Neither the Miami RedHawks nor the Massachusetts Minutemen will be playing for a championship – or even bowl eligibility – Saturday. Each team has just two wins overall and one victory in the MAC win column. How important can one more win be?
Probably pretty darn important. After all, a lack of wins doesn’t make victories less appreciated. Listen to a struggling school sing its fight song after a win and at least for a couple verses, you’d almost think it had been a championship at stake.
Then, too, when the season is coming to an end, coaches and players would like to get some momentum heading into the offseason.
UMass actually has two more games to play – its final home game Saturday against Miami and at Buffalo next Friday. For the RedHawks, Saturday brings down the curtain on 2015. It’s a long ride home if they lose and a happy ride back should they earn a victory.
Here’s more on the two teams:
-- The Minutemen will no doubt recall last year’s meeting in Oxford. It was a contest UMass seemed to have well in hand with a 41-14 lead and less than a minute to go before halftime.
Miami, however, scored one touchdown before the break and added three more over the final two periods to grab a 42-41 lead.
Nonetheless, UMass was on victory’s doorstep when it drove inside the MU 10. Eschewing a field goal try with time running out, UMass went with a pass, which Shadrach Abrokway caught in the right flat. He was tackled at the two and Miami got the victory to end a long losing streak.
-- Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, who completd 35 of 60 with four TDs and two interceptions last year against Miami, is back. He ranks fourth among MAC passers, averaging 257.5 ypg. Frohnapfel has completed 240 of 416 attempts (57.7%) with 16 TDs and 10 interceptions this season.
-- Freshman Marquis Young leads UMass rushers with 106 attempts for 656 yards with three TDs. He combined with redshirt senior Jamal Wilson for 280 rushing yards on 48 carries with three TDs in a recent win over Eastern Michigan. The total of 330 rushing yards marked the first time UMass has eclipsed 300 yards on the ground since 1999.
-- Wide receiver Tajae Sharpe is averaging 110 receiving yards per game. That is seventh best in all of the Division I FBS. He tops the MAC in receptions per game (9.9).
-- Linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox owns 111 tackles, 7 TFL and 2.5 sacks. His 11.1 stop per game is second only to Eastern Michigan’s Great Ibe (12.3 per game). Liebacker Kassan Messiah has 54 tacles, 6.0 TFL and 3.5 sacks. DB Trey Dudley has produced 58 tackles and registered three interceptions.
-- UMass ranks 10th among MAC teams in scoring (21.0 ppg) and is 12th in scoring defense (33.4 ppg).
-- The Minutemen are 12th in rushing defense (217.4 ypg) and 11th in pass defense (261.8 ppg).
MIAMI REDHAWKS 2-9, (1-5 MAC)
-- Last year’s comeback win was largely orchestrated by graduate-senior quarterback Andrew Hendrix. He rushed for one touchdown and completed 32 of 58 passes for 437 yards and four TDs as Miami ended a 21-game losing streak. Hendrix was only available for one year, so the RedHawks were left with a stable of inexperienced quarterbacks in 2015. That inexperience has proved costly on a number of occasions.
-- True freshman Billy Bahl took over the starting QB role around midseason and has struggled at times, especially with turnovers. He threw two touchdowns but also two interceptions in last week’s 37-28 loss to Akron. On the year, he owns seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has also been sacked 19 times.
-- Bahl has completed 43.9 percent of his passes (87/198) for 1,256 yards.
-- Redshirt freshman and alternate QB Gus Ragland has a good set of running schools and last week tried to demonstrate some passing skills, as well. He completed 7 of 10 throws for 69 yards and one touchdown. Ragland also carried the ball 12 times for 65 yards. On the year, he is 20 of 29 for 196 yards (69%) with three TDs and no interceptions.
-- Inconsistency has been a notable characteristic of Miami’s offense this year. Fueled by inopportune penalties and turnovers, along with some other execution issues, the RedHawks have struggled to keep drives moving. Miami ranks 12th in turnover margin. (-1.30), UMass is tied for 10th ( 0.00).
-- The RedHawks running game was almost non-existent when Chuck Martin took over as head coach two years ago. The RedHawks are very young on offense in general and particularly in places affecting the running game (running back, line). There are times when the running game seems healthy (e.g. 291 yards in a 28-13 win over Eastern Michigan) and times when it seems downright ill (e.g. 68 yards, including 65 by Ragland) last week against Akron).
-- Freshman Alonzo Smith leads MU rushers with 98 carries for 389 yards with four touchdowns. Ragland, however, has 331 yards on just 57 carries to rank second on the team in rushing, despite limited opportunities. He also has the RedHawks other two rushing TDs (They have six rushing TDS on the year).
-- Freshman Maurice Thomas has seen very limited action as a running back, but he has the speed to break plays if he gets a crease. He had a 77-yard run against Eastern Michigan and is a constant threat on kick returns. Against Buffalo last week he had two excellent return called back due to penalty. One would have set the RedHawks up near nidfield. The other penalty cost a score as he took the kick all the way to the house.
Sam Martin leads the RedHawk receives with 29 catches for 542 yards. However, he may not be available this week. Tight end Ryan Smith has been a viable weapon and has five TDs in 20 receptions. Rokeem Williams (27 catches, 464 yds, 2 TDs) and Jared Murphy 28 catches, 423 yards, 2 TDs) are also among the top four receivers.
-- Linebacker Kent Kern (82 tackles, 12 TFL, 2.0 sacks) is a key piece for the RedHawks defense. Defensive end JT Jones has 48 tackles, 11.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks). Safety Brison Burris owns 77 tackles and has four interceptions.
-- The RedHawks set a school record with nine sacks against Eastern Michigan. As with the offense, however, QB pressure and successfully defending the pass has been inconsistent.