MIAMI — Although it might not look it after a 55-20 loss to Cleveland, there were several bright spots for shorthanded Miami.
Senior Clay McCormick, junior Bo Leach and freshman Hunter Nichols have the Wardogs a much-needed offensive shot in the arm.
Jack-of-all-trade senior Clay McCormick was inserted into the backfield and ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
“We know what we’re going to get out of McCormick no where we put him. He’s just a blue-collar kid for us,” head coach Zach Gardner said.
“Bo Leach carried the ball well for us (netting 15 yards on three carries),” Gardner said. “He’s still trying to get into a comfort zone as far as the offensive scheme goes. He’s just a freshman as far as the mindset, just getting a taste of what we’re trying to do. We expect him to be a good one in the future.”
And Nichols ran for 69 yards and a touchdown on 12 attempts.
The outcome was decided in the first 3:06 as Cleveland returned the opening kickoff then got long-yardage touchdowns on back-to-back onside kicks.
Those gave the Cardinals a 20-0 lead.
“But when we finally got the ball offensively, we didn’t generate anything and that killed us, too,” Gardner said.
Miami chewed up 7:43 and drove 74 yards to get its first touchdown, a 1-yard smash by McCormick.
“That came against their 1s and we got points out of it,” Gardner said. “That’s what we’re able to do with the way we are schemed right now. We’re going to have to be a ball-control offensive football team. When we got out there offensively and go three downs and out, that’s not who we3 need to be right now. We’re not a big play team right now.
“We need to be physical and play control the ball.”
Noah Townley ran the opening kickoff back 90 yards for a score then caught TD passes of 34 and 57 yards from Shain Hamilton following the recovery of onside kicks.
Ironically, it was Cleveland that had the previous long KO return against the Dogs: Levi Ready had a 92-yard runback in 2005.
Cleveland was up 27-0 after one, then rolled into the half on top 41-0. The Cards scored touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters.
“Everything that could go the wrong way did, special teams and execution gave them all the momentum in the world,” Gardner said. “We know they have some good athletes, but as far as a team, they’re not one of the top four right now in our district. We made them look good, though.”
In addition to the 1-yard run, McCormick also had an 8-yard carry on the Dogs very next possession.
Nichols went 2 yards for the third Miami TD with 4:49 remaining.
“We were playing shorthanded, but we did the same things,” Gardner said. “Our Achilles heel was third-and-long. We let them behind us. I just don’t understand how that happens consecutively. We let it happen twice. It’s frustrating because we go over the situations.
“We’re playing with a lot of youth, but we need to be progressing. We looked like we regressed. We do have some kids out there right now trying to fill some spots but in the whole scheme of things, it’s been the same kids playing out there for five weeks now.”
Miami was playing with the pass-catch combo of Karson and Keaton Jinks.
Freshman Braylon Riley moved in under center and was 3 of 6 passing for 14 yards.
Garrett Walls, another freshman, caught one pass for 12 yards and sophomore Eric McKibben and Nichols each had a reception.
The Wardogs were shorthanded due to the COVID-19 tracing, “but the positive is we’re able to play right now and other teams aren’t. We’re getting these kids some experience that hopefully pays off in the future, but some of the mistakes we’re are pretty elementary.”
Miami travels to Oologah Friday night.
The Mustangs have had games with Grove and Skiatook cancelled because of the coronavirus.