Chippewas fall at Miami (Ohio) in conference opener


Detroit running back Lew Nichols III is helped up by a teammate during the Chippewas game against Florida International University Sept. 25 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. 

Oxford, OH -- It was a game of runs Saturday in Oxford. 

After allowing 14 unanswered, Central Michigan bounced back to take a 17-14 lead. Then, Miami (Ohio) finished with 14 unanswered of their own to earn a 28-17 win in both team's Mid-American Conference opener. 

The Chippewas (2-3, 0-1) started and finished slowly, negating the impact of an important burst midway through the matchup with the RedHawks (2-3, 1-0). 

"Obviously very disappointing when you lose," said coach Jim McElwain. "There should be a lot of hurt in that locker room. And yet, ultimately we hurt ourselves."

How it happened

Miami got off to a fast start, scoring on its first drive when quarterback Brett Gabbert hit Andrew Homer for a 24-yard touchdown. The RedHawks made it 14-0 when Gabbert launched a 36-yard strike to Jack Sorenson.

"We didn't hustle to the line of scrimmage," McElwain said. "We didn't play the way we practice. It's kinda like we kept waiting and we can't do that. We've gotta be the aggressors." 

Facing a two-score deficit early the Chippewas were forced to respond. Their first long drive of the game came up empty when kicker Marshall Meeder missed a 49-yard field goal off the left upright. The team's eventual response came in the form of a 41-yard touchdown strike from Daniel Richardson to senior wide receiver JaCorey Sullivan.

The two teams traded defensive stops for the remainder of the half, with drops plaguing CMU on its final drive of the half. Miami maintained its 14-7 lead into the half.

After forcing a RedHawks punt, CMU got on the board on its first drive of the third when Meeder knocked a field goal through from 39 yards out. Miami looked to have reclaimed the momentum after a big punt return gave it starting field position inside CMU's 30. 

Led by backup quarterback AJ Mayer, who replaced Gabbert after he suffered an injury, the RedHawks drove the ball inside the 10. However, CMU senior safety Gage Kreski nipped the rally when he intercepted Mayer on the goal line. 

Richardson led the offense 95 yards for its first score of the second half, connecting with Dallas Dixon for an 11-yard touchdown to give the Chippewas their first lead of the game. Mayer and company weren't done, however, as he capped a five-play, 78 yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Nate Muersch. 

The Chippewas turned the ball over on downs on their ensuing drive, with Richardson suffering an upper-body injury on a fourth down sack. 

"He's got a shoulder (injury), he landed on it," McElwain said. "Trainer pulled him. Where that's gonna be, a year ago when he got hurt, it took him a long time to get back. Really, he never did get back. So we'll see where this one goes." 

Mayer answered with another touchdown drive. This time, he hit Sorenson on a screen pass for an 11-yard touchdown to put his team up 11 with 7:44 remaining. 

Jacob Sirmon entered in place of Richardson for the remainder of the game and moved the offense down the field. Facing a fourth-and-one from Miami's 23, coach Jim McElwain elected to kick a field goal to cut the lead to eight rather than go for it. 

"In that particular situation, you play the analytics," McElwain said. "You expect to make that (field goal) and then get the ball back. We had our three timeouts and then you go down the field, go for two and push it into overtime. That's football 101 right there. But I wouldn't do anything different." 

Meeder's 41-yard attempt sailed wide left, giving the ball back to Miami to ice the game. 

Key performers

In his first start of the season, Richardson finished 22-for-41 for 326 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Dixon led the receivers with 113 yards and a touchdown catch on seven receptions. 

"He did okay," McElwain said of Richardson. "He suffered some drops."

Despite struggling, Nichols went over the 1,000 yard mark in career rushing yards. He finished with 21 yards on 12 carries. Freshman Myles Bailey led the team in rushing with 29 yards. 

Up next

The Chippewas stay on the road for their next game on Oct. 9, traveling to Athens to take on Ohio.