JM Rieger, Staff Writer

Freshman Tracy Woods tries to dodge redshirt sophomore Jaytee Swanson at the Pigskin Preview Aug. 21. (MICHAEL GRIGGS | The Miami Student)

Coming off of a 34-12 loss to Florida last week, the Miami University football team will look to bounce back this week against the Eastern Michigan Eagles (EMU), a team that did not win a single game last season. However, Miami has not won a conference opener since 2007, and will look to break that trend Sept. 11.

Meanwhile, the Eagles are coming off of a 31-27 loss against Army, a game where they only threw the ball nine times while racking up 285 yards on the ground. However, the Red and White is preparing for a more balanced attack this week when EMU comes to Oxford.

“We are preparing for a little of both (running and passing),” senior safety Jordan Gafford said. “Every game we have to play fast and play hard, and this week is no different.”

Miami’s defense stepped up big against Florida last week, holding the Gators to 212 yards of total offense for the game, including only allowing 41 total yards through the first three quarters. This is something the Red and White will have to continue this week, especially if they hope to contain the Eagles’ rushing attack, led by senior running back Dwayne Priest and sophomore quarterback Alex Gillett, each of whom had over 100 yards rushing last week.

“They just run it and run it,” Head Coach Michael Haywood said. “We just need to make sure we can handle whatever they give us and we need to be able to stop the run on defense. I think they will throw it at least 15 times though.”

On the other side of the ball, the ‘Hawks’ offense struggled to get in the endzone last week, settling for a field goal each time they were in the redzone, a trend that must change this week. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Zac Dysert threw four interceptions last week, a career-high for him, and something that he is working on improving this week.

The RedHawks will be without senior tailback Thomas Merriweather until the 8:51 mark in the second quarter this Saturday due to his ejection in the game last week against Florida. Therefore, look for redshirt sophomore running back Danny Green and freshman running back Tracy Woods to get the majority of the playing time this week, at least in the first half.

“I am looking forward to seeing some of the other guys run the football,” Haywood said. “In the passing game, we need to make sure that we are able to attack whatever coverages they show (on defense) and be ready for any blitzes as well.”

Miami’s offensive line performed well last week against Florida, only allowing two sacks all game to a defense that had been in the top 10 in total defense the previous two seasons. Redshirt junior tackle Brandon Brooks will be back this week, but will not necessarily start for the RedHawks. Brooks worked with the first and second string teams this week and is expected to get playing time, but is not expected to start.

“Brooks will be playing (this week), but everyone has to earn the right to play,” Offensive Line Coach Bill Mottola said. “We have five to six guys returning up front and it is good for us that we have that much depth on the offensive line.”

Another question for the ‘Hawks this week is whether or not they will continue to run trick plays against EMU. The Red and White ran a few trick plays last week against Florida, but only were able to capitalize on about half of them.

“We are going to run some fakes,” Haywood said. “We will not take unnecessary risks, but we will take risks. (EMU) is a well-coached team, and we are looking forward to playing them this week.”

This week’s game will also have some added significance since it is being played on the nine-year anniversary of Sept. 11. The day will be dedicated to military appreciation, and the RedHawks will recognize Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton and will also have an in-game recognition for a wounded warrior with the help of the Wounded Warrior Project. In addition, a “white-out” is scheduled for the game, and fans are encouraged to show up wearing white.

“There is not necessarily more hype this week, but the added support definitely helps,” Mottola said. “We are going to play with the same relentless intensity that we try to play with each week and we are going to try to stay focused on the task at hand.”

Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. Sept. 11 at Yager Stadium. Fans can listen to the broadcast on Miami’s ISP Sports Network or on WMSR at redhawkradio.com.

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