By MIKE SMITH
Last Friday's opener at Miami (Fl) was the kind of matchup where the RedHawks needed a near perfect game to hang with an opponent that MU Head Coach Chuck Martin noted has quickly mastered an NIL system that powers so many Power Five programs these days.
"They've got the NIL figured it out, and they've got a great system in place," Martin said. "They're at the front end of doing it the right way."
That said, while the Hurricanes are building an elite arsenal, Martin was disappointed by RedHawk mistakes that opened and/or enhanced UM's opportunities.
"(I'm) disappointed at our . . .
. . . execution -- certainly not the whole game -- but at times," Martain said. "You always have mental mistakes in the first game, but (you can't have) too many mistakes when you are playing a team that talented. You've got to play cleaner football."
"We ran around like chickens with out heads cut off ... at times on defense, which made opportunities for really elite athletes to make big plays, and they took advantage of it."
-- Martin noted the RedHawks "took a physical whooping on both sides of the ball," and the extra day before meeting UMass was very welcome. The availability of several players may be decided late in the week. Unfortunately, tight end Jack Coldiron's injury could be season-ending.
-- Another benefit of the extra day was preparation. "We did more on Sunday than we would on a normal Sunday," Martin said.
-- The RedHawks managed just 51 yards on 25 carries (2.0 ypc) against UM. Nearly half of that came on a 23-yard run by Rashad Amos. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes averaged 6.9 ypc while piling up 250 yards with three touchdowns.
"If they can run the ball for tons of yards and you can't, you're in for a long evening," Martin said, adding, "They've got good players, but we've got to be able to run the ball better."
-- The RedHawks completed 13-of-24 passes against Miami (FL). Brett Gabbert went 12-of-21 for 127yards, while Aveon Smith was 1-of-3 totaling 37 yards. The Hurricanes' completed 20-of-25 for a total of 243 yards with one TD and one interception.
"Their guy had all the time in the world to get the ball off," Martin said. "We didn't get sacked, but we didn't have all the time in the world."
-- Transfer Gage Larvadain was one of the bright spots for the RedHawks. He caught eight balls for a total of 80 yards. However, Javon Tracy (2) was the only other Miami (OH) receiver with multiple receptions.
-- A missed assignment broke contain on the opening kickoff, which Miami (Fl) returned to the RedHawks 44. Other than that, MU's special teams performed well. Graham Nicholson booted a 48-yard field goal and Alec Bevelhimer earned MAC East Division Special Teams Player of the Week honors after averaging 45.2 yards on six punts.
-- After Miami (Fl) scored a touchdown four plays into its first drive, the RedHawks defense limited UM to a pair of field goals prior to Nicholson's field goal. That gave MU a chance to go into halftime down just 13-3. However, the Hurricanes covered 50 yards in 58 seconds to kick another field goal. UM dominated the second half, punting just once and scoring three TDs.
-- Senior Michael Dowell stopped one first half Hurricane drive with an interception. Dowell and the secondary are likely to be busy against a solid UMass passing game this weekend.
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.