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Game of the Year of the Day, 1974: Miami (Ohio) 19, Kent State 17

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Dick Crum’s 1974 Miami (Ohio): one of the 50 best* of all time.

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Randy Walker (right) was a fullback on Miami’s ‘74 team. He would go on to become head coach 16 years later.
Miami athletics

The date: November 9, 1974

The matchup: Kent State (6-3) at Miami (Ohio) (7-0-1)

The stakes: The MAC title. Miami had already clinched a tie, but a win over rival Kent State would give the school its second straight outright title.

The back story: From 50 Best*:

It’s almost like Oxford holds its fall colors all year long. It is a nurturing environment, especially if you want to become a successful football coach one day. [...]

For decades, it seemed the best way to make it as a coach was to be touched by the school in Oxford. Play there and/or serve as an assistant there, and you’ll win ring after ring later in life. That’s how you get away with calling yourself the Cradle of Coaches with a straight face.

The best team in Miami history, however, may not have been one coached by Brown or Hayes or Parseghian or Schembechler. The most influential coach involved with the team was a starting running back at the time.

After four years in the Cradle of Coaches, Dick Crum would go on to engineer four consecutive top-20 finishes at North Carolina in the early-1980s. He wasn’t as successful as a Bo Schembechler, a Woody Hayes, or a Weeb Eubank, but he made a name for himself.

His 1974 Miami team, however, could have taken some of those UNC squads. With a backfield led by future Miami and Northwestern head coach Randy Walker and dual-threat quarterback Sherman Smith (who would go on to rush for 3,500 yards with the Seahawks and Chargers), the school was in the middle of an unprecedented run. The future Redhawks would go 32-1-1 from 1973-75, and after going 11-0 under Bill Mallory and winning the Tangerine Bowl in 1973, the team arguably got even better after Mallory left for Colorado.

Kent State wasn’t bad either, though. The Golden Flashes were in their final year under Don James — he would take the Washington job shortly after the 1974 season ended — and while they were dealing with an up-and-down season, with a win over Syracuse and losses to teams like Ohio and Utah State, the “up” version showed up in Oxford on a beautiful early-November day.

The game: Via Newspapers.com:

OXFORD (UPI) -- David Draudt kicked a 39-yard field goal with just six seconds remaining to rally 12th ranked and Tangerine Bowl-bound Miami to a heart-pounding 19-17 victory over stubborn Kent State Saturday.

The win gave the Redskins their second straight Mid-American Conference title with a perfect 5-0 league record and increased their unbeaten string to 21 games.

Kent State had grabbed a 17-16 lead with only one minute remaining on Larry Poole's two-yard touchdown run and Don Brown's extra point kick.

But in the final minute, Miami stormed from its 20-yard line to Kent's 22. Then with six seconds to go, Draudt smashed his soccer style 39-yard field goal through the uprights.

Until his game-winning kick, Draudt had figured to be the goat of the game because one of his extra point attempts in the second quarter had been blocked.

Kent State, trailing 16-10 with 7:20 remaining, had marched 80 yards to grab the 17-16 edge with one minute to go and the Flashes' bench erupted in excitement at the anticipated victory.

But Redskins quarterback Steve Sanna calmly led his team 58 yards in the final 60 seconds to set up Draudt's game-winning field goal.

That game recap omitted a key detail: Miami’s game-winning, last-minute drive began with a halfback pass from Walker to Smith for 26 yards. Sanna — a better passer than Smith — then came in and directed it from there. Meanwhile, not only had Draudt missed a PAT earlier in the game; he’d missed 10 of 14 field goals on the season. And then he nailed the kick to preserve Miami’s unbeaten streak.

The box score:

Newspapers.com

Miami was awesome in 1974 and would finish the season by mauling Cincinnati (27-7), then heading back to the Tangerine Bowl and handling Georgia with ease (21-10). The only blemish on the record all year was a tie against a Purdue team that would whomp No. 2 Notre Dame the next week. But James’ Golden Flashes very nearly pulled the upset here. Only a Kent State turnover and 10-for-13 passing for Miami gave the favorites a statistical edge.

Crum would go on to engineer two more one-loss seasons over the next three years; this was a golden age for the MAC, which at times between the late-1960s and mid-1970s boasted incredible Toledo and Miami teams and featured future stud coaches like James and Bowling Green’s Don Nehlen (who would go on to lead WVU to two top-10 finishes).

By the way, there was another future head coach on this awesome Miami team: a junior defensive back by the name of Ron Zook.