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BGSU rallies to beat Miami for first win of season

10/07/2017, 3:19pm EDT

Morgan throws 3 TD passes, and defense makes big play with fourth quarter fumble return

BGSU rallies to beat Miami for first win of season

BGSU's James Morgan threw 3 TD passes in the Falcons' win over Miami. BLADE

OXFORD, Ohio — At one of the darkest moments in Bowling Green State University’s 2017 football season, Josh Cleveland saw the light.

The Falcons held a tenuous 30-29 lead at Miami Saturday, but the RedHawks were just one yard away from snatching that lead away with less than two minutes left to play. Suddenly, the Falcons running back had a vision. 

"Josh Cleveland said, 'They're about to fumble! They're about to fumble!'" Teo Redding said. "Then he fumbled -- I thought it was a dream.

"I was so happy to see Brandon run down the field with the football."

Bowling Green turned Miami’s missed snap near the goal line and into a 93-yard touchdown return by Brandon Harris, sealing a 37-29 victory over the RedHawks. There were a few harrowing moments, as Miami took the ensuing kickoff to BG’s 27 before the Falcons forced them to turn the ball over on downs.

That allowed the Falcons to survive and claim their first win of the season after five losses, improving to 1-1 in Mid-American Conference play. Miami fell to 2-4 and 1-1.

"The kids played their tails off, and they competed until the end," Bowling Green coach Mike Jinks said. "I couldn't be prouder of them."

The see-saw affair included six lead changes as the two teams combined for 1,117 yards. Nine of the touchdown drives in the contest covered at least 55 yards, not including the 93-yard fumble recovery by Harris.

Falcons quarterback James Morgan completed 11-of-25 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those scoring strikes went to Redding, who caught eight passes for 197 yards.

"Teo really stepped up," Jinks said. "He told us on the sidelines he could win his one-on-ones, and he was right.

"And James gave us a chance to win, and that's all you can ask of him.”

But Miami QB Gus Ragland connected on 16-of-26 passes for 255 yards and two TDs while adding 78 rushing yards and a third score before he was injured in the third quarter. The good news for the BG defense that it allowed the RedHawks to score just one touchdown and 10 points in four red zone appearances.

"We had some mishaps, but we kept our composure and kept fighting," Harris said. "Staying focused and playing hard are what helped us get over the hump and win."

The Falcons scored first on a 37-yard field goal by Jake Suder at the 8:57 mark of the opening quarter, only to see Miami respond with a six-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 32-yard scoring strike by Ragland to James Gardner with six minutes left in the quarter.

Then the teams combined for a wild, 27-point second quarter that saw the RedHawks take a 17-16 lead into the lockerroom on a 39-yard field goal by Sam Sloman with just three seconds left in the period.

That lead lasted exactly one play into the third quarter when Morgan hit Redding in stride for a 75-yard touchdown strike.

"The coaches moved me to the slot, called that play, and said it would be a touchdown," Redding said. "And we believed them."

But Miami quickly responded with a 55-yard touchdown drive that took just four plays, the last of which was a 36-yard scoring toss by Ragland to Jared Murphy.

With just eight seconds left in the third quarter, the RedHawks capped another drive with a Sloman field goal, this one coming from 45 yards.

Bowling Green opened the fourth quarter with what proved to be the game-winning drive thanks in part to Andrew Clair. The true freshman ran for 39 yards on the drive, including a 22-yard run that pushed BG near midfield and a 16-yard run on a third-and-15 play. That set the stage for a 28-yard TD strike to Redding with 12:15 left in the period.

"That wasn't even a designed play," Redding explained. "I saw him throw me the ball, and I wanted to make a play for him. It was a well-placed ball."

The BG defense forced a three-and-out, and the Falcons offense took 7:24 off the clock with a drive that pushed down to the Miami 23. Jinks decided to go for a field goal, but Jake Suder missed from 40 yards out — his first miss this season.

The drive highlighted a strong performance by the running game as Cleveland finished with 117 yards on 10 carries, Clair had 121 yards on 16 attempts and Wilson added 43 yards on nine rushes to help the Falcons pile up 238 yards on the ground.

"Cleveland ran well," Jinks said. "I thought Andrew Clair showed up and made some plays.

"And the senior, Donovan Wilson ... it's tough when you see other guys step up and steal plays from you. But he stepped up and nearly sealed this win.

"I thought they complimented each other."

But there was still 3:25 on the clock, and Miami’s Billy Bahl replaced an injured Ragland at quarterback and drove his team down to the Bowling Green 1 with 1:59 to go.

Miami went to a “jumbo” set, but a shotgun snapped bounced off the arm of one of blocking backs. Harris picked it up and raced 93 yards for the game’s final score — to make Cleveland look like a prophet and give the Falcons a much-needed win.

"To finally get one is a stress-reliever," Redding said. "Now we can go back home with our heads held high."

Contact John Wagner at jwagner@theblade.com419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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