The stars appeared to align for the Miami RedHawks (1-2, 0-0 Mid-American Conference) last Saturday night. In front of a packed Yager Stadium, the ‘Hawks were playing well, feeding off the nighttime crowd and looked to be on their way to their first win over the University of Cincinnati since 2005. However, after a late interception for a touchdown, the buzzing crowd turned silent as the Bearcats walked away with their 12th straight victory over Miami.
“We had an incredible crowd,” RedHawk head coach Chuck Martin said Monday. “That loss would be excruciating in any way shape or form no matter who you play, but the fact that it was UC makes it even more difficult to swallow.”
Despite the difficulty of taking such a tough defeat, the Red and White are forced to move on if they plan to live up to the hype surrounding this year’s team.
“In life, and this is the hardest thing to do, you’ve got the feeling in your stomach that makes you want to vomit,” Martin said. “So now how do you react to that feeling?”
Martin continued by saying that the goal of his football team is not to pretend they do not care, place blame on others or feel sorry for themselves, but rather look inwardly to acknowledge one’s own mistakes to ensure similar issues are not repeated.
“Central Michigan could give two you-know-whats about how we feel,” Martin said. “You have to move on right away, even though it’s impossible to move on right away.”
Looking ahead to this Saturday, the Central Michigan Chippewas (2-1, 0-0 MAC) will look to avenge last year’s 37-17 defeat in Oxford in which the RedHawks amounted 436 yards of total offense, 218 of which came on the ground. However this year, Coach Martin predicts a revamped Chippewa team.
“Big, physical, and fast on defense,” Martin said of this week’s MAC foe. “45 [Joe Ostman] is one of the best defensive players in this league. He was a year ago. Number 8 [Malik Fountain], their middle linebacker, is one of the best defensive players in this league. Number 7 [Amari Coleman], their corner, is one of the best players in the league.”
This highly praised defense has been up and down in the opening three weeks of the 2017 campaign. CMU held Rhode Island and Kansas to 27 points while struggling to contain Syracuse, an opponent which put 41 points on the scoreboard at the Chippewas expense. To go along with senior Ostman, junior Fountain and senior Coleman, junior linebacker Alex Briones has been good for 28 tackles — two of those coming for a loss — as well as a pair of interceptions.
On the other side of the ball, Central Michigan is led by transfer Shane Morris, a highly recruited player out of high school who transferred from Michigan to Central Michigan. In just three games, senior Morris has completed 57.6 percent of his attempts for 970 yards and eight touchdowns.
“They have a transfer quarterback who was a four- or five-star kid out of high school,” Martin said. “He was one of the top sophomores in the nation when he committed to Michigan. He’s now a grad-transfer at Central and he’s already thrown for 400-some yards against Kansas.”
Accompanying Morris are senior receivers Mark Chapman and Corey Willis who average 102 and 91.5 yards receiving, respectively thus far. Sophomore running back Jonathan Ward will carry the torch for Central on the ground.
“They really spread the field,” Martin said. “They really stretch you horizontally with their formations and then they either whip it outside, whip it vertically or try to run the ball if there’s not a guy lined up in the box.”
However, the defense of Miami has been difficult to pass on in 2017, only giving up 180 yards in the air per game. Look for Redshirt senior Heath Harding, senior Tony Reid and the rest of the RedHawk defensive backfield to be forced to make plays in space early, with runs coming later in the direction of Redshirt junior linebacker Brad Koenig and company.
The RedHawks and Chippewas will both look to start the MAC season 1-0 at 3:30 p.m. in Mt. Pleasant. The game can be watched live on ESPN3 or heard on Miami Sports Network.