Scouting the opponent: A look at the Miami Redhawks
Central Michigan needed a second half comeback at Ball State, a stroke of luck involving a rival and a blowout victory on the final day of the Mid-American Conference regular season just to earn the opportunity to represent the MAC West Division in the conference's championship game.
The Chippewas' opponent, the Miami RedHawks, has taken a bit of a different path.
Sixth-year coach Chuck Martin paced his team to a 7-5 record, including a 6-2 mark in the MAC that is identical to the Chippewas.
The RedHawks played three nationally ranked teams in the nonconference slate, going 0-3 against the likes of Iowa, Cincinnati and Ohio State.
Miami entered the conference slate of the season with a modest 1-3 record, but it began to turn things around with a 34-20 win over Buffalo in the conference opener.
For coach Martin, an 82-yard run by Buffalo's Jarret Patterson was the turning point in his squad's season.
"At that point, we had been outscored 90-0 in our last five quarters," Martin said. "Somehow we found a way to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and gut out a really nice victory against a fine Buffalo team. For me, down 14-3 at home, that was the telltale moment for these kids in this season."
Since that win, the RedHawks are 5-2.
Leaders and standouts
Miami's attack funnels through a true freshman.
Brett Gabbert, a native of St. Louis, wasted no time taking over control as Miami's starting quarterback. He's started every game this season and has thrown for 1,967 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Gabbert's best game statistically came against Northern Illinois. In the 27-24 triumph, Gabbert hit career highs in passing and rushing yards, going for 273 through the air and 42 on the ground.
The first-year signal caller sustained an undisclosed injury in the RedHawks finale against Ball State but will likely be the starter on Saturday.
"He's only a freshman, so he has a lot of room to grow," said redshirt junior Jack Sorenson of his quarterback. "It's all about backing him every step of the way and being his biggest supporters along the way."
If Gabbert is unable to go, expect Jackson Williamson to start in his place. Williamson, a redshirt sophomore, has played in six games this season. He is just 8 of 19 through the air on the season without a touchdown and two interceptions.
In the backfield, the RedHawks turn to the tandem of junior Jaylon Bester and redshirt freshman Tyre Shelton.
Bester is the starter, however, he missed three contests due to an injury and finished the season with 623 yards. While the statistic seems low, the tandem with Shelton, who finished with 494 yards, poses an intriguing matchup for the Chippewa defense.
Out wide, Miami leans on Sorenson. He leads the team in catches with 26 and has compiled 338 yards and three touchdowns. The RedHawks are led in receiving yards by freshman James Maye.
Defensively, there are multiple players to watch. Sophomore defensive lineman Kameron Butler has compiled five sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and has also recovered a fumble after tallying just six tackles a season ago.
Senior defensive back Travion Banks leads the team in interceptions with four, a statistic that ranks best among MAC East defenders. His defensive backfield counterpart, junior Mike Brown, ranks just behind him with three.
Here are a few statistics to watch out for when it comes to the RedHawks:
- The RedHawks are 4-0 in one score games.
- They're 2-5 in games away from home, their wins coming in one score contests at Kent State (23-16) and Ohio (24-21).
- On the season they've been outscored 346-295 and outgained 4,591-3,705.
- Miami forces two turnovers a game in victories and just one per game in losses. Its 19 turnovers forced are second to only Buffalo among MAC East teams.
- While Central Michigan averages 194 yards per game on the ground, the RedHawks allow just 180. Miami allows just 202 yards per game through the air while the Chippewas throw for 257 on average.
- The RedHawks have blocked four kicks.
- Miami is second in the conference in defensive efficiency.