RedHawk defense faces potent Buffalo offense
By MIKE SMITH
It’s Week Five of the 2021 football season, and that means a full slate of conference games is on tap. It’s time to turn it up a notch -- at least with what you have left after non-conference play.
For a team like the Miami RedHawks, the two-deep took some hard hits early with quarterback Brett Gabbert and tackle Sam Vaughn sustaining what are probably season-ending injuries at Kentucky. Those, along with other injuries, have altered the RedHawks on both sides of the ball. However, it is most pronounced on offense.
Miami’s offense projected to be a pass-heavy unit capable of scoring points in bunches. What the Buffalo Bulls will see is likely a much more deliberate
As for what Miami might see out of Buffalo, last week’s 50-31 UB victory over Eastern Michigan in an early MAC opener, offers some clues. Both teams punted just once apiece in an offensive slugfest. Buffalo rolled up 498 yards with a balanced attack -- 201 yards rushing and 297 through the air.
Miami leads the all-time series 16-8, with the first 10 meetings going to MU. The RedHawks have also taken four of the last six matchups. Buffalo’s last win was a 42-10 home field victory in 2020. The RedHawks returned the favor with a 45-18 win last year in Oxford.
Here’s more on the two teams . . .
RedHawks vs Wildcats: Common bond and common goal -- win!
Miami at Northwestern, 7:30 p.m. (Big Ten)
By MIKE SMITH
When “veteran” Miami University or Northwestern fans hear the name Randy Walker, it typically evokes fond memories. Walker, who played at Miami, coached at both MU (1990-98) and Northwestern (1999-2006). Before passing away in June of 2006, he left a legacy of building both teams and men.
"If you followed college football, you knew what Randy Walker did," current Miami head coach Chuck Walker said this week. "I didn't know Randy Walker, (but) I knew OF Randy Walker. I knew (of) him when he had a great run at Miami, and then I knew what he did at Northwestern."
The two schools have met on the gridiron just once since Walker's death, but they will face off again Saturday at historic Ryan Field in Evanston (IL). Both teams are 1-2, so Saturday is a chance to get back to .500 before entering the grind of conference play.
Martin and his wife grew up in the Chicago area, but he has never been on the Northwestern campus. He said he and the team are looking forward to a hard-fought game between "like-minded" schools. "We're a little beat up ... (but) we're going to do everything we can to get our guys as healthy as we can, ... and then we're going to to after Northwestern. We know the challenge ahead."
ABOUT THE SERIES
Northwestern won the last meeting (2009), 16-6, as defenses ruled most of the day. It also took a 21-3 decision in Oxford just a few months after Walker’s sudden passing in 2006. That game marked the debut of Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald.
However, Miami actually . . .
RedHawk upset bid runs out of gas
By MIKE SMITH
CINCINNATI, OH -- Miami (1-2) built an early 10-0 lead, but the Cincinnati Bearcats (2-1) used strong defense and a potent passing game to come back for a 38-17 win over MU Saturday at Paycor Stadium. It was the 16th straight win in the series for UC, which retains the Victory Bell trophy and now leads the series (60-59-7) for the first time since 1915.
Quarterback Ben Bryant, who spent last year starting at Eastern Michigan before returning to UC, completed 26-of-35 passes for 337 yards with two TDs and one interception to lead the Bearcats offense. Meanwhile, former RedHawk Ivan Pace Jr. topped UC defenders with eight tackles as Cincinnati limited Miami to 183 yards of total offense and 1.9 yards per rush.
Miami freshman Aveon Smith, again starting in place of . . .
RedHawks remain underdogs against rival Bearcats
By MIKE SMITH
While some of the faces have changed, Miami Head Coach Chuck Martin knows his RedHawks will still be facing a top-tier opponent when MU meets area rival Cincinnati Saturday at Paycor Stadium.
Cincinnati has won the "Battle for the Victory Bell" 15 straight years now and is in a position to pull on top in the longest lasting collegiate football series west of the Allegheny Mountains. The series currently stands at 59-59-7.
Both teams are 1-1, losing to strong . . .
Smith tosses 3 TDs as RedHawks defeat RMU
By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH -- Freshman Aveon Smith completed 14-of-21 passes totaling 155 yards with three TDs and one interception in his first start to lead Miami (1-1) past Robert Morris (0-2) 31-14 Saturday at Yager Stadium.
Junior quarterback Brett Gabbert was hurt at Kentucky in Week One action and is out indefinitely. While he acknowledged the RedHawks will necessarily be a "different" team behind a different quarterback, Miami head coach Chuck Martin said Smith showed MU can still play winning football.
"The biggest positive . . .
RedHawks pay heavy price for Kentucky experience
Offense hard hit by injuries
By MIKE SMITH
As Miami football prepares for its only home game of the non-conference schedule, it will spend this week dealing with the aftermath of last week's battle against No. 20 Kentucky.
Miami head coach Chuck Martin confirmed Monday that the RedHawks will be without the services of three offensive players. The most significant loss is junior quarterback Brett Gabbert, a keystone of this year's offense. He left Saturday's game . . .
Second half start sinks MU upset hopes
By MIKE SMITH
LEXINGTON, KY -- As Miami head coach Chuck Martin pointed out this week, the margin for error when facing a ranked SEC team is small.
He turned out to be all-too-right as No. 20 Kentucky used just over a minute of the second half to score 14 points and break open a close game that ended with UK owning a 37-13 season-opening victory.
Miami and the . . .
RedHawks open against talented Kentucky team
Miami at Kentucky (7 p.m.)
Kroger Field - Lexington, OH
By MIKE SMITH
Another season ... another tough non-conference schedule.
For a variety of reasons, its the burden many MAC teams annually face as they open their seasons.
The burden part is two-fold: 1) Losses to major college football programs can work against a team bowl eligibility. 2) Injuries can cost teams key players before even reaching conference play.
On the plus side: 1) The games are often important paydays for "mid-major" programs. 2) Pro scouts get to see MAC players against high-level opponents 3) Many players enjoy the chance to play against major competition in front of huge crowds.
"It's quite an opportunity," Miami head coach Chuck Martin said this week when talking about his team's opener at Kentucky.
"It will be thrilling for everybody involved."
He continued. "I know the kids are excited. Our preparation has been really good."
The Wildcats are coming off a 10-3 2021 record that included a bowl win (over No. 15 Iowa). This year's team is also projected to finish second behind Georgia in the Southeast Conference East Division. Such expectations don't come lightly, and they a reflect respect for talent.
>> Senior quarterback Will Levis is a key component to the Wildcat's offensive success. He completed 66 percent of his passes last year, good for 2,826 yards with 24 toiuchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also ran 107 times, contributing 376 yards and nine scores.
"People talk about (him becoming) a first round pick a year from now," Martain said. "He's big and strong (6-4, 232). We've got a whole cutup (video collage) of him running over SEC linebackers. He's a huge run threat, but ... the NFL (would) like him because he can throw a post route about 75 yards in the air, right on the money. He's got this big strong arm."
>> The Wildcats are reloading a bit at receiver. Wan'Dale Robinson, a dangerous slot receiver, ranked second among SEC receivers in both receptions (104) and receiving yards (1,334). He is now with the NFL's New York Giants, but the 'Cats have brought in several transfers to go with some talented freshmen wideouts.
>> Kentucky's ground game should enjoy more success this year as RB Chris Rodriguez Jr (5-11, 224) returns. However, he will not be available against Miami. Rodriguez was second among SEC runners last year, averaging 6.1 ypg while totaling 1,379 yards. That leaves him 1,134 yards short of Benny Snell Jr's career rushing record. Senior Kavosiey Smoke (5-9, 209) will get the start this week.
>> Although UK lost a pair of linemen to the NFL, Martin said the Wildcats will again be large/talented enough to support the offense. "They do a great job with their play-action games. They do a nice job with their RPO (Run, Pass, Option) games. They do a nice job with their movement."
>> Defensively, Kentucky was among the upper half of SEC teams. Nobody could match Georgia’s 9.5 ppg, but the Wildcats were fourth in scoring defense at 22.1 ppg. They were also fourth in run defense (117.8 ypg) and seventh (219.3 ypg) against the run. “Coach Stoops is a defense guy. They have a defensive mindset,” Martin said. “They played tremendous defense a year ago. They run and hit. They fly around (and) create turnovers. They get after the quarterback and they close space (quickly) on defense. They are really sound and physical.”
>> With an experienced offense and multiple weapons, Miami’s offense should thrive this year. Saturday’s test against SEC-level size and speed, however, will be a good challenge. Avoiding turnovers and establishing favorable ball possession would certainly help the RedHawks cause.
>> Martin noted MU has been building on its offense the last several years and is getting healthy. “Now, we’ve grown … where we’ve got a lot of guys who played a lot of football for us.”
>> The biggest challenge for Miami’s 2022 squad is on defense. Graduation and some key transfers hit the RedHawks hard, especially up front. “We’ve lost a lot of guys … (but) we’re excited about the group. There are a lot of new faces.”
Martin said nobody really knows how some of the less experienced players will respond “under the bright lights,” so he plans on using non-conference play to sort out the two-deep. “We’re going to play a lot of guys. There are still some jobs to be won on the defensive side of the ball -- particularly at the safeties and the nickel positions.” According to Martin, video shows UK likes to test secondaries. “They throw a lot of deep balls. In non-SEC games, they just kept throwing over people’s heads. … You have to be on point mentally to give yourself a chance.”
For a complete preseason preview on Miami, CLICK HERE
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.