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 . . .
. . . leads the all-time series 6-3, with the 1995 battle being particularly memorable. MU scored 23 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and pulled out 30-28 victory after Chad Seitz hit a field goal as time expired.
The Wildcats had just upset No. 9 Notre Dame one week earlier, and Northwestern did not lose another regular season game that year. Its Big Ten title put NU in the Rose Bowl.
Miami’s largest actual point margin of victory was in 2003, when the Ben Roethlisberger-led team downed Northwestern 44-14.
NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS (1-2)
➤ The Wildcats opened 2022 with a 31-28 victory over Nebraska at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. Trailing 28-17, Northwestern scored the game’s final two touchdowns to pull out the win. Since that time, NU dropped back-to-back games to Duke (31-23) and Southern Illinois (31-23). In the Duke came, NU fumbled one-yard short of the goal line in the final seconds.
➤ Last week, the Wildcats and Salukis were locked in a 17-all tie early in the fourth quarter. Southern Illinois scored a go-ahead touchdown with 12:28 remaining and NU fumbled on its next two possessions. Each team scored one more TD for the final 31-24 score.
➤ Overall, Northwestern is minus-three in the turnover ratio.
➤ The Wildcats are averaging 3.7 yards per carry and 152.3 rushing yards per game.
➤ Miami head coach Chuck Martin noted junior running back Evan Hull would be a significant part of the RedHawks preparations this week. Hull’s broad skill set has enabled him to lead Northwestern in both rushing (64 carries, 308 yards, 4.8 ypc, 3 TDs) and receiving (27 catches, 301 yards, 1 TD). "He's had 91 of the (Wildcats') 215 touches," Martin said. "They're going to get him the ball ... in a bunch of different ways. You have to be mindful when a guy's got 40 percent of the touches."
➤ Evan Hull is the only player in FBS since 2000 to have 300+ receiving and 300+ rushing yards through a team's first three games. Hull leads the nation with an average of 217.33 all-purpose yards per game. Hull leads all FBS running backs and ranks 7th among all players with 27 receptions this season. He is also tied for the 11th most rush attempts in the country with 64.
➤ Against Duke, Hull totaled 14 catches for 213 yards with a receiving touchdown and 17 rushing attempts for 65 yards and a rushing touchdown.
➤ OT Peter Skoronski was named to Pro Football Focus' (PFF) Week 3 Team of the Week for his performance against Southern Illinois, his second Team of the Week recognition of the season. Per PFF, Skoronski was the only OL in the country in Week 3 to record grades of 85+ for both pass and run blocking.
➤ QB Ryan Hilinksi ranks 1st in the Big Ten and 2nd in the nation in completions per game (30.0). His 90 completions through three games are the most by any Big Ten QB since at least 2000. Hilinski also ranks Top-10 in the nation in Passing Yards (963; 10th) and Passing Yards per game (320; 7th). Hilinski threw for 300+ yards in each of the first two games this season. He is the first Northwestern quarterback to pass for 300 or more yards in back-to back games since Clayton Thorson in the 2018 season.
MIAMI REDHAWKS (1-2)
➤ The RedHawks lost junior quarterback Brett Gabbert due to injury late in Miami’s opener at Kentucky. He is not expected back in the near future.
➤ Redshirt freshman Aveon Smith has moved in as starter at quarterback. Thus far, he has completed 53.2 percent of his passes, good for 284 yards with five TDs and two interceptions. He has been sacked five times.
➤ "Any time you are that inexperienced at quarterback, it's not going to be as smooth (on offense) as you would like it to be," ... but "it's becoming real easy to rally around him. " Martin said of Smith
➤ The RedHawks top receiver is former Penn State wideout Mac Hippenhammer. Now in his second year at MU, Hippenhammer has 15 catches for 199 yards and three of Miami’s five receiving touchdowns.
➤ Tight end Jack Coldiron, who was also injured at Kentucky, returned last week and caught a touchdown pass in the RedHawks 38-17 loss to Cincinnati.
➤ Miami’s lone victory so far was a 31-14 home win against Robert Morris.
➤ While the RedHawks have struggled to score points (20.3 ppg, tied for ninth - MAC), the RedHawks are third in scoring defense (29.7 ppg), first against the run (75.7 ypg) and fifth in passing defense (274.3 ypg).
➤ Miami’s defense is second among MAC teams in sacks (9) and first in interceptions (4).
➤ Despite deep losses along the defensive line, Miami is again strong against opponent run games. The RedHawks are allowing just 75.7 ypg and 2.7 ypc. -- tops in the MAC in both categories.
➤ Linebacker Ryan McWood (31 tackles) is second among MAC defenders.
➤ Caiden Woullard (3) and Ty Wise (2) are among the MAC sack leaders after three weeks.
➤ Martin noted Miami has a strong alumni base in the Chicago area, so he is expecting to see a contingent of RedHawk fans among the assembled.
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.