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Miami falls to Marshall in season-opener 31-26

RedHawks Fall to Thundering Herd in Season Opener, 31-26 (Miami University Athletics)

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WKRC) - The Miami University football dropped its opening game, 31-26, to Marshall Saturday evening in Huntington, West Virginia.

The RedHawks outgained the Thundering Herd 429-267, but Marshall used two kickoff returns and an interception return for three of its scores.

Redshirt junior quarterback Gus Ragland finished the game 23-for-44 for 298 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His top target was junior wide receiver James Gardner, who led Miami with eight catches for 111 yards.

Marshall got the 2017 season started when Keion Davis returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. The extra point by Kaare Vedvik gave the Thundering Herd a 7-0 lead with 14:48 left in the first quarter.

Miami rebounded by methodically moving down the field during its first drive. They key play came on third and nine when Ragland completed an 18-yard pass to senior wide receiver Jared Murphy. After stalling on the Marshall eight-yard line, sophomore kicker Sam Sloman drilled a 27-yard field goal to complete a 15-play, 66-yard drive and cut the deficit to 7-3 at the 8:34 mark.

After the teams traded possessions, redshirt junior linebacker Brad Koenig forced a fumble at the Marshall 38. Senior cornerback Heath Harding picked up the loose ball and ran it back 35 yards to the Thundering Herd 3-yard line. It took four plays, but on fourth and goal Ragland ran it in from the one-yard line for the score. The Sloman extra point gave the RedHawks a 10-7 lead with 13:57 left in the second quarter.

Despite starting its next drive on its own 2-yard line, Marshall was able to drive 98 yards over 11 plays taking 4:21 off the clock. The touchdown was a 22-yard pass from Chase Litton to Tyre Brady that made it 14-10 at the 9:36 mark.

Ragland converted on three third down passes on the `Hawks next drive, including a 12-yard completion to junior James Gardner on third-and-10. Miami was able to drive to the Marshall 25, where a 42-yard Sloman field goal pulled the RedHawks to within one at 14-13.

On the ensuing kickoff, Davis returned it 97 yards for his second kickoff return touchdown of the game. The extra point gave the Thundering Herd a 21-13 with 3:03 left in the quarter.

After a Miami turnover, Marshall drove to the RedHawk 20-yard line. Junior Josh Allen prevented any further damage when he intercepted a Litton pass in the end zone. MU took a knee and went into the locker room trailing, 21-13.

On the RedHawks second drive of the second half, Ragland was intercepted by Chris Jackson at the Marshall 28. Jackson returned it 72 yards for a touchdown that made it 28-13 with 5:30 to go in the third quarter.

Miami answered back with a nine play, 75-yard drive over the next 3:25. On fourth-and-6 on the Marshall 33, Ragland completed a 22-yard pass to senior tight end Ryan Smith for a first down. On the next play, Ragland found Smith in the middle of the end zone for the touchdown. Sloman's extra point cut the Thundering Herd lead to 28-20 at the 2:05 mark of the third quarter.

Marshall added a 27-yard field goal on its next drive to increase its advantage to 31-20 with 11:31 to go in the game.

Ragland spread the ball around finding Murphy for a 20-yard gain, along with two completions to Gardner to help move the ball down the field. On fourth-and-7 on the Thundering Herd 33, Gardner caught a 14-yard pass to move the ball to the Marshall 19. Two plays later, Ragland found Smith for the second time in the back of the end zone. The two-point conversion failed, so the RedHawks trailed 31-26 with 8:01 remaining.

Miami got two more opportunities to score the winning touchdown, driving to the Marshall 41-yard line with five seconds remaining. Ragland's heave to Gardner on the final play of the contest ended up just outside the end zone as the Thundering Herd held on for the victory.

Smith caught seven passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns, while Murphy had five catches for 69 yards. Redshirt junior running back Alonzo Smith was Miami's leading rusher with 13 carries for 59 yards. Koenig led the RedHawk defense with 13 tackles and one forced fumble.

Miami returns to action next Saturday when it hosts Austin Peay at 3:30 p.m.

Information courtesy Miami University Athletics

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