At this time a year ago, the Miami RedHawks were winless five games through the season; the idea of a share of the Mid-American Conference East title or a bowl berth against an SEC opponent seemed like a pipe dream, yet that is exactly what happened to Chuck Martin and Co.
This time around, the ‘Hawks head into week six with players such as Heath Harding, Gus Ragland, and Brad Koenig more experienced and confident with already one MAC win in the books.
“[We’re] very confident,” Redshirt junior quarterback Ragland said of his team’s mindset heading into league play directly after last week’s defeat at Notre Dame. “I think all the guys in there right now are already thinking about Bowling Green and the hell of a journey we have ahead of us.”
The Bowling Green Falcons (0-5, 0-1 MAC) will come into Yager Stadium in a similar position the ‘Hawks (2-3, 1-0 MAC) found themselves in a year ago. Though their winless record seems to reveal a team playing poorly, Miami head coach Chuck Martin believes the Falcons are better than their record shows.
“Bowling Green’s actually better than they were a year ago,” Martin said. “They’re going through a little bit of what we went through. I think I can empathize with their staff — you can tell year two, they’re starting to figure out their schemes and they’re executing their schemes way better.”
The strength of the Falcons is a defense with a knack for turning opposing offenses over, winning the turnover margin by three thus far in the 2017 campaign. Leading the defense is linebacker Brandon Harris; the junior out of Cleveland has collected 40 total tackles on the season along with a pair of fumble recoveries.
“Ball security’s always a huge emphasis,” senior receiver Sam Martin said about facing a Falcon squad that has caused twelve turnovers five games through. “Whenever you’re facing a team that forces a lot of turnovers, it becomes an even bigger issue.”
The RedHawk offense will look to build off of a Week 5 performance in which quarterback Gus Ragland was able to move the ball down the field, but failed to consistently convert drives into points against a staunch Notre Dame D.
Miami moved the ball for 377 yards on the Irish, but 90 yards off penalties and turnovers doomed the RedHawk offense. This week, the Red and White have an easier task ahead of them as Bowling Green has given up an average of 35.4 points per game on 511 yards of total average offense.
“We threw the ball, we ran the ball fairly effectively,” Coach Martin said. “I thought we could move the ball all game — we probably had five or six opportunities to put points on the board.”
The Falcon offense has also had trouble turning explosive drives into points on the year — Bowling Green averages 339.2 yards per game but only 16 points per contest. Their passing attack is led by a two-quarterback system with Redshirt sophomore James Morgan and freshman Jarret Doege averaging 238 passing yards per contest while senior running back Josh Cleveland has rushed for 289 yards in five games.
“They’re a lot like us year two,” Martin said of the Bowling Green offense. “They shoot themselves in the foot. They get it going, and then they stop themselves.”
The RedHawk defense will look to take advantage of an offense that tends to self-destruct. The ‘Hawks have forced turnovers in crucial junctions and will get back senior safety Tony Reid who was suspended for the first half of last week’s game due to a targeting penalty.
Coach Martin is looking for his team to continue to focus on themselves and work out the small kinks that have prevented the team from truly breaking through so far in 2017.
“Biggest thing as a team is players keeping it simple,” Martin said. “When we’ve gotten into trouble this year is when kids are trying too much. We talked about it yesterday, it’s going to be a huge emphasis this week — keeping things simple and trusting your teammates.”
The RedHawks will look to move to 2-0 in the MAC Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The game can be viewed on ESPN3 or heard on the Miami Sports Network.