Following a season-opening loss against Marshall University (1-0) last Saturday, Miami football (0-1) plays host—for the first time of the campaign, no less—to Austin Peay (0-1) in an attempt to rekindle last season’s form.
The Governors (0-1) will be searching for redemption on the heels of a 26-14 loss to the University of Cincinnati. They played on August 31, never led and lost to one of MU’s biggest rivals.
Coming off the Marshall loss, it’s clear that the one facet of MU’s play needs polishing — special teams gave up two scores.
“Obviously, ST [special teams], disastrous on kickoff teams,” head coach Chuck Martin said. “They [the two touchdowns] were uncontested. We got guys laying on the ground, guys laying — guys nowhere near doing what’s been coached. We had some guys that when the lights went on, when the balls started flying did not compete as hard as they need to.”
Special teams affecting the outcomes of Red and White contest has become somewhat of a theme. The team’s past two games — the bowl game against Mississippi State and this past weekend — have both seen special teams play a deciding role in the final score.
While this cynicism seems justified, coach Martin wants to ensure that it’s all a part of the ebbs and flows that make up the sport.
“In every game, special teams dictate the outcome. They’re always important,” Martin said. “It’s just like offense and defense: you’re going to have bad plays. And on ST, you can’t have egregiously bad plays.”
At the end of the day, though, it’s becoming increasingly clear that excuses won’t be tolerated and the team will be held accountable when losing.
“If you say, ‘well, if you just take away those two snaps…’ That’s what losing teams say every week,” Martin said. “You can’t take away those two snaps.”
Looking ahead to Austin Peay as game day approaches, tensions rise. After all, no one affiliated with Miami wants to see another 0-6 start befall them.
Coach Martin, notes that stopping Kirby Cannon’s program from pulling off the upset could prove tougher than originally thought. The composition of the Clarksville, TN program has changed.
“We spend all this time in the summer watching 12 games from last year, and they really struggled last year,” Martin said. “Structurally, not that much different, but just different players — and it’s two-fold. They’ve added some transfers that are starting. They have returning starters that aren’t starting anymore because they’ve added transfers.”
The Governors clearly shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Offensively, Kirby Cannon’s squad will look for quarterback JaVaughn Craig to handle the load. Last weekend against Cincinnati, the sophomore threw for 63 yards and one touchdown. His passing numbers might lack glitz and glamour, but his 92 yards rushing on 15 attempts more than makes up for his off-day.
Austin Peay boasts a defense that has only gotten better since last campaign, just ask coach Martin.
“They’re bigger, stronger, faster and they’re more confident and they’re more experienced. A lot of their defensive structure is the same, they’re just playing it on a much higher level.”
Spearheading the defensive efforts for the visitors will be defensive back Malik Boynton. In his first contest, the senior Detroit-native chipped in with nine tackles and one forced fumble.
On offense for the RedHawks, look out for wide receiver James Gardner. Against Marshall, he picked up where he left off last season. To the tune of eight receptions and 111 yards, the junior proved to be a handful for any defender tasked with stopping him.
MU’s defense — ranked one of the top-25 in the nation, last year — will be anchored by linebacker Brad Koenig. The Redshirt junior was a part of 9 1/2 tackles and forced one fumble.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Yager Stadium. Coverage of the game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.