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CINCINNATI -- Miami University's football team held the lead entering the fourth quarter, but was unable to bring the Victory Bell back to Oxford, falling 27-20 to the University of Cincinnati Saturday afternoon at Nippert Stadium. The RedHawks dropped to 0-4, while the Bearcats improved to 3-1 with the win.
Sophomore quarterback Billy Bahl went 13-of-24 for 248 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, while sophomore wide receiver James Gardner hauled in six catches for 79 yards and one touchdown. As a whole, the Miami offense posted 313 yards and held possession for over 23 minutes, which were both season-lows.
After the first few possessions stalled for both teams, Cincinnati methodically drove into Miami's red zone before settling for a 28-yard field goal from senior Josh Pasley. The kick wrapped up a 10-play, 52-yard drive at the 4:41 mark of the first quarter.
On the following play, sophomore running back Maurice Thomas returned the kickoff 94 yards, setting up the RedHawks with terrific field position. They would capitalize two plays later as Bahl found Gardner in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown catch, making it 7-3 Miami with 3:46 remaining. The grab was Gardner's fifth of the season, tying him with last year's team-high mark set by junior tight end Ryan Smith.
The second quarter opened with the Bearcats at the RedHawk 20-yard line. On 4th-and-1, freshman quarterback Ross Trail ran for an 11-yard touchdown, giving UC a 10-7 lead with 14:22 left in the half.
Starting on their own 15-yard line, the RedHawks embarked on a 12-play drive that took over five minutes, resulting in a 26-yard field goal from sophomore Nick Dowd that tied the game at 10 at the 8:40 mark.
Following a 34-yard kickoff return, UC was unable to take advantage of its field position as Trail's pass was intercepted by sophomore linebacker Brad Koenig at the Miami 8-yard line. The RedHawks started deep in RedHawk territory, leading to a quick three-and-out possession.
After a UC punt, Miami looked strong as it trekked into the red zone, highlighted by a 31-yard grab by Gardner and a 22-yard run by sophomore running back Kenny Young. The momentum soon shifted when Bahl was picked off by sophomore tackle Cortez Broughton at the Bearcats' 18-yard line with under a minute to play.
The Bearcats quickly drove 43 yards in 22 seconds, but the possession proved unsuccessful as Pasley missed a 42-yard field goal at the end of the half with the score still tied at 10.
UC held possession as the second half began, reaching the red zone before the drive was cut short on a Trail fumble forced by sophomore linebacker Brad Earnest. The turnover was recovered by junior lineman A.J. Burdine with 11:32 left in the quarter.
Following a pair of punts, the RedHawks struck big as Bahl hit junior wide receiver Jared Murphy for a 58-yard touchdown that put them ahead, 17-10, at the 9:18 mark.
UC responded with a 12-play, 66-yard drive that was capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Mike Boone, knotting the score at 17 with 4:15 remaining.
Miami then used a 41-yard drive to regain the lead as Dowd hit from 35 yards to make it 20-17 UC with 1:07 left in the third. Three plays later, junior cornerback Heath Harding intercepted Trail at the UC 48-yard line, giving Miami the ball in opponent territory as the quarter drew to a close.
The resulting possession came up short as Bahl fumbled on a sack, leading to a 24-yard Pasley field goal that tied the game at 20 with 12:11 remaining in the contest.
After a Miami three-and-out, UC reclaimed the ball and began a 12-play, 64-yard drive that was capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by senior running back Tion Green. The sequence involved three third down conversions and brought the score to 27-20 UC with 5:09 left in the game.
On its penultimate possession of the game, Miami went three-and-out, handing the ball back to UC. The Bearcats used a critical 36-yard pass on 3rd-and-12 to maintain possession and run the clock down. Miami's attempt at a multi-lateral play was unsuccessful as the clock expired.
Miami will turn its attention to next Saturday's matchup against Ohio University at 2:30 p.m. at Yager Stadium. The game will be broadcast on Time Warner Cable and ESPN3.
- Senior Sam Shisso recorded his first career start on offense Saturday. Sophomore Josh Allen started for the first time on the defensive side of the ball, lining up at safety.
- With a sack in the first quarter, senior Austin Gearing became the first known Miami player to record a sack on defense in addition to being sacked while playing offense during his career. Gearing was sacked in 2013 when he was a starting quarterback for the RedHawks.
- Sophomore Maurice Thomas returned a Cincinnati kickoff 94 yards before being brought down at the UC six yard-line, marking a career-long kickoff return for him. The return is tied for the ninth-longest kickoff return in school history and is the longest such return that did not result in a touchdown.
- Sophomore linebacker Brad Koenig recorded his first career interception with his pick in the second quarter.
- Cincinnati quarterback Ross Trail was sacked for the second time of the day during the third quarter, with redshirt sophomore Mack Duffin and freshman Doug Costin getting credited with their first career sacks.
- Redshirt freshman wide receiver Luke Mayock picked up his first career catch Saturday on a 22-yard reception during the third quarter.