passed, then carried the ball into the end zone himself on a one-yard touchdown run.
The score gave Miami a lead for only the second time all season. Against Kent State University the RedHawks held their margin for a fleeting 11 seconds. This time it took nine minutes for the lead to evaporate.
“I think we kind of lost our intensity a little bit,” Dysert said. “We came out real fired up and real energetic. We went down and scored and believed we could do that stuff all day. Then we got stopped and it took something out of us, I don’t know why.”
After Ohio’s initial drive of the game failed with pass-heavy play calling, Bobcat running back Donte Harden broke off consecutive rushes of 41 and 33 yards to jump start his team’s second possession. Two Miami penalties and two more Harden runs carried OU to its first of four scores.
Harden finished the game with 121 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. He split carries with L.J. Flintall who racked up 54 yards of his own and thus out gained Miami’s entire ground game by himself as Ohio’s secondary rusher.
“I was definitely surprised how well they were able to run the football,” Haywood said. “It really caught me off guard. We tried to do a few things at halftime to slow down the run but we are going to have to go back and look at the film to re-evaluate some of the things we are doing on defense.”
Haywood may also need to re-evaluate some of the things they are doing on offense. In particular, the run game continues to be grounded. Miami ranks 110 in the country with 88.3 rushing yards gained per game and 112 in the country with 2.8 yards per carry. These stats are actually inflated, as they include scrambles by Dysert.
Without and effective rushing attack, Miami’s offense becomes one-dimensional and extremely predictable. The RedHawk passing game faces many problems of its own, however, especially in the form of injuries. Miami lost wide out Eugene Harris III to a hamstring ailment and the timetable for his return is unknown. This leaves the RedHawks without three of its top receivers as Chris Givens sits out for the season and Dustin Woods continues to miss time with a hamstring injury of his own.
“It’s a makeshift group (of wide receivers) out there,” Haywood said. “You never know who’s going to be out there. I have to look up sometimes when the substitutions are going in.”
Saturday’s loss closed out a seven game stretch in which the RedHawks played six road games. The team now enters the home stretch of the season and will play four of its last five games in Oxford. Miami’s homecoming begins Saturday against Northern Illinois University. While linebacker Jerrell Wedge says the team is amped up for its return home, Haywood does not believe location alone affects performance on the field.
“We’re excited about playing at home but playing at home has nothing to do with the way we’ve played on the road,” Haywood said. “We have to become a better football team and that’s individual from the head coach down to the assistant coaches down to each individual player.”