OXFORD, Ohio – The Miami University football team has announced that it has accepted an invitation to play in the St. Petersburg Bowl versus the Mississippi State Bulldogs in St Petersburg, Florida on Monday, December 26, 2016. Opening kickoff is set for 11 a.m. and will be carried live on ESPN.
“We are thrilled and honored to be selected to play in the St. Petersburg Bowl,” said Miami head football coach Chuck Martin. “This is a great reward for our players and staff who have put in so much work and effort to build our program back to bowl eligibility. It will be exciting to be able to spend the holiday season with the RedHawk family in St. Petersburg.”
The St. Petersburg Bowl is Miami’s 11th bowl contest in school history. Overall, the RedHawks are 7-3 in bowl games, last playing in the post season in the 2010 GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
Miami enters the contest with Mississippi State as one of the best stories in all of college football. After beginning the season with six straight losses, the RedHawks rattled off six consecutive wins to become the first team in college football history to begin a season 0-6 and finish 6-6.
Much of the turnaround is credited to starting quarterback Gus Ragland. After tearing his ACL back in April during a spring practice, the sophomore signal caller made his first career start six months later against Kent State on Oct. 15. Ragland led Miami to a come-from-behind victory with 90 seconds to play, Miami’s first of six successive wins. Overall, Ragland has completed 93-of-149 passes for 1,274 yards and 15 touchdowns with zero interceptions.
The RedHawks also feature the Mid-American Conference’s top ranked defense, allowing 361.4 yards and 23.4 points per game.
While most defenses are led by one or two special players, the RedHawks’ defense is highlighted by many faces. Tony Reid (84) and Junior McMullen (82) lead the RedHawks in tackles, Heath Harding and De’Andre Montgomey are tops on the team in interceptions (4), JT Jones leads the team in sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (11.5) and Austin Gearing’s three forced fumbles is tops on the team.
Mississippi State finished 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the SEC. Overall, the Bulldogs average 31.5 points and 449.0 yards per game behind quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, a dual-threat quarterback, threw for 2,287 yards and 21 touchdowns and added 1,243 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Defensively, the Bulldogs allow 33.1 points and 461.2 yards per game and are led by defensive end Johnathan Calvin, who recorded 54 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks on the season.