After a three-game skid, Miami football (3-5, 2-2) found redemption in their decisive 24-14 victory at home over the University of Buffalo. Now, in a Tuesday night affair, the ‘Hawks are pitted in a road matchup against in-state conference rivals, Ohio University (6-2, 3-1) in an effort to win consecutive contests for the first time this season.
As it stands, the Red and White maintain a fifth place position in the Mid-American Conference’s East Division, with Kent State the only team trailing. In fourth place in the East, OU holds a firm grip, though this could change once the clock hits 0:00.
With this matchup bearing massive standings-related implications, the Bobcats are fortunate to have discovered their usual winning form. Winners in four of their last five — including two straight 48-point performances — the Green and White are searing as the Battle of the Bricks approaches.
For Miami’s head football coach Chuck Martin, this recent success is a testament to Ohio’s longtime consistency, and it’s because of Frank Solich — who’s held the head coaching post since 2005.
“There’s tons of coaching changes. Coaches come and go so frequently in this league that no one has the consistency to keep — you’ve seen it recently in our league — but Frank’s been there awhile. He’s got a great staff. He’s one of the top football coaches in the country.”
It’s this token of regularity that piqued Miami’s interest when Martin took the job, and it’s a program that the ‘Hawks model themselves after.
“We have OU on the horizon; Frank’s been there a long time. He built this thing to where they play consistent football, year in, year out,” Martin said. “Since we’ve been here, we’re trying to become more like them. They were kind of the benchmark of consistency.”
This campaign, the RedHawks have been plagued by inconsistent play — much of which is due to injury. The extended week allows those with minor injuries to heal, to the point where some might be ready to play, including team leader, Redshirt junior quarterback Gus Ragland.
“I think there’s a chance Gus could play, it’s too early to tell. Again, I’m not just throwing it out there to make OU think. I think there’s a legitimate chance that he could play,” Martin said. “They’d said three or four weeks, when the initial injury. We’re right in that three-to-four-week range.”
Ragland isn’t the only key player for the ‘Hawks that could return to the field. It’s been rumored that
Redshirt senior cornerback Heath Harding could also make his return in Athens.
“Heath [Harding] didn’t even dress Saturday, so he didn’t practice last week. We’re hopeful in ten days, we get Heath back, but if we played tomorrow, he would not be playing,” Martin said. “For me, it’s too early to tell, but the doctors and trainers are optimistic.”
Segueing from one defense to the other, it’s clear that the defensive side of the ball is a strength for OU. The past three contests have seen the Green and White squeeze their opponents to an average of 18 points per game. Miami has taken notice.
“They have a lot of experience on defense. A lot of Redshirt seniors, Redshirt juniors — lot of guys who’ve been in their program for four or five years. They know their defense very well and they’re very talented players,” Miami senior tight end Ryan Smith said. “From previous experiences, they are physical. They are fast. They fly around and make plays.”
Preparing for such a defense is daunting enough, but then dealing with the aspect of playing in a highly hostile rivalry game is enough to make any stomach churn, though MU seems ready.
“It’s one of our biggest games of the year and it’s our next game and it’s exciting and everybody has an idea of what to expect — they’re a very good team,” Smith said. “They’ve been putting up a lot of points on offense, but we’re more than capable and ready to approach this week like we did last week.”
Kickoff is scheduled for Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. at Peden Stadium in Athens, OH. The contest will televised live on ESPN2 or ESPNU.