It's time for a pop quiz, but don't worry - it's true or false!
TRUE OR FALSE - The Miami RedHawks have an active seven-game win streak against their next opponent.
You might have to click Read More (at right, below) to find out for sure, but here is some background (not that you needed any help, right?) on the upcoming battle.
Miami faces Eastern Michigan in a 2:30 p.m. game Saturday at Yager Stadium in Oxford. Both teams have one win to their credit this season. Miami defeated Football Championship Series opponent Presbyterian 26-7 in the 2015 opener. Eastern Michigan posted its win a week later when it knocked off Wyoming on the road, 48-29. The Cowboys, in turn, have just one win to date (Nevada, 28-21).
Suffice it to say:
1. Both MU and EMU have traveled a rocky and winding road since their last victory.
2. Both teams should be close to ravenous for another victory. There will be no need for a rivalry trophy come Saturday.
Now for the quiz answer ... Click Read more ...
Miami not only holds a 17-4 advantage in the series, it has won the last seven encounters. The most recent was in 2010, when MU held on for a dramatic 28-21 victory in Oxford. The RedHawks went on to win a MAC championship that year before falling on some hard times.
Of course, Eastern Michigan knows all about hard times. Like Miami, it is rebuilding. Both are led by a second year head coach. However, there are some differences between the two programs, and those differences will likely be part of the story when they meet Saturday.
Eastern Michigan ranks fifth in scoring offense (26.3 ppg), while Miami is last at 15.4 ppg. EMU employs a strong run game (4th MAC) as a key to its offense. Miami, while not ranked well in passing, tends to move the ball better when the passing game is clicking.
Here’s more on the two teams, along with quotes from coaches Chuck Martin (Miami) and Chris Creighton (Eastern Michigan).
MIAMI REDHAWKS (1-8, 0-5 MAC)
-- The hosting RedHawks haven’t been at home much, but they seem to have played better on the Yager Stadium grounds. The only lopsided loss was to Northern Illinois (45-12). In addition to beating Presbyterian, MU lost to Cincinnati by four points on a late touchdown and, most recently, fell by five against Buffalo.
-- Miami is an extremely “young” team, but this is particularly true on offense. Promising true freshman Billy Bahl was moved into the starting quarterback role mid-season and has taken his lumps. But after throwing seven interceptions in one two-game stretch, Bahl tossed one pick against Northern Illinois and none in the last two games.
-- Protection for Bahl has been inconsistent, and so has the freshman’s passing. He hit 50 percent of his passes (13 for 26) against Western Michigan and 36.1 percent (13 for 36) last week against Buffalo. He did, however, manage to throw two touchdowns against the Bulls and has the ability to go long if given time.
-- While Eastern Michigan has “hung it’s helmet” on the run game even before Creighton’s arrival, Miami has struggled mightily on the ground since 2010, ranking near the FBS bottom on several occasions.
There are signs that is changing as Martin strives to build MU’s line on both sides of the ball. For now, there is improvement, but there is also inconsistency. Redshirt freshmen Alonzo Smith (5-9, 225) and Kenny Young (5-10, 200) are the workhorses. Speedy true freshman Maurice Thomas is getting some reps there, but is making more of an impact on kickoff returns for the time being. Alternate quarterback Gus Ragland’s skill set includes good running skills. The RedHawks totaled 124 yards rushing against Buffalo last week but picked up only 58 against Western Michigan in their previous outing.
-- The inconsistent tag can also be applied to MU’s defense. For whatever reason, the RedHawks had slipped into some soft pass coverages. There was improvement in that area, however, against Buffalo last week.
Miami’s run defense has generally been a little stronger. Again, however, there has been inconsistency. Northern Illinois gained 311 yards with its ground game. That didn’t bode well for the following week’s match-up against Western Michigan. Miami, however, “limited” the Bronco’s explosive run game to 143 yards.
-- Even as the young RedHawks have improved, the execution inconsistencies, assignment miscues and penalties have combined to keep MU out of the win column. Last week’s loss to Buffalo was a prime example. Penalties on two UB field goal attempts turned what would have been three points into 14.
“I thought we did enough on offense to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win,” Martin said. Unfortunately, a couple fourth down mistake on our part cost us early and really changed the outcome’ (of a 29-25 final).
Commenting on the offense, Martin indicated the RedHawks weren’t helping themselves. “We stopped drives on offense with penalties that really had nothing to do wi the opposition.”
-- While the deluge of Miami turnover has dwindled considerably, Martin feels winning the turnover battle is critical, and looks for the defense to make more plays such as Brison Burris’s pick six last week. “We had two other huge chances to pick off a ball,” he said. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch either one of them. They both could have been game-changing plays, … but seeing our kids put themselves in a position to make tose plays is a step in the right direction.”
-- Martin expects his defense to be challenged by EMU. “They’ve been really moving the ball tremendously on offense,” he said, noting the Eagles had almost 500 yards against Western Michigan. “They’ve got two quality tailbacks. They’ve got two quarterbacks that are dual-threat run and pass guys.”
-- While Eastern Michigan ranks last in scoring defense, it plays in a very tough MAC West Division. Moreover, Martin noted, EMU’s fast-paced offense puts “their defense on the field a ton, which I think hurts them at times.”
-- The EMU offense has put up at least 20 points in six consecutive contests. Through eight games, it has produced 3,244 yards and 28 touchdowns. Given that pace, the Eagles would finished the season with 4,866 yards and 42 TDs. Both would rank in the program’s top three.
-- Eastern Michigan is one of the most efficient teams in red zone production. The Eagles have scored on 25 of 29 trips (86%). That is third in the MAC and 46th nationally. Twenty-two of the scores were touchdowns.
-- Senior running back Darius Jackson has 13 TDs on the season. Jackson ranks third (MAC) in scoring, second in touchdowns and second in rushing (99.3 ypg).
-- Freshman Shaq Vann owns 88 carries for 555 yards and five touchdowns.
-- Like Miami, Eastern Michigan also has a number of young contributors. Thirty EMU plays got the first start this season. That list includes six true freshmen, 11 transfers and 13 redshirt freshmen. When the team opened camp this year, 73 of 105 players were underclassmen.
-- Freshman Eddie Daugherty leads EMU receivers with 382 receiving yards.
Sophomore quarterback Brogan Roback is 10th in passing (200.9 ypg) and ninth in pass efficiency. He has thrown 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
-- Another sophomore quarterback, Reggie Bell, was one of only seven QBs in the FBS to lead his team in both passing and rushing in 2014.
-- Senior linebacker Great Ibe leads the conference in total tackles (90) despite missing one game due to injury. He ranks fifth nationally.
-- Both Miami and Eastern Michigan have struggled with turnovers. Miami is 12th (-1.33), while the Eagles are last (-1.44).
“Our mistakes have gotten to a point in some of these games where we have just not been able to overcome them,” Creighton said. “There’s many a game (when) we’re playing really well for stretches, but the accumulation of mistakes at some point is breaking us, and we can’t allow that to happen.”
-- Creighton pointed to the Eagles recent loss to Western Michigan as an example of how turnovers/mistakes have undermimed EMU. “Our undoing would be turnovers and special teams, and for 19 years, I’ve said that is the key to victory in any game. . . . We turned the ball over four times. We couldn’t bring the ball out against their kioff and they had some great returns against us in the kicking game. So the field position was in (Western Michigan’s) advantage most of the day. It was 23-14 at the half, but we couldn’t keep up with them.”
-- Creighton said he had seen Miami quarterback Billy Bahl in prep play. “We … thought he is going to be a special player. (I) can see that happening now that he’s playing at Miami.”