Muncie, IN - Shane Montgomery put it all on the backs of his offensive line. His confidence was rewarded.
Miami's (1-0, 1-0 MAC) Brandon Murphy capped a run-heavy possession with a 6-yard touchdown jaunt with just 21 seconds to play, leading the Redhawks to a 14-13 victory over interdivision MAC rival Ball State (0-1, 0-1 MAC).
After a 56-yard Eugene Harris punt return gave Miami possession at the Ball State 23 yard-line with just under two minutes to play, Montgomery called three consecutive runs.
"We just decided we were going to put it on our offensive line, put it on their backs," Montgomery said. "We wanted to put the game in their hands."
Miami RB Brandon Murphy scampers six-yards for game-winning TD
With under two minutes to go and plenty of timeouts remaining, Montgomery opted to use as much clock as possible in an effort to keep Ball State's Nate Davis-led offense off the field. The strategy worked, with three carries by RB Brandon Murphy taking the ball from the 23 to the 6. Murphy finished with 19 carries, 123 yards and both Miami touchdowns.
After Murphy was stopped for no gain on 1st and goal, a quick Mike Kokal pass fell incomplete. Miami called timeout, and Montgomery opted to trust the line once again. Murphy's 6-yard gallop left only enough time for two Ball State desperation passing attempts.
The win spoiled the grand opening of Ball State's newly renovated Scheumann Stadium. A $13.7 million dollar renovation, completed this offseason which included installation of a gorgeous new field turf, a slick four-story media center, 184 Club Seats, and a hillside for family seating in North End Zone.
The expansion was designed both to entice recruits and provide fans with a "wow" inducing experience. While the success of the first objective remains to be seen, the Cardinals seemed to achieve the second. An announced crowd of 15,488 showed enthusiasm throughout the game, and included a student attendance record of 7,885.
With 75 degree weather, the supportive home crowd and the beautiful renovations, everything came together perfectly for the Cardinals. Except for the final score.
"There's a lot of season left, a lot of season left," a visibly dazed Ball State coach Brady Hoke said afterward. "We can still accomplish a lot of what we want this year, but this obviously isn't how we wanted to start things off."
The Ball State media interview room is peppered with motivational signs, including several large signs reading simply "One Yard". The importance of that single yard loomed large Thursday.
After Cardinals DB B.J. Hill picked off a Mike Kokal pass in the end zone, Ball State had first and ten at the 20-yard line with a little over 4 minutes remaining. Two MiQuale Lewis rushes later, the Cardinals faced third and a short yard from the 29-yard line. This time it was the Redhawks' defensive line that came up big, stuffing Lewis for no gain, and forcing a Ball State punt. All-MAC punter Chris Miller's 50-yard boot was returned 56 yards by Harris, setting the stage for Murphy's late game heroics.
Miami kept the pressure on QB Nate Davis
Photo by Jim Klaphtor/MAC Report Online
Cardinals QB Nate Davis was frustrated at his line's inability to get the crucial yard.
"It all starts with the guys up front," Davis said. "When we needed that one yard tonight, we didn't get it done."
Later, Davis backed off a bit, saying that the contest was a team loss, but his frustration was evident. After struggling to connect on several deep balls early in the night, Davis finally hit on a 24-yard touchdown strike to Dante Love with 10:42 to play. The score featured a spectacular shoestring catch by Love, and put the Cardinals up 12-7.
The five point lead forced Hoke to decide between a PAT, and a 6-point lead, and going for two.
"There was just a lot of time left," Hoke said. "If you don't get it there, two field goals beat you. I didn't think 13 points was going to win."
Hoke also faced a tough ‘kick-or-go' decision just before half. With the Cardinals offense struggling to build momentum, Hoke opted to send his offense on the field facing fourth-down and three at the Redhawk six-yard line.
"Just trying to build some momentum there," said Hoke. "It's one of those things where you look back at half time and say ‘man, we should have kicked'. But you never know."
Nate Davis' pass fell incomplete, and Ball State went to half time trailing 7-3.
The Miami victory avenged last year's 20-17 loss at Yager Stadium in Oxford.