By MIKE SMITH
Given a young roster, lacking game experience in some key areas, the Miami RedHawks figured to have a tough September.
After winning their opener against FCS foe Presbyterian College, the RedHawks schedule pitted MU against Wisconsin, Cincinnati and Western Kentucky. Such a September slate would be a challenge for many more experienced lineups. It is a particularly tough stretch for the banged up RedHawks, who lost another experienced and talented player Saturday when senior linebacker Josh Dooley sustained a significant injury. There was already some scrambling along the offensive line after Week One action.
(CLICK READ MORE TO CONTINUE . . . )
It isn’t pretty when some of these things come together, and such was the case last week when the RedHawks were blitzed by Wisconsin, 58-0.
As Martin has pointed out, the RedHawks have little room for error against such opponents, and errors can bring down even quality teams. Ask this week’s opponent. The Cincinnati Bearcats, who outgained Temple Saturday by a whopping 557- 296 margin in total offense. Temple, however, walked away with a devastating 34-26 conference win thanks to four interceptions, one fumble and some weak special teams play. The Owls scored 34 points despite having just 13 first downs on the day.
Here’s a look at the two teams – area rivals who will be battling for possession of the Victory Bell.
CINCINNATI (1-1, 0-1 AAC)
- Playing its first game in renovated ($86 million worth) Nipper Stadium, UC opened the 2015 campaign by demolishing Alabama A&M, 52-10.
- Cincinnati, an overwhelming favorite win the American Athletic Conference East Division, stumbled badly in Week Two when it lost, 34-26 to Temple in an early East Division matchup. The Bearcats could hardly have looked past TU, given that the Owls upset Penn State the previous week. Cincinnati turnovers against a swarming defense ultimately sank the ‘Cats.
-- On a given day, UC has the weapons to hurt and opponent with either the pass or run. Because of its balance, it has a synergy for the final offensive product.
-- Junior quarterback Gunner Kiel, who came to UC via Notre Dame, is the centerpiece of Cincinnati’s offense. He loves to throw the ball and is capable of huge games. For example, he torched Toledo for 418 yards passing and six touchdowns in his Bearcat debut last season. He’s the third UC quarterback to throw four or more TDs in at least three games (first four of last year).
Kiel started 13 games last season, and despite some injury issues, completed 233 of 390 for 3,254 yards with 31 TDs and 13 interceptions. That’s a far cry better than the 4:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio he earns thus far in 2015. Several pickoffs last week were tipped balls.
-- MeKale McKay, a 6-5, 210-pound former Arkansas receiver, is a big target who is a constant threat to make a big play. He has just two catches in each of the first two games, but one of them last week went for 88 yards and a score. He totaled 44 receptions for 725 yards and eight TDs in 2014. McKay has 16 career TD receptions, with 13 coming from throws of 15 or more yards.
Shaq Washington leads the team with 13 catches (122 yards), while Alex Chisum has 11 receptions (115 yards).
-- Tion Green (6-1, 230, Jr) and Hosey Williams (5-9, 202, Sr) have combined for 57 carries, 320 yards and three touchdowns.
-- Linebackers Eric Wilson and Kevin Brown, both new starters this year, lead UC in tackles with 13 each. Defensive end Silverberry Mouhon had 10 stops.
-- The Bearcats have four sacks over two games.
-- There is not a whole lot to be gleaned from some of last week’s game statistics. Wisconsin was simply dominant, shutting down the RedHawks offense and jumping out to a 37-0 halftime lead with the help of Miami miscues.
-- MU seemed intent on stopping (or at least managing) the vaunted Wisconsin running attack. Senior quarterback Joel Stave simply switched gears and owned three touchdown passes by intermission. He finished the day completing 19 of 30 for 236 yards, with the three TDs and one interception.
-- Stave’s one interception turned out to be as good as a completed pass. Miami threw an interception on the next play. That was returned to near the MU goal. Two interceptions – one by each team, moved the Badgers 76 yards.
-- Miami threw three interceptions at Wisconsin – two by freshman Billy Bahl and one by senior Drew Kummer.
-- Although they have returned a nice core at receiver this year, the quarterback position is in transition after the departure of All-MAC quarterback Andrew Hendrix.
Kummer, a senior with negligible game experience entering 2015, has started both games and saw the most action against Presbyterian. He looked more comfortable in the second half, finishing with 14 of 19 for 255 yards with two TDs and no interceptions in that game, He was 6 of 14 for 62 yards against Wisconsin,
Bahl is projected as an outstanding passer, but has limited experience in the system as a true freshman and was facing one of the Big Ten’s better defenses last week.
-- Miami has struggled to run in recent years, so it was hardly surprising that the RedHawks struggled against Wisconsin. MU finished the day with -3 yards rushing thanks to 27 negative yards. There was more sign of rushing life in the opener as MU totaled 205 yards on the ground. Redshirt Freshmen Alonzo Smith and Kenny Young combined for 22 carries and 145 yards. Smith scored two touchdowns, showing some potential for the red zone punch Martin seeks.
-- Much depends on the Miami offensive line, which could get a few starters back this week. However, freshmen and sophomores are in backup roles.
-- Freshman Chris Hudson is a big target who should thrive once MU gets its passing game going again. (It thrived with Hendrix at the helm last year). Hudson, however, is learning his trade. Rokeem Williams, who scored on a long TD pass play in the opener, is an experienced target, as is Jared Murphy. The latter had five catches for 101 yards in the opener to lead all receivers.
-- Linebacker Paul Moses leads MU defenders with 17 tackles. Safety Brison Burris has 14 stops.
The “Battle for the Victory Bell” between Miami and Cincinnati is the longest-lasting collegeiate football rivalry west of the Allegheny Mountains. It is the fifth-most played rivalry in Division I/FBS, with 119 all-time meetings and is the oldest non-conference rivalry in the nation.
-- Although Miami leads the series 59-53-7, Cincinnati has won the last nine meetings.
-- The RedHawks have managed to stick close to UC in the last two meetings. MU and Cincinnati were locked in a scoreless tie midway through the fourth quarter two years ago – a season in which MU eventually failed to win any game and struggled mightily on offense. Last year, with a new head coach and quarterback Andrew Hendrix at the helm, Miami fell, 31-24. Not only is Hendrix gone, however, so is cornerback Quinten Rollins. The former Miami basketball player picked off Cincinnati twice last year, a season in which he was eventually named MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Rollins is now with the Green Bay Packers.