Bulls are big hurdle in MU stretch run
Ball security among keys for Miami offense
BUFFALO at MIAMI
Wednesday, Nov. 15 -- 7 p.m. ET
Yager Stadium -- Oxford, OH
The RedHawks have already gained bowl eligibility, but a win against Buffalo would lock up the MAC East title and a spot in the MAC Championship game, which would be a rematch of MU vs. Toledo.
It wasn't pretty, but MU took care of business last week when it shut out Akron 19-0. At least offensively, Miami may need another gear to handle a Buffalo team that can be tough on a given day. The Bulls led Ohio at halftime last week and limited Ohio to 236 yards through four quarters. UB’s defense is . . .
. . . allowing 15 points and an average of 277 yards of total offense in MAC games this season, and MU's offense has been stressed since losing quarterback Brett Gabbert.
Miami leads the all-time series 16-9 over Buffalo, including capturing the first 10 matchups between the teams. This will be the 25th consecutive year the programs have met. The RedHawks are 10-3 vs. the Bulls in Oxford.
In last year's meeting, Buffalo scored a touchdown with 31 seconds remaining to edge MU 24-20. The RedHawks controlled the stat sheet, but the Bulls rallied late to earn the win.
BUFFALO (3-7, 3-3 MAC)
-- The Bulls put themselves in the MAC East race by winning three of their first four MAC games. However, they have since hit a tough section of the schedule. Facing Toledo, Ohio and Miami in succession, Buffalo lost the first two and is an underdog against Miami.
-- The Bulls limited Ohio to three first half possessions, all of which finished with punts.
-- Cole Snyder and CJ Ogbonna both saw action at quarterback against Ohio. Snyder completed 14 of 21 passes totaling 171 yards. Ogbonna threw just two passes, completing both for a total of 10 yards. However, he ran 12 times for a total of 47 yards and Buffalo's only touchdown.
-- Ron Cook Jr. carried 16 times for 48 yards. Overall, the Bulls gained 114 yards on the ground, averaging 2.8 ypc.
-- Bobby Curry and Ron Cook Jr. combined four eight catches and 91 yards.
-- The Bulls have been very good about ripping the ball way from their opponents this season. Buffalo has forced 11
fumbles over the last seven games, led by Max Michel, who has four, and Red Murdock, who has three. Michel and
Murdock rank one and two in the MAC in forced fumbles.
-- The Bulls forced four turnovers against Toledo. Three of those came on strips of the ball from runners.
-- .With four forced fumbles on the season, not only does Max Michel lead the Mid-American Conference, he is two shy of the single-season program record of six set by Anthony Scott in 1996.
-- In MAC games, UB opponents are a combined 20-of-76 (.263) on third down.
-- Safety Devin Grant has been posting eye-popping numbers in MAC play this season. In MAC games, the Bulls safety
had 44 tackles, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries, a blocked kick and a blocked punt. He tied an FBS-era school record with three interceptions and became the first player in program history to return two picks for touchdowns against Central Michigan.
-- The Bulls are in search of their first win at Miami since 2015 when they defeated the RedHawks, 29-24.
MIAMI (8-2, 5-1 MAC)
-- The RedHawks only loss this year was against MAC West champion Toledo. Starting QB Brett Gabbert sustained a season-ending injury during a third quarter RedHawks rally of that game.
-- MU regrouped after Gabbert's injury to defeat rival Ohio in a critical MAC showdown in Athens. The RedHawks then shut out Akron 19-0 last week.
-- Last week's matchup was a defensive struggle, with Miami gaining just 236 yards and Athens totaling 212.
-- The shut out was Miami's second of the season - a feat last accomplished in 1998.
TURNING UP THE PRESSURE
-- The RedHawks' defense registered six sacks and seven TFL. Yashyn McKee and Ty Wise led MU with 10 tackles apiece. Wise had three sacks on the evening. McKee and Salopek picked off one Akron pass apiece. Salopek’s interception was the first of his career.
-- Miami’s defense ranks first in the MAC and 10th nationally with 31 sacks this season. A majority of those sacks have come from Miami’s edge players. Caiden Woullard (8.0) , Wise (7.0) and Brian Ugwu (6.5) all rank in the top-5 in the MAC and are 14th, 23rd and 34th in the nation.
-- Offensively, the ground game carried MU. Miami finished with 186 yards rushing, accounting for 78 percent of the team's offensive yardage and both touchdowns.
-- Sophomore Rashad Amos recorded 15 carries for a total of 118 yards (7.9 ypc) with two TDs. His 40-yard dash down the home sideline late in the third quarter strengthened MU's grip on the lead.
-- Akron broke through to block one Miami PAT. It was the first kicking miss of the year. Graham Nicholson hit both field goals and is 19 of 19 with a long of 52. However, he is now just 29 of 30 on PATs.
-- Punter Alec Bevelhimer leads the MAC with a 46.7 yard average, Kevin Davis is ninth in the league with a 20.8 yard kickoff return average and Cade McDonald’s 13.0 punt return average ranks atop the MAC.
-- Gage Larvadain, a transfer from Southeast Louisiana, was a critical cog in Miami's early season success, teaming up with Gabbert for several huge plays. Larvadain, however, was hurt in Week Four and missed time. With Gabbert hurt, his numbers have dropped, but he still led MU with four catches (29 yards) against Akron.
Larvadain was banged up late in the game last week, and Head Coach Chuck Martin said the receiver's availability for Buffalo could be a game-time decision.
-- At this week's press conference, Martin was asked if the Buffalo's ability to force fumbles, he said the team was well-aware of it and is emphasizing ball security in practices.
-- Another area of preparation is Buffalo's use of dual quarterbacks. The Bulls rotated QBs last week against Ohio. Cole Snyder handled most of the passing, while CJ Ogbonna passed just twice and ran 12 times for 47 yards and a TD. Martin said the RedHawks will be prepping for both options.
-- At times, Miami’s defense has surrendered yards between the 20’s, but once the opposition gets to the red zone, the RedHawks have turned them away. In 28 trips inside Miami’s 20-yard line, the RedHawks have allowed just 13 touchdowns.
Miami will honor 22 seniors on Wednesday: Brendan Beattie, Luke Bolden, Anthony Collier, Jack DeJarld, Michael Dowell, Orin Edwards, Austin Ertl, Kobe Hilton, Ben Jackson, Miles Marshall, Yahseen McKee, Dominic Nardone, Jalen Peterson, Camden Rogers, TJ Rush, Caleb Siech, Aveon Smith, Jacob Snell, Ben Tarpy, Brian Ugwu, Joe Wilkins and Ty Wise
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.