When Gus Ragland threw an interception for a touchdown giving the Cincinnati Bearcats a win over their rival Miami RedHawks, there was a sense of shock among the Miami community after such an improbable end to a game that looked to be a certain win. Yet hope still remained after that Week Three debacle, as the goal of a MAC championship was still attainable.
A month later, the storyline of losing close games still haunts the RedHawks after a botched snap on the Falcon one-yard line gave Bowling Green their first win at Miami’s expense two weeks ago. Last week, the Red and White looked to be on their way to flipping the script on the 2017 season deep inside Kent State territory late in the game. However, after three missed openings at the end zone, the ‘Hawks missed a chip shot field goal leading to yet another excruciating defeat.
“For us, it’s about mental toughness,” Miami head coach Chuck Martin said of his team’s late game woes. “We’ve got to understand that when the game’s on the line, we have to play our best football.”
With the exception of Miami’s trip to Notre Dame, the RedHawks have had the chance to win every football game they have been a part of — in their four non-Notre Dame losses, the ‘Hawks have gone down by an average of just five points. With the 2017 campaign past the mid-year point, Martin’s squad is looking deep within themselves to turn the year around before it is too late.
“There’s pressure on us now,” Martin said. “We have self-induced pressure. We’re not a very happy unit — I don’t even know if disappointed is the word anymore. It’s irritating how the season has gone.”
With each game turning into a must-win the rest of the way, Miami (2-5, 1-2 MAC) must get back on track this week at home against Buffalo (3-4, 1-2 MAC) if it wants to salvage what’s left of the season and make a push for a bowl berth. The Bulls find themselves tied for third with Miami in the MAC East behind Ohio and Akron.
“Really good on offense,” Martin said of this week’s opponent. “Most week’s they’ve been producing a lot of points to go along with their yardage — they’ve really pushed the ball and the moved the ball against all their opponents.”
Coming off a low-scoring affair at Kent State, the ‘Hawks “Mob” defense will be tested by a team that was able to gain more yardage and out-possess the RedHawk squad a year ago in a 35-24 Miami win.
This year, the Bulls are producing an average of 423 total yards per game and rank 26th in the FBS in total offense. Through the air, the Bulls have accumulated nearly 2,000 yards through seven games and are led by quarterbacks Junior Drew Anderson and Sophomore Tyree Jackson. Though Anderson has been efficient through the air, Jackson is an imposing runner at 6’7’’ and 245 pounds. Joining Jackson in the rushing attack is Running Back Emmanuel Reed who averages four yards per carry.
Defensively, the Bulls are less intimidating on paper — Buffalo has allowed 25.3 points per game and gives up an average of 420 total yards. The epitome of the Bulls’ defensive struggles came against Western Michigan in which the Broncos bested Buffalo in seven overtimes 71-68. Despite the stat line, the Bulls have also played extremely well against tough offenses such as Army, allowing only 21 points to a team that is second in the nation with 378 rushing yards per game.
“They’re playing good football,” Martin said. “They’re probably a little bit like us — they’re having a good year, but there’s a couple other wins out there that they’re one play away from winning.”
Just as the RedHawks have had trouble with close games, the Bulls have only been defeated by four and a half points in their four losses, which of course includes that wild seven-overtime defeat to Western Michigan.
The Bulls and RedHawks are set to kick off at 2:30 Saturday at Yager Stadium with ESPN3 covering the game on TV while the Miami Sports Network carrying the matchup on the airwaves.