WILBERFORCE, Ohio -- Miles College trailed Central State by seven points entering the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon and looked like a team that was destined to suffer an upset on the road during an opponent's homecoming for the second consecutive season.
But then, Justin Hardy happened.
The junior running back, who missed last week's game with an injury and was a game-time decision against the Marauders, touched the ball on three consecutive offensive plays for the Golden Bears in the fourth quarter. On each rush, he found himself in the end zone as he nearly single-handedly carried Miles to a 41-20 win over CSU at McPherson Stadium. Those three plays totaled 167 of his career-high 210 rushing yards, which helped make freshman quarterback Joseph Cambridge a winner in his first career start.
The Marauders (0-6, 0-3 SIAC West) led 17-10 at the start of the fourth quarter but on the second play of the period, Hardy got to the outside and went down the sideline for a 22-yard scoring run that tied the game. Miles (3-3, 1-1) actually took the lead when Malik Campbell got around the end and blocked Isaiah Smith's punt. Jourdan Walker scooped the ball and returned it 10 yards to give the Golden Bears a 24-17 lead with 11:55 left.
While Miles had a lead they would not relinquish, the Hardy show was just getting started. After a 33-yard field goal by Trevor Teel cut into the CSU deficit, Hardy got the ball on the Golden Bears next play from scrimmage, waited for a hole to open, and burst through to paydirt on an 81-yard scoring run that push the lead to 31-20. Finally, after the Marauders punted the ball back to the Golden Bears, Hardy took the ball on the next play from scrimmage and ran 66 yards for his third touchdown that sent the Homecoming crowd towards the tailgate area.
The stunning fourth quarter display by Hardy overshadowed an outstanding debut by Cambridge. Coming into the season as the No. 4 quarterback on the depth chart, the young signal caller found himself under center when Miles took the field after injuries to Li'Jon Cordier and Sidney Wilson pressed him into service. He finished 15-of-28 for 212 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 38 yards on eight carries as he provided a threat in the passing game that had been missing this season.
Cambridge's first career touchdown pass was a 64-yard completion to Antonio Lee (three catches, 86 yards) in the second quarter that gave the Golden Bears a 10-7 lead. While the numbers look good, it took a bit of fortune to pull off the play. Cambridge looked left to Lee on a short route but CSU defensive back Henry Alexander jumped the route and looked to have a clear interception and possible pick-6. But the ball went through his hands and went right to the waiting Lee, who took it the last 55 yards for the score.
Miles had a chance to break the game open in the second quarter after William Kelly nearly returned a punt for a touchdown, going 43 yards to the CSU 7. But after going backwards on three plays, the field goal attempt by Nick Christiansen never got off as Kelly - who is also the holder - could not handle the snap. The Marauders would engineer a 78-yard drive that would end on a 13-yard scoring pass from Trent Mays to Lavon Meeks with 16 seconds left in the half to give them a 14-10 lead at the break.
Anthony Hardy had a team-high 11 tackles (four solo), N'Ktavious Floyd and C.J. McClelland each had six tackles, and Kaelan Bonds (six tackles) and MarQuel Shelton (three tackles) each had a sack for Miles, which hosts Kentucky State for Homecoming next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.