Surprise MAC East leader hosts defending East champ Print E-mail
Written by Mike Smith   
Tag it:
Furl it!
ImageOXFORD, OH. Miami versus Ohio U.
There have been some big battles between the two southern Ohio schools. Many of those battles took place on a basketball court. This Saturday, the RedHawks and Bobcats may provide a memorable game on the gridiron.

Ohio (4-3 overall) enters Saturdays matchup with a 3-1 MAC record. The only league loss was 20-13 setback at home against a Toledo team that has something in common with Miami both teams are undefeated in MAC play.

Despite the loss, Ohio is still in position to earn its second MAC East football crown and a return trip to the MAC Championship game.

Miami, on the other hand, is something of a surprise in the MAC East title conversation. The RedHawks (4-3 overall) won just one game in each of the past two seasons. And even as head coach Michael Haywoods team showed progress earlier this year, it also fell victim to numerous injuries.

Last weeks road game at Central Michigan was a stern test for the RedHawks. The task appeared to get even tougher when MU kicker Trevor Cook was knocked out of the game with a first half knee injury.

Cook, who had missed just one field goal the entire year, was injured when the RedHawks eschewed a field goal attempt in favor of a trick running play in which he ended up carrying the ball.

Nonetheless, Miami prevailed for its first road win since 2008. Should MU defeat Ohio Saturday, it would be the RedHawks best conference start since 2004, when they won seven straight league games.

One of those wins was a 40-20 win over OU.
Miami dominated the series in those days, and a 38-7 win by the Red and White in 2005 marked the fifth straight MU win in the series. It was also Miamis 11th win in 12 matchups dating back to 1994. Only one of the games was closer than eight points.

Things began to change, however, when Ohio landed former Nebraska coach Frank Solich in December of 2004. Under Solich, the Bobcats started a four-game win streak against Miami in 2006.
Ohio pretty much owned last years meeting. MU scored a touchdown on its opening drive, but the Bobcats regrouped to score 21 first-half points on the way to a 28-7 win at Pedan Stadium in Athens.
Dante Harden and Terrence McCrae did much of the offensive damage.

Harden carried 15 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns as OU gained 226 yards on the ground.

McCrae, now a senior, had only three receptions for 41 yards, but two went for second quarter touchdowns. Classmate Lavon Brazill, meanwhile,  paced Bobcats receives with six grabs for 74 yards as Ohio added 172 passing yards. OU outgained Miami 398-218 overall.

As with many games last year, Miami also lost the turnover battle. Ohio threw one interception and did not fumble. The RedHawks lost both their fumbles and redshirt freshman quarterback Zac Dysert also tossed two interceptions.

Avoiding such turnovers and generating more from the opposition were part of Miamis goals for 2010. By and large, the RedHawks have made significant progress especially in league play.

After finishing last in turnover margin in 2009, Miami now holds down the top spot (+7, 1.00 tpg). Ohio is ninth (-4, 0.57 tpg).

Another area of improvement for Miami has been protecting home turf. The RedHawks are undefeated at home in 2010 and will be hosting a combined Homecoming and Cradle of Coaches weekend Saturday.

Be that as it may, Miami will have to improve over last seasons meeting in several areas if the RedHawks hope to upend an Ohio team that can ill-afford any more conference losses. Most of the key players from that Ohio team are back.

Ohio ranks third among MAC teams in rushing offense (170.7 ypg) and success in the running game only enhances the passing possibilities. Both quarterback options - Boo Jackson and junior Phil Bates are capable of picking up key yardage with their feet or their arms.

The Bobcats are second in pass efficiency (131.4) and own 10 passing touchdowns. Jackson is ranked 10th in passing yards per game but carries a 135.2 pass efficiency rating (2nd MAC). His next passing touchdown will give him sole possession of the school record for career passing TDs.

Bates, meanwhile, is the teams leading rusher, averaging 77.4 ypg and 8.2 ypc. He was named MAC East Offensive Player of the Week Monday following an outstanding performance against Bowling Green. His 142 rushing yards included a 62-yard scamper.

Ohio has outgained its last four opponents on the ground and is also averaging 39 points per game during its current three-game win streak.

The ability of Jackson and Bates, who share duties, to move enhances a solid job by the offensive line.
Through seven games, the line has allowed just 12 sacks less than half the total (30) it allowed while winning the division title in 2009.

Unlike the Bobcats, Miami has been unable to sustain a running game. Senior Thomas Merriweather has had his moments, but the RedHawks are next-to-last in rushing offense (69.3 ypg). With Ohio bringing a No. 3-ranked rushing defense into Saturdays game, getting a ground game going against the Bobcats wont be easy.

Most of Miamis offense comes from the arm of Dysert. The redshirt sophomore is third in the league in passing (231.7 ypg) and has improved enough to earn a 126.7 pass efficiency rating (4th in MAC).

Armand Robinson has been Dyserts top target. The senior, who had nine catches for 102 yards last week, ranks second in the league with an average of 8.9 receptions per game. His 85.6 ypg. average  is fourth among MAC receivers.

As with last year, injuries (e.g. senior Jamal Rogerss broken foot) have depleted the receiving corps. However, that group is a little deeper -  albeit lacking game experience in some cases - this season.

Sophomore Andy Cruse, a big 6-4, 212-pound target, had his best game as a RedHawk last week against Central Michigan. He caught two touchdowns, including the game-winner on a 71-yard TD play with 19 seconds left. Overall, he pulled in a total of eight receptions for 179 yards.

Freshman speedster Nick Harwell also logged a TD reception (24 yards) against CMU. Fourteen of his 16 catches for the season came in the last two games. 

One player Dysert doesnt want to connect with is Ohio free safety Donovan Fletcher. The senior has a knack for getting in the way. He is tied for the national lead in interceptions.

Likewise, it might be wise for Ohio to keep an eye on Miami linebacker Evan Harris. He had two interceptions at Central Michigan, returned a blocked punt for a TD against Kent State and returned an interception 56 yards for a score in a RedHawks win over Colorado State.

Another key defender who can fly under the stat sheet is senior (two time) captain Jordan Gafford. The safety missed two games due to a head injury suffered at Missouri. However, he returned against CMU and again used his game-experience to help the young RedHawks defense get situated.

Should the game come down to kicking, Ohio can turn to redshirt sophomore Matt Weller. The Twinsburg, Ohio native booted 21 field goals a new school record last year. He has converted 7-of-8 this season.

Should Cook be unavailable for Miami a distinct possibility Seth Philip will get the call. Philip, who handled kickoffs but had not kicked a FG at Miami, was good on two field goals (40, 21) and three PATs in emergency duty last week against Central Michigan.


< Prev   Next >

Football - Latest News

CMU's Kinville draws one-game suspension

25.10.2010 | Football

MOUNT PLEASANT, MI  - The Mid-American Conference has suspended Central Michigan sophomore defensive end Joe Kinville one game for unsportsmanlike conduct during Saturday's game at Northern Illinois.…     Read more

Basketball - Latest News

MAC basketball tourney re-ups with QLA

11.08.2010 | Basketball

Cleveland, OH The Mid-American Conference and Quicken Loans Arena announced today a six-year contract extension to host the FirstEnergy MAC Mens and Womens Basketball Conference Tournament through…     Read more