Thursday, January 6, 2011
Instant Analysis: Miami (Ohio) 35, Middle Tennessee 21
By Andrea Adelson
Miami (Ohio) beat Middle Tennessee 35-21 in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Thursday night in Mobile, Ala. Here is a quick instant analysis:
How the game was won: Turnovers have hurt Middle Tennessee all season, and they hurt the Blue Raiders in the GoDaddy.com Bowl against Miami. They ended up with five turnovers -- including one interception returned for a touchdown. Middle Tennessee also failed to take advantage of several other opportunities, including a blocked field goal in the fourth quarter that gave it the ball at its own 44. After Middle Tennessee punted, Miami simply wore down the defense on the next drive, capping the game with an 11-play, 71-yard drive that ended when Austin Boucher threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Nick Harwell. Middle Tennessee quarterback Dwight Dasher was ineffective, throwing four second-half interceptions, while Boucher played well and moved to 4-0 as a starter since taking over for Zac Dysert (ribs). The RedHawks became the first team in FBS history to go from double-digit losses (1-11) to double-digit wins (10-4) in consecutive seasons.
Turning point: Trailing 28-21, the Middle Tennessee defense came up with a huge stop after Evan Harris' interception gave Miami the ball deep in Blue Raiders territory. Miami set up for a 32-yard field goal attempt, but it was blocked. Middle Tennessee could not take advantage of the mistake and never got any closer.
Player of the game: Boucher. Yes, he threw two interceptions, including one in the end zone at the end of the first half. But he also made the big plays when they counted and finished 22-of-36 for 288 yards and two touchdowns. It really is incredible that he has only started four games in his career.
Unsung hero of the game: Miami cornerback Dayonne Nunley. His 52-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter gave Miami its first lead of the game at 21-14. He also had a fumble recovery a play after Boucher threw his second interception to give the ball right back to his team.
What Miami learned: The RedHawks can hang their hat on an outstanding season, and were able to win the game despite the events of the last month. Coach Mike Haywood resigned to take a job at Pittsburgh, only to be fired following domestic assault charges. Interim coach Lance Guidry did a nice job leading the team, with new head coach Don Treadwell watching from the press box. There is plenty of young talent on this team, but you can be sure there will be a quarterback battle in the spring between Boucher and Dysert. Harwell should be a preseason All-MAC selection.
What Middle Tennessee learned: Dasher simply never recovered to be the quarterback he was in 2009 after sitting out the first four games of the season for violating NCAA rules. The Blue Raiders had too many turnovers and too many penalties this season as well. Now they must prepare for life after Dasher, running back Phillip Tanner and Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Jamari Lattimore.