OXFORD, Ohio -- The chilly, rainy weather during practice Tuesday afternoon didn’t damper Gus Ragland’s enthusiasm at Yager Stadium.
The Miami University redshirt sophomore quarterback urged his teammates in the huddle to step up their intensity. Ragland wanted his teammates to practice like a team that was 0-6 like earlier this season instead of riding a four-game winning streak.
“He is the voice of the offense,” junior tight end Ryan Smith said. “He gets guys fired up; they get amped.”
Ragland, a 2014 Moeller graduate, is relentless with his effort and attitude. He’s also performing pretty darn well too.
"I'm really happy for him," said Ohio State sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard, a 2014 Moeller graduate and former high school teammate. "He's one of the best competitors I've played with and a great friend. It was only a matter of time before he had success."
Miami (4-6, 4-2 MAC East) plays at Buffalo (2-7, 1-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday in a key game for the RedHawks, who trail Ohio (5-1) by one game.
Miami is still alive for a MAC Championship berth in early December with some help from other teams.
“It’s huge,” Ragland said. “Everyone up here is really excited with the win streak and potential bowl. It’s huge for the city of Oxford, for the athletic department and football program. It’s very exciting.”
Ragland stresses defenses with his dual-threat abilities to run or throw. He hasn’t thrown an interception in 100 pass attempts.
Ragland was named the Mid-American Conference East Division offensive player of the week for the first time in his career on Monday.
“He’s as competitive of a kid as you are going to be around,” Miami coach Chuck Martin said.
“Not just his play because he’s a talented football player, but it bleeds through your football team. Not just your offense, but your defense. He brings that extra element to your football team that’s really hard to find.”
Friday’s win over visiting Central Michigan (37-17) was Miami’s largest margin of victory since 2011.
Moeller coach John Rodenberg watched his former standout at Yager Stadium Friday night.
“The thing that really stuck out for me was his development as a quarterback,” Rodenberg said. “His passes were quick. His decision-making was spot on. I don’t think people realize how hard he works at being a good quarterback.”
Ragland was 13 of 21 passing for a career-high 218 yards and four touchdowns to give the RedHawks their fourth consecutive win after opening the season 0-6. Ragland rushed for 60 yards on 13 carries.
Named the starting quarterback prior to the Kent State game Oct. 15, Ragland has completed 60 of 100 passes for 789 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s had 137 yards rushing and a score on the ground.
“He’s taking care of the football,” Martin said. “He’s played four games, he’s thrown 10 touchdowns, he’s thrown no picks, he’s had one fumble that was on him and the other wasn’t on him.”
What Ragland also accomplished physically is maybe the most impressive. He defied the odds by returning from an anterior cruciate ligament injury much earlier than expected.
Ragland, 21, played in 10 games in the 2015 season but primarily ran the ball. He missed the final game of the season when he broke his foot.
Then during spring practice in April, there was more adversity. He suffered a complete tear of his ACL in his right knee inside the David and Anita Dauch Indoor Sports Center. He was on the turf surrounded by his teammates.
A return within six months was possible, but not always realistic.
Associate Athletic Trainer Paul Eversole said guys returning within six months “are few and far between.”
“Gus is a kid that lives and dies with football,” Eversole told Miami’s website in October. “He does everything to help our football team and when you are that invested and it means that much to you, obviously he was upset. I put my arm around him and told him we are going to get through this together. The next day he came in with a smile on his face and said he was going to be back in October.”
Dr. Timothy Kremchek performed the surgery April 19. Ragland started to feel better in August, but Kremchek warned against a premature return.
Ragland, an engineering management major, did some running drills but not a lot of cutting in working toward his return, according to his father, Dan Ragland.
In early September, he was evaluated again but not cleared. On Oct. 10, Gus was given the green light.
“It was a crazy turn of events,” Ragland said. “…I worked my butt off and it ended up working out.”
Rodenberg knows all about determination that defines Gus. He saw that in practice and in games at Moeller.
Ragland helped to lead Moeller to its second straight Division I state title in 2013 in one of the most memorable state finals in Ohio high school football history.
Ragland accounted for eight touchdowns (five rushing, three passing) at Fawcett Stadium in a 55-52 win over Mentor.
Martin offered a scholarship less than a week later. Gus didn’t have many other offers and had some other Football Bowl Subdivision interest.
But, he wasn’t discouraged. Miami turned out to be an excellent fit. Gus Ragland is taking advantage of every opportunity.
“It’s been a blast,” he said. “Everyone kind of looks around at each other and says winning is a lot more fun. It’s a whole different mindset, a whole different environment. We’re going to enjoy every second of it and not let a couple of wins be the end of it. We’re just looking forward to Buffalo.”