When Eastern Michigan and Miami take the Yager Stadium field Wednesday, it will be a matchup of two programs that have experienced heartbreak during the 2017 campaign.
Much like the RedHawks, the Eagles have a record that is not close to being representative of the talent coach Chris Creighton’s squad has. Of the seven losses Eastern has sustained, six have come by only one score or less. In those six games, the Eagles have lost by an average of 3.83 points with three going into overtime — a storyline all too familiar for Chuck Martin and the Miami RedHawks.
“They’re a really good [Mid-American Conference] team,” RedHawk head coach Chuck Martin said of this week’s opponent. “They’re a pretty complete team that, for whatever reason, their record could easily be flipped — everyone looks at their record and knows they’re a lot better than that.”
The Eagles offense is led by senior quarterback Brogan Roback, who is second in the MAC with 2,456 yards through the air to go along with 16 touchdowns. Accompanying the senior gunslinger are a stable of talented receivers, including senior receiver Sergio Bailey II who has hauled in 47 passes for 772 yards and six touchdowns, good for fourth in the conference.
“Roback’s an NFL prospect,” Martin said of the Eagles signal-caller. “Crazy great arm. Got a lot of [Brett] Farve in him. He can make plays under duress better than any kid I’ve probably ever seen.”
No MAC offense has been more reliant on the pass, as Roback and company have completed a league high 229 passes while averaging 269 passing yards per game. The Miami defense, ranking fifth in MAC pass defense allowing 204.3 yards through the air per game, will be put to the test on Wednesday by the potent Eagles’ air attack. The ‘Hawks defense will look to build upon a solid effort Tuesday, in which they shut down Akron for the majority of the night.
“I think it was our most complete game,” senior cornerback Heath Harding said of his team’s Tuesday performance. “The best part about that is we didn’t do anything special. You know we just did our job and relied on everyone else to do their jobs.”
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles boast numbers similar to the RedHawks — Eastern’s defense has allowed 350.6 yards per game, only six more than that of Miami while allowing a MAC-best 177.7 pass yards per game. The most impressive performance of the Eagles’ defense thus far came against the Ohio Bobcats, allowing only six points in regulation to an offense that averages 40.9 points per game.
“OU’s offense, in four quarters against Eastern’s defense, only got two field goals,” Martin said. “That’s the last time OU’s really been slowed down to be honest — their defense is really strong.”
Luckily for the RedHawks, redshirt junior Gus Ragland will be in action to take on the staunch Eastern Michigan defense. In making his return to action last week, Ragland completed 19-32 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns.
Though Eastern poses significant opposition to the RedHawks, the emphasis of Wednesday night will be the last time seniors such as Tony Reid, Heath Harding will play at Yager Stadium. Despite this class’ record not containing as many wins as they would like, these players have left an undeniable mark on the Miami football program.
“We would like to have more wins,” Harding said. “The group of guys we have on this team is unlike anyone else. Yeah, our wins aren’t there, but the relationships we’ve built in our locker room — you can have championship teams that don’t have the tight knit group we have. I think that’s what we’re most proud of.”
This brotherhood will take the field one final time Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The final home game of the 2017 season will be televised on the CBS Sports Network and broadcasted on the Miami IMG Sports Network.