Simply put, the success of the 2018 Miami football season hinges on the result of tomorrow night’s 94th meeting between the RedHawks and the 6-3 Ohio Bobcats.
As is always the case in the “Battle of the Bricks,” tensions will be high between bitter in-state rivals.
But there are more than bragging rights on the line Wednesday at 7 p.m. With a Miami win, the RedHawks would hang on to a sliver of hope to win the MAC East and remain in the hunt for bowl eligibility.
A loss would keep the RedHawks out of the post-season conversation altogether.
If you add in the fact that fifth-year head coach Chuck Martin has still yet to defeat either Cincinnati or Ohio, then this game all of a sudden has major implications for 2018 and the overall trajectory of the RedHawk football program.
“This is our season right here,” Redshirt sophomore receiver Jack Sorenson said. “We have to beat Ohio to stay relevant.”
Unfortunately for Martin, his team is trending in the wrong direction following consecutive road losses to Army and Buffalo. The Bobcats head to Yager Stadium riding a three-game winning streak during which they have outscored opponents by an average of 53-14.
The Bobcat offense leads the MAC in yardage, averaging 463 yards per game while scoring 40.6 points per game behind Junior quarterback Nathan Rourke who leads the team in both rushing and passing.
This is bad news for a RedHawk defense with injuries to key starters including Nate Trawick, Junior McMullen and DeAndre Montgomery.
“Obviously, we’re depleted on defense,” Martin said. “There’s really no one coming back.”
Last week at Buffalo, the RedHawk were torched for 505 total yards by the MAC East-leading Bulls with 358 of those yards coming through the air in a 51-42 defeat. This week, Rourke and co. present a similar challenge to the struggling RedHawk defense.
Despite the bad showing at Buffalo, the Miami defense still ranks fourth in the MAC in total defense and third in total defense, surrendering just over 150 yards a game on the ground.
Wednesday, the strength of the RedHawk front seven will be tested by a Bobcat rushing attack that has run for 2,124 yards in 2018.
In the midst of defensive struggles, the RedHawks have still struggled to close out tight football games down the stretch. Miami has yet to win a game decided by one score since 2016, leaving many in the locker room upset.
“I think our kids are frustrated,” Martin said. “We haven’t been able to finish out close games.”
The RedHawks have played 22 football games since their last one possession victory. Five football seasons have passed since Miami’s last victory over the Bobcats. Chuck Martin is still looking for that elusive victory over an in-state rival. The team is banged up and coming off an embarrassing loss on the road.
To save the season, the RedHawks will need to put all of that aside tomorrow night. The RedHawks can make right Wednesday night with a victory, kickoff is 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.