What’s so special about them?
Well, how about the fact that they can make or break your team on a given day?
Miami RedHawk football fans, of course, are in a position to know. The Red and White ran off six straight wins last year before losing a bowl game against Mississippi State in which a potential winning field goal was blocked.
Last Saturday, in the RedHawks . . .
(CLICK PHOTOS TO ENLARGE!!!)
“In every game, special teams (can dictate) the outcome. There’s tons of special team plays,” Miami head coach Chuck Martin said Monday. “It’s just like offense and defense. You’re going to have (occasional) bad plays on special teams, (but) you can’t have egregiously bad plays.
“Obviously, we gave up two explosive plays that were beyond critical in the outcome of the game. We have to get better.”
Those two plays, along with a 72-yard interception return for a score, were decisive in a game where Miami held sizable advantages in several key offensive and defensive statistics.
The visiting RedHawks owned 25 first downs to 15 for the Marshall. Miami gained 429 total yards to just 267 for the home team. Of course, the kickoff returns and interceptions don’t go into total yardage.
“Offensively, we moved the ball. We controlled the clock. We controlled the game,” said Martin, noting that ball and clock control is particularly helpful against teams with explosive talent and/or schemes.
“We limited big plays on defense. We got stops. We held a really up-tempo offense to basically 10 points when our defense was on the field,” Martin said. “Now, our offense greatly aided that, because Marshall only had nine possessions due to our defense getting stops, but also (due) to our offense moving the ball.”
In the end, special teams and a pick-six interception trumped the RedHawks positives, and Martin was among those feeling the pain. “It’s probably as frustrating ... a loss as I’ve ever been a part of as a coach or player,” he said Monday.
As for kickoff team coverage, Martin called it “disastrous.”
While the kickoff and return teams figured to get plenty of reps this week, Martin also indicated there probably would be some personnel changes.
There will also be a change at center on the offensive line, but that move is necessitated by a season-ending foot injury to sophomore standout Danny Godlevske.
It’s “obviously a major blow,” Martin said. “But the good news is that we’ve got good people behind him. When he did come out of the game, (Mitch) Palmer played fine.”
Other than Godlevske, the RedHawks came out of a very physical game bruised but relatively healthy for this week’s home opener against Austin Peay.
At first glance, the Governors appear to be overwhelming underdogs. (Of course, so was Howard against UNLV last week). Austin Peay was picked for last in this year’s Ohio Valley Conference preseason poll.
Martin, however, noted that APSU seems significantly improved after adding some transfers and is getting more from players who were pressed into action on on a young squad last year.
Lest his words be taken as simple coach-speak, one could note the Governors’ performance against a Miami rival in Week One.
Cincinnati, under new head coach Luke Fickell, led just 20-14 until adding more touchdown with just over five minutes left in the contest. APSU finished with advantages in total yards (313-248), first downs (20-15) and time of possession (37:41 to 22:19).
That might seem familiar (e.g. Miami at Marshall), but Austin Peay did not yield any special team scores. Instead, the Governors gave up two turnovers to none for the Bearcats.
Somewhat ironically Miami and Cincinnati will meet in the Battle for the Victory Bell in Week Three. That game will also be played in Oxford.
Here’s more on Austin Peay and Miami:
Saturday, Sept. 9, 3:30 p.m. ET
Yager Stadium; Oxford, OH
● Austin Peay is located in Clarksville, TN. The Governors are an FCS team and belong to the Ohio Valley Conference.
● Sophomore QB JaVaughn Craig completed 7 of 14 passes for 63 yards, one TD and one interception against UC.
● Craig was also the Governors leading rusher, picking up 92 yards on 15 carries with a long of 25. He fumbled twice, with UC recovering one. Sophomore Kentell Williams (5-11, 190), gained 40 yards, while three other players combined for 73 yards rushing.
● No APSU receiver had more than two catches. Williams tallied one TD on a 19-yard second quarter pass play.
● Senior DB Malik Boynton and junior linebacker Gunnar Scholato led the defense with nine tackles apiece. The Governors did not register a sack, but had two TFL.
● Quarterback Gus Rangland completed 23 of 44 passes with two TDs and one interception against Marshall. The pick was returned 70 yards for a touchdown.
● Alonzo Smith led Miami with 19 carries for 59 yards, while Kenny Young totaled 37 yards on nine trips. The only rushing touchdown came on a hard-fought fourth down run of less than a yard by Ragland.
● Marshall’s quickness on defense made for tight coverage, but Miami totaled 298 yards. Tight end Ryan Smith (6-4, 265, Sr) totaled 98 yards on receptions and provided both receiving touchdowns. Junior James Gardner led the RedHawks in catches (8) and receiving yards (111). Jared Murphy chipped in five catches for 69 yards that kept several drives moving.
● Linebacker Brad Koenig had a team-high 13 tackles. Senior CB Heath Harding and junior DB De’Andre Montgomery each recorded eight tackles. Harding also up a fumble and returned it 35 yards to set up Miami’s first touchdown.
● Marshall recovered a Gardner fumble at the RedHawks 41 with 1:30 left and moved it to the Miami 20. However, junior DB Josua Allen made a leaping interception in the end zone to thwart the threat.
● Sophomore Samuel Sloman moved into the placekicking duties this season and was perfect against Marshall. He hit one field goal from 42 yards and all three PAT kicks.