When preparation meets resolve and execution . . .
By MIKE SMITH
As exam week closes and bowl week approaches, one might call the Miami football situation fluid. You could, however, say that about just about any FBS program these days.
Take the Miami kicking game for instance. Graham Nicholson entered the transfer portal earlier this week and apparently has now decided to return for another season with MU, according to a Miami X (former Twitter) account.
Meanwhile, RS-FR safety Jeremiah Caldwell has entered the portal, according to on3.com
Click Read More to continue . . .
One of Hannibal Smith's favorite lines on the old A-Team tv show was: "I love it when a plan comes together."
College football coaches feel the same way, and Miami Head Coach Chuck Martin recently told the press MU's game plan for Toledo was such a plan.
"We played a really talented team. ... They just don't have any weaknesses," Martin observed. "We had a good plan going in. We talked all week about what gives us the best chance to beat them. ... From the opening kickoff, it went exactly as we had planned."
Getting off to a fast start was important, he noted, adding the opening kickoff return and drive for points allowed MU get a quick lead. After adding a first quarter touchdown, the RedHawks were able to carry a 10-0 lead until almost halftime.
Miami's only deficit was by one point (14-13) for about 11 minutes in the second half. When Nicholson hit his third field goal of the day at 13:27 of the final period, MU reclaimed the lead.
The RedHawks again rode their defense and special teams throughout the day. Martin noted that after shutting out UT in the second half of their first meeting, Miami's defense surrendered just 14 points to Toledo over the last six quarters. The Rockets averaged 32.8 ppg. in MAC play this year. They also head UT to 370 yards of offense and forced two big turnovers. Toledo averaged 421.5 ypg in league action.
"They've been great all year," Martin said of his defense. "but it's different being great against that talented of an offense."
While it required a total defensive effort, one of the keys revolved around linebacker Ty Wise, who "spied" Toledo's start QB Dequan Finn all day. The MAC's 2023 MVP slipped away from Miami's heavy pressure throughout the day, throwing for 273 yards and running for another 33. Those numbers would have been higher if it weren't for Wise doing what Martin called a very "unglamorous job." If Finn "got seven yards (on a play), it could have been 50" without Finn, who has another gear. "As great as (Salopek) is, he can't ... run like Ty."
Watching the RedHawks offense late in the year required a little patience, but that patience was usually rewarded. "Chunk plays" because a key to success, and Martin noted, "Every single drive that we got points on, we got a chunk play."
Aveon Smith's 50-yard fourth quarter sprint was a prime example. It set up Miami's clinching touchdown, stretching a two-point lead to nine points with just 2:41 remaining.
TAKING SHOTS/DRAWING PENALTIES
Another part of the game plan was to "take some shots."
"We took a lot of shots," Martin said. "We didn't get a lot out of them, but we were there to win."
One near miss was a long second half pass to Kevin Davis, who pulled in the pass along the right sideline for what would have been a long gain. Unfortunately for the RedHawks, a penalty wiped out the play.
Miami drew eight penalties totaling 84 yards in the contest. Toledo was hit with nine for 91 yards. The latter included a targeting call against All-MAC defensive lineman Judge Culpepper. The penalty extended a first half Miami drive and also resulted in Culpepper's ejection.
Most of MU's offense came on the ground, and most of that 197 yards came off runs by Smith and Rashad Amos.
As a team, the RedHawks averaged 4.6 ypc and both TDs were provided by Amos. The sophomore carried 15 times for 74 yards (4.9 ypc) with a long of 25. Smith ran 21 times totaling 99 yards (4.7 ypc).
"The stakes were higher. The moment was higher. There was nothing easy out there. ... We put a lot on his plate," Martin said of Smith, who led MU to five straight victories after Gabbert's injury.
Amos, meanwhile, averaged 5.1 ypc and finished 2023 with 895 yards and 12 of Miami's 22 rushing TDs.
READY TO COMPETE
Given their earlier home loss to Toledo (and injury to Gabbert), Toledo was favored in the championship game. While Martin recognized the challenge, he was sure his own team would compete. "Our kids were ready to go, and they were excited, and they were really a confident group," he said, adding "Our energy, our effort (and) our resolve were incredible.
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.