Martin calls victory over Ohio 'incredible team win'
By MIKE SMITH
If there is one word to describe Miami RedHawks football over the last two games, reslliant might be the perfect fit.
After losing a potential MAC Player of the Year while falling to MAC West-leading Toledo Oct. 21, the RedHawks rallied around backup QB Aveon Smith to defeat rival -- and preseason MAC East favorite - Ohio in Athens one week later.
I'm really, really pleased and proud of our coaches and players," Miami Head Coach Chuck Martin said Monday during his weekly press conference. "That was an incredible team win."
The schedule is what it is, and that meant Miami would face Toledo and Ohio in back-to-back weeks. After spotting the talented Rockets a 21-3 lead, MU stormed back with 14 third quarter points. However, quarterback Brett Gabbert suffered a season-ending injury late in the period, and the RedHawks offense fizzled after that.
"It takes the starch out of you," Martin said of the ugly injury.
The RedHawks could not . . .
. . . afford a loss at Ohio, so they had just one week to regroup. Fortuntely, Martin noted, MU was in a better position than a year early when it lost Brett Gabbert in Week One. Freshman Aveon Smith had virtually no experience at that time. By the end of 2022, he owned a 5-4 record as a starter.
Although Miami's offense struggled early at Ohio, it eventually took advantage of Bobcat turnover and some short field to grab a 9-6 halftime lead.
Aveon "settled in really nice and really managed our offense . . . and got the ball where it needed to go," Martin said of Smith. "He had a nice solid effort."
Martin noted one of the characteristics of this year's team is its ability to play different styles -- adapting to what other teams do. As the game progressed, Miami embraced its running game.
"Was it in the game plan to run it 46 times? No," Martin said. "It was the way the game flowed and what we thought we needed to do."
That route seemed surprising, given that Ohio's defense ranks first among MAC teams in defending the run. The Bobcats are allowing just 93.2 ypg and were very successful in last year's meeting with Miami. The RedHawks gained just 69 yards rushing on that evening.
"They didn't give up anything on the ground the whole game last year," Martin recalled.
In Saturday's meeting, Rashid Amos had one of the day's biggest plays when he broke through the middle for a 66-yard gain that set up MU's first touchdown -- a score that put Miami in front 13-9 heading into intermission. He would finish the day with 21 carries for 163 yards (7.8 ypc) and a TD. "He really ran at a high level (and was) really physical," Martin said.
As a team, the RedHawks totaled 188 yards rushing, including two scores.
"We said we're going to stay with attacking them in the ground game," Martin said. "If you run the ball haphazzardly against them, they're two damn good. So, we've got to try to wear them down. Maybe (they) can't be worn down, but we've got to at least try We've got to stay after it."
Because the Bobcats have such speedy linebackers, Martin noted, the RedHawks concentrated on running inside the tackles. "It's hard to go East-West against them . . . We felt like we had to go right at them."
Especially after MU extended its lead, the "ugly" runs were successful enough to run clock and extend drives.
"We kind of said all week, this is going to be a knock down, drag out -- not very pretty - game."
-- Miami continues to help itself with solid defense and special teams. Playing turnover-free football and forcing one turnover also helped against Ohio. "We didn't turn it over, and we didn't go backwards," Martin said, adding that with the kick and kick return games shining, opponents are frequently forced to drive 80 yards against a tough defense. Miami's offense, meanwhile, is happy to take advantage of short fields when possible.
-- The RedHawks don't play again until Wednesday, Nov. 8 against Akron. Especially after back-to-back battles against Toledo and Ohio, MU can use a few extra days of rest/recovery time, as well as more rep and prep time for Smith. "Wed'e going to have some guys feel a lot better," Martin said. "We're going to take advantage of that."
-- Asked about Akron, Martin said the Zips' 1-7 record is misleading to some extent. Although they lost four of their first five games, two went to overtime. UA lost to Temple by three to open 2023. They lost to Indiana 29-27 in four overtimes and Buffalo 13-10. More recently, Akron fell to Central Michigan 17-10. A 41-14 loss to Bowling Green, Martin noted, was marked by four Zip turnovers. The two teams were otherwise close in total yardage and UA had more first downs.
The biggest factor, however, is Akron's loss of quarterback DJ Irons. "If you watch the Indiana game, he was making plays all over the field," Martin said. He "is such a dynamic threat" . . . running or passing.
Jeff Undercuffler Jr and Tahj Bullock have seen action with Irons gone. The latter averaged 5.3 ypc rushing the ball against Central Michigan but was just 6 of 17 passing, good for 45 yards with two interceptions. Undercuffler, meanwhile, connected on 10 of 16, totaling 78 yards with one touchdown.
-- "They've got a lot of transfers. They've got a lot of twitch guys and running back," Martain said. The defense is well-coached. The offenses is trying to find its footing."
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.