RedHawks focus on ground game, third downs
PREVIEW: MIAMI AT NORTHERN ILLINOIS
Wednesday, Nov. 16 -- 7 p.m. ET -- CBSSN
By MIKE SMITH
The Miami RedHawks had some "regrouping" to do after MAC East leading Ohio erupted in the second half for a 37-21 win over MU at Yager Stadium.
At 4-6 overall, there is no margin for error. The RedHawks need to win both games remaining on their schedule. Before facing interdivisional rival Ball State . . .
. . . in a Nov. 22 finale, Miami must first find a way to pull out a road win Wednesday night at Northern Illinois. That should be a challenge.
Althought the defending MAC champs cannot reach bowl eligibility, they are coming off a road win at Western Michigan. Paving the way for that victory was an offense that ran for 220 yards. While Miami has been a MAC leader in defending the run, the RedHawks defense surrendered 194 yards on the ground versus Ohio.
Head Coach Chuck Martin said this week he is expecting another large dose of ground game from a Huskies program that has is built for running the football. He noted NIU Head Coach Thomas Hammock was himself a very successful running back at NIU and also served as a running backs coach for the NFL Baltimore Ravens, among other stops. Due to injuries, Northern Illinois has also been forced to use four different quarterbacks, somewhat hampering its passing game.
The game will mark the third between the teams to be played for the Mallory Cup, a trophy created to honor the late Bill Mallory, who coached both NIU and Miami to MAC Championships during a hall of fame career. The RedHawks have claimed each of the first two Mallory Cup games in 2018 and 2019.
Miami leads the all-time series 10-9 with the only difference the RedHawks’ neutral site win in the 2010 MAC Championship game.
Here's more on the two teams . . .
NORTHERN ILLINOIS HUSKIES (2-4 MAC, 3-7 OVERALL)
~~ NIU broke a two-game slide and recorded its second MAC win of 2021 with a 24-21 road win at Western Michigan last week. It was a see-saw game as the teams traded leads. The Broncos were in front 21-17 after three quarters, but Northern Illinois pulled out a victory with Justin Lynch's 9-yard run with 56 seconds left.
~~ Northern Illinois outgained the Broncos 353-316.
~~ True freshman walk-on Nevan Cremascoli completed 8-of-17 pass attempts, good for 133 yards, 1 TD and 3 interceptions. Tristen Tewes led Huskie receivers with four catches for 64 yards. Cole Tucker had two receptions totaling 27 yards with one touchdown.
~~ NIU ran the ball 45 times, totaling 220 yards with two TDs. Jaiden Credle was the workhorse, carrying 36 times for a total of 136 yards and a score. Justin Lynch, who also saw time at quarterback ran six times for a total of 83 yards and one touchdown.
~~ John Richardson connected on a 53-yard field goal for the game's first points. With each team scoring three TDs, those three points matched the final difference.
~~ Cremascoli became the fourth NIU quarterback tostart a game this season at Western Michigan. All four quarterbacks - Rocky Lombardi, Ethan Hampton, Justin Lynch and Cremascoli - have thrown for 100-plus yards this season, the first time that has happened at NIU since 2016.
~~ With freshmen Nevan Cremascoli (QB) and Jaiden Credle (RB) making their first starts of the season at Western Michigan, 45 players have started games for the Huskies in 2022, the second highest total among Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
~~ Kyle Pugh is the first NCAA player in FBS history to play college football for eight years. Pugh, who arrived at NIU as a true freshman in 2015, saw his 2017 and 2019 seasons cut short, missed 2021 with a knee injury, and earned the COVID-19 “re-do” for 2020. The two-time All-MAC (2018, 2020) linebacker ranks third on the team with 50 tackles and has 236 career tackles in 44 career games.
~~ The Huskie defense sacked Western Michigan quarterback Treyson Bourguet six times and tallied 11 tackles for loss last week for minus 61 yards.
~~ The NIU offensive line held its fifth opponent without a sack last week as the Western Michigan defense, which came into the game ranked third in the MAC in sacks, did not get to Huskie quarterbacks Nevan Cremascoli and Justin Lynch. Despite starting five different line-ups on the offensive line in 2022, the Huskies rank eighth nationally and first in the MAC in fewest sacks allowed.
~~ The Huskies have attempted seven onside kicks and recovered four on the season.
MIAMI REDHAWKS (2-4 MAC, 4-6 OVERALL)
~~ Since early in the 2016 season Miami has lost back-to-back MAC games just twice inthat span. After losses to Bowling Green and Kent State in mid-October, Miami is now 12-2 following a MAC loss under Martin, dating back to Oct. 15, 2016.
~~ Miami is coming off a 37-21 loss to rival Ohio, which leads the MAC East race. The RedHawks run game struggled to 69 total yards. This contributed to a 1-for-9 showing on third and fourth down conversions against the Bobcats. Meanwhile, Ohio went 10-for-17 on third and fourth down.
~~ Defense dominated in the first half, and the Bobcats took a 10-7 lead to the break. It was a different story in the second half as Ohio got points on every posession.
~~ "When we have a chance to get off the field, we don't; When we've got a chance to stay on the field, we don't," Martin said. "Obviously, we've got to be better on third down."
~~ Junior quarterback Brett Gabbert was injured in Week One and missed six games. Last week was his best passing performance since returning. He completed 20-of-26 passes totaling 244 yards with three touchdowns.
~~ Mac Hippenhammer caught all three Gabbert TD passes and totaled eight receptions for 107 yards.
~~ Gabbert was injured on the final play against Ohio. If he would not be able to go against NIU, freshman Aveon Smith is next in line. Smith, who filled in while Gabbert was out earlier this season, is a very capable runner but can't match Gabbert's experience and passer skill set.
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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.