Miami University football (1-2) ends its non-conference schedule against a Western Kentucky University team that beat Vanderbilt in its season-opener and came within three points of beating Indiana University last week.
Quarterback Brandon Doughty, who is in his sixth year of eligibility due to medical reasons, has NFL scouts buzzing, as he ranks third in the nation with 1,134 passing yards and a 71.9 completion percentage. He leads a Hilltopper offense that averages 30.0 points per game.
“Besides when I was a second-year coach at Notre Dame and I had to defend [Indianapolis Colts and former Stanford University quarterback] Andrew Luck two years in a row, which was not a whole lot of fun at all … this is the next best quarterback that I’ve ever seen,” head coach Chuck Martin said Monday.
“He never gets sacked. He evades pressure … he throws the ball to guys who aren’t even expecting it, but he throws it in such a good spot they catch it anyways … I’ve nicknamed him Harry Houdini.”
Miami defensive back Brison Burris had a similar comparison.
“He’s like a magician out there with the ball,” Burris said. “But we just gotta be in position to make plays. That’s how you get beat by him – being out of position.”
Doughty has a receiver corps of six, who average at least 10 yards per catch (minimum five catches). Taywan Taylor leads the group with 333 yards and two touchdowns on 17 catches, and Tyler Higbee is close behind with 299 yards and two TDs on 22 catches.
However, the running game is another story.
The Hilltoppers (2-1) average 88.7 rush yards per game, as opposed to their 378.0 passing yards per game. WKU lost its leading rusher Leon Allen with an injury in the second game of the season. His replacement, redshirt freshman D’Andre Ferby, has totaled 111 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries.
Burris said the lack of balance in the WKU offense isn’t necessarily an advantage.
“We just gotta read our cues and make plays,” Burris said. “They’re real similar to UC. They play fast, they play hard. We just gotta read our cues and make plays.”
On the other side of the ball, WKU’s defense ranks eighth-worst in the country with 1,604 yards per game allowed.
It gives up 225 rushing yards per game, which helps Miami’s three-headed monster at running back.
MU’s redshirt freshman Alonzo Smith leads in rushing, notching 153 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. Redshirt freshmen Kenny Young and Leonard Ross have 124 yards on 19 touches and 85 yards on 21 touches, respectively.
“I think those guys are gonna be a key part of what we’re doing this week,” redshirt senior quarterback Drew Kummer said. “Every single one of them. We gotta push them around on the line, we gotta move bodies. I think our running game could be really good this week.”
Though Miami’s 37-33 loss to Cincinnati last week showed promise, the RedHawks had their struggles.
The offense went through seven drives without a first down, was 5 of 18 on third down conversions and had three points on four turnovers.
“We gotta stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” Kummer said. “I think four of those series were just us making mistakes on first down, and that set us behind. We gotta get the ball moving on first down.”
The first-ever meeting between MU and WKU kicks off at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Bowling Green, Kentucky.