What they're saying: Miami (Ohio) discusses Central Michigan
Coming into the 2019 football season, Miami (Ohio) was selected to finish runner up in the Mid-American Conference East Division.
As fate would have it, the RedHawks (7-5, 6-2 MAC) clinched the division and are heading to Ford Field to face Central Michigan in the MAC championship game at noon Saturday.
Miami will head to its first conference title game since 2010, similar to Central Michigan, which made its last appearance in the game in 2009.
Through four games, the RedHawks are 2-2 in the title contest. The team won its first appearance in 2003 with a 49-27 victory over Bowling Green. A year later, Miami lost 35-27 to Toledo.
Central Michigan and Miami met in 2007 with the Chippewas taking a 35-10 win. In the RedHawks' last showing in the title game, they defeated Northern Illinois, 26-21, in 2010.
RedHawks coach Chuck Martin said it is difficult to mentally grasp the journey through the MAC schedule and into the conference title game.
"(The MAC is) always so balanced and tough, so you know there will be a lot of close games," Martin said. "Now you look up and you're heading to Detroit with the chance to play Central Michigan."
When looking at the 8-4 Chippewas, Martin complimented the team and first-year coach Jim McElwain for its performance this season.
Martin said the structure of the team and the players executing the game plan has been a big part of CMU's turnaround. Martin also laid out his expectations for the Chippewas.
"They're good, that's what I'm expecting," Martin said. "Their coaching staff has done a great job structurally; they do a great job on both sides of the ball; they do a lot of good stuff that really stresses you."
From an individual angle, Martin credited all three of CMU's quarterbacks this season, namely the transition from senior graduate transfer Quinten Dormady to junior David Moore and back to Dormady.
Martin also praised senior quarterback Tommy Lazzaro for the way he has been able to find a wrinkle in the offense with the run package implemented toward the middle of the season.
"No one's been able to stop the Lazzaro package except for the one time he fumbled," Martin said. "Other than that, no one's stopped that package all year."
As well, Martin credited CMU's wide receivers for their strong performances this season.
"They have probably the best two receivers in the league if not the best," Martin said. "(JaCorey) Sullivan is an unbelievable player, no one can take the ball from him and no one can tackle him. (Kalil) Pimpleton is scary, probably the most electric kid in our conference. Their third receiver probably doesn't get enough credit; (Tyrone Scott) is a really good player. He gets overshadowed by their tight end (Tony Poljan), who is as good as anyone in the league."
On the defensive side, Martin said Central Michigan is one of the most balanced units in the conference as both the rushing and passing defense are successful.
Martin added the Chippewas' special teams has been dynamic.
"So, I'd like to say we found a chink in the armor, but they're pretty damn good," Martin said. "We've played most of the top teams in the league, and they're the most daunting task, which is what you'd expect in the MAC championship game."
Wide receiver Jack Sorensen said that he sees a lot of similarity between his team and the Chippewas as both programs have endured rough seasons in the last couple of years and dealt with injuries.
Sorensen said CMU, like his team in the past, has trusted the coaching staff and the process to put itself in the position for a championship.
"They have a ton of talent in the back end," Sorensen said. "Really talented defensive backs that are young and super aggressive and will come downhill and hit you. I'm just excited for the opportunity. They don't give up.
"It'll be a pretty exciting game and I'm looking forward to it."
Defensive back Manny Rugamaba said preparation has been key. He's ready for the battle, and he expects the same from the Chippewas.
"I expect them to come out prepared; I expect them to come out of the gates swinging," Rugamba said. "I expect them to come out and do what they've been doing the whole season, consistently being one of the top offenses in our league.
"I expect them to expect us to come out ready to play, prepared to play hard and prepared to play for 60 minutes."