Ragland excels as RedHawks’ QB
HUNTINGTON — When watching Miami (Ohio) football video, one player stands out as a problem for opponents each time he is on the field.
RedHawks’ quarterback Gus Ragland caught the attention of Marshall University’s players and coaches as they prepared for a 3:30 p.m. Saturday contest at Yager Stadium in Oxford, Ohio.
As Ragland goes, so do the Red-Hawks, and no one knows that better than Marshall.
“It starts with the quarterback,” Marshall defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said. “Ragland makes all the plays. He was a really good runner against us, carried the ball a good amount against us last year and was effective doing it. He’s a tough guy that keeps plays alive, very knowledgeable in their offense and extremely comfortable. Behind the line of scrimmage, he can create plays by breaking tackles. He’s an effort player — a big, strong player — and he knows where he’s going with the football.”
Last season, Ragland had a strong game against a Marshall defense that was, statistically, one of the nation’s best.
Ragland finished 23 of 44 for 298 passing yards and two touchdowns with one interception while rushing for 29 yards and a score in Marshall’s 31-26 win over the RedHawks.
The one word that everyone used to describe the 6-foot-l, 218-pound senior was “tough.”
Miami (Ohio) allowed two kickoff returns for touchdowns by Keion Davis of the Thundering Herd, and Rag-land threw an interception that Chris Jackson returned 72 yards for a score. Such circumstances are normally enough to cripple a team — especially on the road — but Ragland remained steady and pulled the RedHawks back to striking distance before his Hail Mary attempt fell incomplete as time expired.
“The one thing that makes him difficult and just sets him apart from a lot of the other quarterbacks is that he’s a winner,” Jackson said. “He goes about his business and he’s so tough. He’s going to do anything to win the game, no matter what happens throughout the game. He’s just going to find a way to pull off the win.”
Marshall linebacker Chase Hancock said Ragland’s calm under pressure is a dynamic that stood out to him in last year’s game.
“He’s very poised,” Hancock said. “He did a good job last year. He got hurt when he played us, but he’s pretty tough. You watch him on film and he really knows how to control the game. He doesn’t get frantic when things start to go wrong, so it’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
Despite missing three 2017 games because of injury, Ragland threw for 2,031 yards and 19 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.
Ragland didn’t appear to be a big rushing threat with only 135 yards and three scores last season, but Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said those numbers were deceiving and his ability to be a threat with his legs adds to his overall package.
“You can just tell by the way his team reacts to him that he has great leadership skills and the intangibles,” Holliday said. “He finds a way to beat you with his feet. If he needs four (yards), he will go get five. He is just a tremendous player that has great grit. He is the kind of guy you want at quarterback.”
Miami (Ohio) head coach Chuck Martin said his job is a bit easier because of Ragland’s coach-on-the-field mentality.
“He’s just not a talented kid, he’s not just a good leader that’s short on talent,” Martin said. “He kind of brings the whole package and, going into his senior year, he brings a lot of game experience. It’s comforting having a senior that knows what’s going on and has played football at a very high level.”
Despite the RedHawks going 5-7 last season, Ragland is a proven winner with a 10-6 record when he’s in the starting lineup. That includes winning the final six games of the 2016 regular season after Miami (Ohio) started 0-6.
Miami (Ohio) is looking to overcome last year’s disappointing finish and assert itself as one of the top contenders in the Mid-American Conference’s East Division. That journey starts with Saturday’s contest against the Herd.
If Miami (Ohio) is to start the season with a win over Marshall and later become a force in the Mid-American Conference this year, it will be Ragland leading the RedHawks on that path.
MARSHALL AT MIAMI (OHIO)
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Yager Stadium, Oxford, Ohio
TV: ESPN+ streaming
RADIO: WDGG 93.7-FM,