There may have been over 100,000 people on hand last week as the Miami RedHawks took on Michigan at the Big House, but this week’s matchup against Cincinnati doesn’t figure to be a whole lot easier. In fact, based on UC quarterback Gunner Kiel’s debut, at least some parts of the RedHawks challenge may be even tougher.
Kiel, nephew of former Notre Dame and NFL quarterback Blair Kiel, was a very highly-rated prep player who landed at Cincinnati after a somewhat zig-zag route that passed through Notre Dame. Ironically, that is from where Miami’s new head coach, Chuck Martin, and several of his players, have come. The short list includes senior Andrew Hendrix (himself a former Cincinnati area prep star at Moeller H.S.).
Although the Rockets rallied to close within seven early in the fourth period, Cincinnati tacked on 17 more points to seal the win. Kiel, a 6-4, 208-pound sophomore, led the way, completing 25 of 37 for a whopping 418 yards and six touchdowns. The latter tied a school record.
Kiel will be the second prolific passer Miami has faced the season. The RedHawks opened their season against Marshall and QB Rakeem Cato. The Thundering Herd got out to a quick start, leading 23-3 by halftime. Miami then rallied with 17 points and twice pulled within eight before falling 42-27.
The offensive rally (24 second half points) and a better showing on defense over the final two quarters against a C-USA favorite, likely buoyed the confidence of a Miami team coming off a winless season and making its first outing under a new coaching staff.
The confidence took a hit the following week, however, when MU extended its FBS longest losing streak by losing at home to Football Championship Subdivision member Eastern Kentucky. EKU put the winning points on the board with a trick play in the final minutes, but Miami did itself in with six turnovers, two missed field goals and a slew of penalties.
The RedHawks have six more penalties than even the nearest MAC team and are 11th among 13 MAC squads in penalty yards (69.3 ypg). Northern Illinois and Bowling Green average more (75.0) but each of those teams are prolific scorers.
Miami, which had negligible passing yardage last year, is once again moving the football through the air. Hendrix, in fact, is second among MAC quarterbacks in passing yardage. (280.7 ypg). However, he is outside the top 10 in pass efficiency and has five interceptions to go with his five TD passes. The picks, a 48.0 completion percentage and red zone problems may be related to several other Miami issues:
1. Poor down and distance due to an inability to effectively run the ball (12th MAC).
2. Poor down and distance due to penalties
3. Struggles in protecting the quarterback – particularly from blitzes. Miami ranks last in the MAC in sacks allowed (10). However, it surrendered just one sack and one TFL against Michigan.
Turnovers have also been a problem (particularly against EKU), but Miami actually took advantage of a couple last week at Michigan. Both MU scores came on short fields after Wolverine turnovers.
Hendrix has several good targets including seniors Dawan Scott, who had one TD last week, and David Frazier, as well as sophomore Rakeem Williams.
Defensively, Miami ranks fifth in total defense (390.7 ypg). The RedHawks are ninth against the run and fourth in defending the pass. MU is tied for second in sacks (eight). Defensive end Bryson Albright is an important part of that pressure. Albright, linebacker Kent Kern and D-lineman J’Terius Jones all have two sacks. Kern leads the team in tackles (31) and TFL (4.0).
Last year’s 118th Battle for the Victory Bell in Oxford turned into a defensive struggle. Cincinnati finally broke a scoreless tie by scoring twice in the last 4:55 to again claim the bell.
Given the principles involved in this meeting, both offenses should have better days.
-- The very first Miami-UC football game (Dec. 8, 1888) resulted in a scoreless tie.
-- Of the 118 meetings, 50 have been decided by seven points or less. There have been seven ties.
-- Miami leads the all-time series 59-52-7, but the Bearcats have won the last eight meetings.
- Cincinnati, which is celebrating homecoming, is playing all its home games this year at Paul Brown Stadium – home of the Cincinnati Bengals. Nippert Stadium, the Bearcats’ usual home, is undergoing renovation.
- Miami players with Cincinnati connections atop the two deep chart for this week are senior guard Jeff Tanner, senior tight end Alex Welch, senior quarterback Andrew Hendrix and defensive end Bryson Albright. Cornerback Quinten Rollins hails from just up the road in Wilmington.
-- The Miami-UC battle is the longest-lasting collegiate football rivalry west of the Allegheny Mountains. It was first played in 1888 and is the oldest non-conference rivalry in the nation.