OXFORD — Despite a nearly three-hour weather delay and another solid offensive performance, the Miami University football team fell, 21-17, to Eastern Illinois University Saturday evening at Yager Stadium.
Sophomore quarterback Billy Bahl followed up his impressive season opener at Iowa with 250 yards and two touchdowns on 13-of-22 passing. After a slow start, the RedHawks’ (0-2) offense eventually perked up in the home opener, posting 402 yards while holding possession for over 35 minutes.
Sophomore running back Alonzo Smith picked up 98 yards on 27 carries while senior wide receiver Rokeem Williams led with 75 yards on two completions. However, late Miami penalties and a fourth quarter charge from Eastern Illinois culminated in a Panthers (1-1) comeback victory.
Following a trio of punts to begin the game, Miami’s offense finally came alive with a 10-play, 71-yard scoring drive that was capped off by freshman kicker Sam Sloman’s first career field goal, a 31-yard make at the 4:28 mark of the opening quarter. The drive was highlighted by a 24-yard completion from Bahl to Williams that put the RedHawks in the red zone.
The lack of offensive firepower continued into the second quarter until Bahl hit Williams for a 51-yard touchdown pass to make it 10-0 Miami with 7:27 to play in the half. The catch completed a 6-play, 85-yard drive that was extended following an Eastern Illinois personal foul on a Miami punt.
After both teams traded punts, the Panthers turned in their longest drive of the half with a 13-play, 62-yard sequence that resulted in a 3-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Mitch Kimble to junior tight end Addison Bounds.
Miami then ran out the clock to finish with a 10-7 lead at the break.
The RedHawks opened up the second half by running off nearly half of the third quarter clock with a 13-play, 76-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Bahl to sophomore wide receiver James Gardner at the 7:46 mark. The critical play of the drive was an 8-yard run by sophomore running back Kenny Young at 3rd-and-4 on the Eastern Illinois 23-yard line.
On its next possession, the Panthers marched down to the Miami 6-yard line before a sack and two incompletions forced a 29-yard field goal attempt. The Eastern Illinois holder was unable to secure a bad snap, throwing an incompletion that handed possession back to Miami.
The RedHawks methodically moved into Panther territory with a 16-play, 73-yard drive that eventually stalled just outside the red zone. A 33-yard attempt by Sloman hit the right upright and kept the score at 17-7 with 7:53 remaining in the game.
Once again, Eastern Illinois steadily advanced down the field, picking up a critical fourth down conversion at the Miami 44 with a 10-yard pass. The Panthers soon entered the Miami red zone, leading to a 3-yard touchdown pass from Kimble to junior wide receiver Dennis Turner at the 3:57 mark of the fourth quarter.
Miami’s ensuing drive was hindered after early penalties pushed the RedHawks back deep in their territory. The Panthers regained possession at midfield with 2:35 remaining, driving eight plays in 1:39 to take a 21-17 lead on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Kimble to senior running back Devin Church with 56 seconds left.
On its final possession, Bahl was unable to move the offense down the field and time expired following a 10-yard rushing play.
The RedHawks remain at home next Saturday for Homecoming as they face Western Kentucky (1-1) at 3:30 p.m. at Yager Stadium.
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