Miami to play Big 10 runner-up in season opener
By Coburn Gillies, Assistant Sports Editor
For a program like Miami Football — one that hasn’t produced a winning season since 2010 — optimism can be hard to come by.
However, some positivity arose once Head Coach Chuck Martin took the podium for his first press conference in his third season as coach.
“Fall camp went excellent. The kids have been a lot of fun to be around and have worked hard on both sides of the ball and on special teams. Physically and mentally — probably mentally has been the biggest difference in how much they’re willing to expend energy to learn,” said Martin.
This should serve as encouragement for a program that is just three seasons removed from a winless season — a season that was seemingly one of the factors in the decision to hire Martin, who has improved Miami’s record each year under his tenure.
The onus of Coach Martin’s group seems to be to get better at the game of football each and every day. By playing a Big Ten program like Iowa, the RedHawks get a chance to test themselves against the nation’s best.
“For our kids, the opportunity of going in a Big Ten venue in front of a lot of people with that pink locker room, the long-term success of Iowa in terms of how physical they are; we’re trying to become a physical football team in our own right,” said Martin.
Martin emphasized the developmental opportunity provided by competing against an elite team such as Iowa.
“It’s a good barometer for us as we put our hands on their guys to feel what physical football at the highest level feels like.”
Miami entered its offseason on a high note, coming off a victory over the University of Massachusetts to end their last season at 3-9.
With 17 starters coming back — 10 on offense and seven on defense — and another year under Coach Martin’s belt, this young team expects to show real improvement from last year.
The ‘Hawks offense features sophomore quarterback Billy Bahl, as well as wide receivers junior Sam Martin and redshirt sophomore Rokeem Williams.
On the defensive side of the ball, Martin has an idea of how the inside linebacker situation is going to play out.
“Junior [McCullen], Brad [Earnest] and Paul [Moses] are our starting inside backers.”
For Martin, however, how his team responds when they enter Kinnick Stadium will be a key factor.
“Just to see how the kids respond to the excitement and the nervousness and you’re going into a hostile environment against great players and you’re up against it. How are you going to respond?”
Iowa, on the other hand, enters this tilt looking to move past a disappointing finish to its 2015 campaign.
Kirk Ferentz’s team enters the contest on the heels of two consecutive losses — to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship and Stanford in the Rose Bowl — at the end of last season. Before those losses, Iowa was undefeated and eyeing a spot in the College Football Playoff.
The Hawkeyes’ offense is led by returning senior quarterback C.J. Beathard, who threw for 2,809 yards, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. On the defensive side of the ball, All-American senior cornerback Desmond King leads the Hawkeyes after snagging eight interceptions last season.
Saturday’s game will take place in Iowa City. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m., and the game will air on ESPNU.