Game 2 preview: Miami RedHawks
Before the season started, this game was tabbed as the worst of the week, and possibly the worst of the entire season. Yes, the worst game out of all 750+ FBS games to be played this fall, because these teams combined for 6 wins the last two years, an atrociously bad average of 1.5 wins per season. Pre-season expectations were that both teams will end 2010 exactly where they ended the last two years — right at the bottom of their respective divisions.
The similarities between EMU and Miami University go beyond the abysmal football teams of the last several years. Each school formerly used a native American nickname — EMU, of course, was the Hurons from 1929 until 1990, while Miami was the Redskins from 1930 until 1997 — and changed it to a raptor — Eagles and RedHawks. Both costumed mascots are named “Swoop”.
Record (2009): 1-11 (1-7 MAC); (2010): 0-1 (0-0 MAC)
Recent games: Last week, the RedHawks lost 34-12 to a Florida team that did everything they could for three quarters to hand Miami the win.
Quality wins (2009): They beat Toledo 31-24, in Oxford on Halloween, to avoid the ignominy of a winless season. But I guess I shouldn’t complain; can you imagine the embarrassment of two winless MAC teams the same season? Fortunately this match-up prevents even that possibility this year. (2010): None. (Yet?)
Embarrassing losses (2009): The list is almost as long as EMU’s. They opened the season with a 42-0 loss to Kentucky, followed that with a 48-0 thumping at Boise State, and closed the season with a 42-17 home loss against a 5-7 Buffalo team.
Last meeting: Being in opposite divisions of the MAC, the teams have only met twice in the last ten years. Most recently, the RedHawks visited Rynearson Stadium in 2005, winning 24-23. EMU scored a touchdown with 13 seconds left in the game, but a bad snap on the extra point try led to a missed kick.
All-time series: Miami leads 16-4, 8-2 in Ypsilanti and 8-2 in Oxford. The teams first met in 1974, with Miami winning 39-0, and then played each year from 1981 through 1996, but only three times since then (1999, 2000, and 2005). EMU’s last win over the RedHawks came in 1993, when they were still called the Redskins, by a score of 15-7.
Coach: The similarities go on and on. Like Ron English, RedHawks coach Mike Haywood is in his second season as a head coach. Before taking the reins at Miami, Haywood spent 2005-2008 as the offensive coordinator at his alma mater, Notre Dame, under Charlie Weis. While no one expects a winning season this fall, both coaches will need to show year-to-year improvement.
Offense: Sophomore quarterback Zac Dysert leads the offense. The play-calling tends to be balanced, perhaps leaning a little more toward passing (in 2009, about 60% of plays were passing), but the rushing is not very productive — 70 yards per game in 2009, compared with 270 yards per game from passing. Their 841 rushing yards in 2009 ranked 119th, ahead of only Duke. Dysert is not afraid to run the ball, and in fact he was one of the top ball carriers for Miami in 2009 (#1 by attempts, #2 by yards), but he’s not likely to have many long runs. The other primary rusher is senior Thomas Merriweather. Dysert likes to spread his passes around; top targets include senior wide recievers Armand Robinson and Jamal Rogers, who combined for 1,293 yards and seven touchdowns last year. This game will provide a good test for EMU’s defense; whereas Army’s strength matched the Eagles’ weakness, this game will pit strength against strength.
Defense: Like most college teams, and all of the MAC, the RedHawks use a 4-3 as their base defense. The information in the EMU Media Guide, as well as the game notes for the week, is a little contradictory as to the exact number of returning starters, but let’s just say there are a bunch of them — about eight or nine — but they’re young, with five freshmen and only four seniors on the two-deep. Top defenders include junior middle linebacker Jerrell Wedge and junior free safety Anthony Kokal.
Key to watch: Interceptions. Both sophomore quarterbacks are prone to throwing picks; Gillett has been intercepted eight times in the last four games, while Dysert has tossed eight in his last three games and twenty in his twelve-game career.
Miami online: Official site. Boy, they do love their ice hockey down in Oxford. I found two blogs dedicated to Miami ice hockey (RedHawkey and The Brotherhood) but no blogs covering their football team this fall. If you know of one, please post it in the comments, and I’ll add it here.
Predictions: The gamblers are not being generous to the Eagles, favoring the RedHawks by 16.5 points, a bet I’d take in an instant. The teams may not be very good, but they should be fairly evenly matched. I predict that EMU’s secondary will feast on Dysert’s interceptions, and Miami will be unable to stop the two-headed ground attack of Priest and Gillett. EMU will win 30-21.