Miami records record-setting loss

November 19, 2009

The Bull's quite literally ran away with the game Wednesday. In a figurative sense, so did Miami's season. The 11th loss set a school record for most in one year.

Mike Haywood has a long Christmas list this year. After losing the season finale to the University at Buffalo 42-17, the first-year head coach knows his one-win RedHawks need a lot of work this offseason.

With 12 recruits already signed as of Wednesday night, Miami University holds seven more football scholarships to give. Haywood already knows exactly how he wants to fill those slots.

While assessing team needs, Haywood said he is looking for improved speed and strength. On the defensive line he wants a pass-rushing end and a run-stopping tackle. To address the need for speed, he wants to bring in a fast running back to compliment his many inside rushers, a tight end that can stretch the field vertically and athletic quarterback.

Haywood also plans to improve the conditioning of his current players.

“If you watch our wide receivers and running backs, when we go up and hit them, (the other team) is always falling forward,” Haywood said. “We have a lack of upper body strength as a team. We have to increase that upper body strength and we also have to get bigger and faster.”

Santa will be surprised when he sees how much Haywood is asking for this offseason. Let's hope the first-year head coach has been extra nice.

The list doesn’t end there. Haywood also said he plans to implement a fullback position into his offense in addition to improving the kicking and punting units and the redzone offense. The offensive line will see some serious work as well.

“Our offensive line would much rather pass protect than run block,” Haywood said. “During the offseason we’re going to change that mentality. They’re going to realize that we’re going to run the ball first.”

The RedHawks may look to run first next season but that was not the case against Buffalo. Miami quarterbacks attempted a season-high 57 passes Wednesday.

Senior receiver Brayden Coombs took full advantage by hauling in a school-record 14 passes for 100 yards in his last game as a RedHawk. With Miami’s receiving corps suffering relentless injuries all season long, Coombs, who switched to the WR position just two seasons ago, filled in nicely.

“Braydon was so far down in the depth chart when we first got here,” Haywood said. “He kept fighting and kept fighting and next thing you know he became the starter.”

The RedHawk rushing attack did little on the few plays Dysert and Raudabaugh didn’t drop back. Miami running backs carried the ball 12 times for a total of 53 yards.

Buffalo, on the other hand, dominated its ground game. Two UB ball carriers averaged more than 10 yards per rush as the Bulls racked up 240 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns on the night. Once the running backs got going, quarterback Zach Maynard joined in on the fun as the Bulls often utilized play-action QB sneaks to confuse the RedHawk defense. His speed proved more than Miami could handle.

“We don’t have anybody on the field that can catch him because he was that athletic and that fast,” Haywood said.

While Buffalo controlled the scoreboard, it did not dominate all of the statistics. Miami finished with more first downs and time of possession than its opponent for the eighth time this season. The Achilles heel was an anemic redzone offense. Four times Miami drove inside the Buffalo 20-yard line without producing a score. On three of those trips the ’Hawks failed to register any points at all.

“People that are kicking field goals in the redzone end up losing football games,” Haywood said.

The loss brings Haywood’s first season as a head coach to a frustrating close. While his version of the team finished with less wins than last year’s, however, both he and his players believe that the foundation for future success has been laid. Haywood spent much of his time addressing issues off the field. With many of those problems eradicated he now feels the team is in a position to move forward.

“We had a lot of adversity early – primarily the way guys were living their lives off the field,” Haywood said. “We’ve cleaned up that aspect of our program and we’re now headed in the right direction. I can spend more time coaching on the field instead of handling the problems within a first-year organization.”

Haywood knows that the only secret to success is earning it through hard work, and that is one thing he can promise will never be lacking on this team. The players experienced plenty of growing pains this season as they adjusted to a completely new system. While they admit it was hard, they also admit it was necessary.

“When Haywood came here, I don’t think a lot of people realized the challenge he stepped in to,” senior captain Dustin Woods said. “We needed a change and knowing that Haywood could make a difference – that was all that mattered for the program.”


RedHawks complete amazing 4th-quarter comeback… and then lose

November 10, 2009
Temple fg

WIth a different set of coaching decisions, Temple's game-winning field goal would have been a game-tying field goal instead

Two extra points separated the RedHawks from overtime at the end of regulation Thursday night – two extra points that coach Mike Haywood chose not to kick.

Down 31-13 in the fourth quarter, Miami University staged a furious rally to take the lead on the arm of redshirt freshman quarterback Zac Dysert. Two failed two-point conversions, however, allowed Temple University to win the game 34-32 on a field goal as time expired.

“We have to finish the game,” Haywood said. “Until we finish the game we’re going to feel the way we feel now, which is not very good.”

Miami entered the fourth quarter with the ball but Temple apparently held the game with an 18-point lead. Thirteen minutes of game clock later, Miami fell victim to the same mirage of security.

The RedHawk rally started with a 74-yard Dysert-led drive in which Miami only attempted one rushing play. Dysert hit freshman tight end Steve Marck for a 24-yard touchdown to finish the possession without any incomplete passes.

After holding the Temple’s dynamic rushing attack to its first three-and-out of the game, Dysert and the Miami fired up another quick scoring drive, ripping down the field in 2:22 for six points. Once Armand Robinson took Dysert’s 14-yard pass into the endzone, Haywood looked at the 31-26 score and decided to attempt a two-point conversion. A successful play would bring the ’Hawks within a field goal of tying the game, but with nearly nine minutes still showing on the clock, Temple still had plenty of time to score themselves.

Scoring, however, proved much harder for the Owls in the final frame than in the opening three quarters. The Miami D dialed up a second consecutive three-and-out. Temple’s run game, which racked up 175 yards and four touchdowns through 45 minutes of play, was suddenly grounded.

With the ball quickly back in their possession, the ’Hawks served up yet another helping of Dysert. The gunslinger finished with 31 completions on 51 attempts including a 45-yard strike to freshman receiver Luke Swift on Miami’s go-ahead final drive. Thomas Merrieweather rammed home the touchdown from two yards out to give the RedHawks a 32-31 lead with 2:36 remaining in regulation. Haywood’s second call to go for two, this time to put his team up by a field goal, failed once again.

“It looked like we were moving away with it, but they’re on scholarship just like we are,” Temple head coach Al Golden said of his team’s lost 18-point lead. “We didn’t put them away. In college football, that’s what happens. Kids fight back.”

Temple stiff arm

Temple's dynamic run game and Miami's inability to stop it denied the Hawks a chance to win back-to-back games

Fight back is exactly what Temple did. Despite the quickly waning clock, the Owls continued to pound away on the ground, banging out big gains of 18 and 11 yards on each end of a 31 yard pass and catch. A timeout with six ticks left on the clock then set up a chip-shot field goal for the win.

“You never let your emotions take over because it’s a sixty minute game, thirty-six hundred seconds and it’s not over until the last second ticks off the clock,” Haywood said. “I think our guys really played hard and physical. The key things that we talked about were stopping the run and the play-action pass and those two things came back to haunt us in the fourth quarter.”

Temple finished with 224 net rushing yards in the game for four scores. Miami’s rush defense ranks 100th in the country as RedHawk opponents average 185 rushing yards per game.

For the second consecutive game, Dysert attempted 51 passes and completed 31. He tallied 426 yards through the air, the fourth highest passing total ever by a Miami quarterback.

The RedHawks now return home for two final games in Yager Stadium this season. Both will be played on weeknights against MAC opponents. Bowling Green State University comes to Oxford Thursday night for a 6 p.m. kickoff followed by the University at Buffalo on the following Wednesday night.


Scary times in the CCHA

November 10, 2009
Why the Cheetah Cheats

CCHA stands for "Cheating Cheetahs Hockey Association"

Cheaters never prosper, unless they play in the CCHA. That’s what college hockey fans learned over Halloween weekend via a league ruling that was all trick and no treat.

Bowling Green used an ineligible player to win an overtime shootout against Nebraska-Omaha, a detail the four referees did not see until after the game ended. The real crime, however, is that the league refused to punish the Falcons or reward the Mavericks once the error was caught. Instead of taking the extra standings point away from Bowling Green and giving it to Nebraska, CCHA officials decided to let the result stand.

cheetah

“I think that’s a terrible precedent for a league, and I think the integrity of the league’s at stake when you make that sort of decision,” Nebraska-Omaha athletic director Trev Alberts told the Omaha World-Herald. “You’re actually encouraging member institutions to cheat, as long as they don’t get caught before the game is declared over.”

Let’s start with the facts.

After playing to a 3-3 tie in both regulation and overtime, Friday’s contest between Bowling Green and Nebraska-Omaha went to a shootout. Jordan Samuels-Thomas, who was whistled for a roughing-after-the-whistle penalty with 16 seconds left in the game, scored the Falcons’ winning shootout goal. According to NCAA rules, any player who gets called for an OT penalty cannot participate in the shootout.

In a statement released by the CCHA Saturday, the conference declared that an “error in rules enforcement during the course of the game, while unfortunate, can only be corrected during the course of the game. Once the game is concluded, there are no further actions that can take place to correct the situation.”

According to CCHA Rule V.8, protests arising from decisions of game officials or from errors or misinterpretations of the rules will not be considered — and according to NCAA Rule 6-SECTION 39, protests are not recognized or allowed.

cheetah2

Ok, now its time for my opinion: that is a load of garbage, especially on a night that is supposed to be about passing out candy.

It’s one thing to say that the CCHA will not field complaints about officiating. I understand why that is necessary. Without that rule the league would receive endless letters about all the missed calls we Miami fans (in our completely objective viewpoints) see from the stands every Friday and Saturday night.

This is completely different. This is not about a “misinterpretation of the rules” or a bad call by the ref. With intention or not, Bowling Green cheated; now the Falcons are getting away with it while all of college hockey watches. That’s what this is about.

I agree with Alberts. This is terrible for the CCHA’s reputation and integrity. It really does encourage cheating. I don’t expect this exact situation to happen again since everyone will now be looking for it, but doesn’t this make all coaches and players want to look for similarly obscure rules to exploit? According to the ruling, they’ll be scott free once the final whistle blows.

Other sports punish cheaters long after the final results come in. The International Olympic Committee stripped a juiced Marion Jones of all five of her medals from the 2000 games. Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden stands on the cusp of losing 14 of his wins as punishment for academic fraud. Pending appeal, the 2007-08 Memphis Tigers will lose all 38 of its wins from their season, including all five NCAA tournament wins, in response to the Derrick Rose scandal. College basketball’s dirty laundry list of revoked Final Four appearances also includes Ohio State (1999-2002), Michigan (1992-1993), UCLA (1980), UMass (1996), Minnesota (1997), Saint Joseph’s (1961), Villanova (1971) and Western Kentucky (1971).

Certainly these examples come from a much higher stage than the one we are dealing with here. You may argue that if spilt milk isn’t worth crying over then one point in the CCHA standings isn’t either. I, however, am far more concerned with the precedent the ruling sets and the glaring lack of ethics behind it. I also wouldn’t mind seeing that one little point significantly change the CCHA playoff picture at the end of the season so this whole thing blows up in the league’s face.

In the opinion of Inside College Hockey writers Mike Eidelbes and Joe Gladziszewski, “the happy-happy-joy-joy CCHA could use a little piss and vinegar.”

I’ll add a tall glass of spilt sour milk to the tab.

spiltmilk


RedHawks bag first win for one happy Halloween

November 3, 2009

merriweather2

Spooky things happen on Halloween. The holiday’s latest trick rendered a team of Rockets powerless and treated coach Mike Haywood to his first career victory as head of the Miami University football team.

On its last possession of the game, seven points, eight minutes and 99 yards separated the University of Toledo from overtime. After trailing by 17 at halftime, the Rockets needed one last blast to complete their comeback.

Behind a punishing ground game and an aggressive air attack, Toledo deliberately drove down the field. After failing to convert a third down attempt all afternoon, the Rockets cashed in on three to keep the ball in their possession and moving closer to the Miami end zone. And with every snap, time continued to trickle off the clock.

With 67 seconds left in the game, Toledo’s first-year head coach Tim Beckman called a timeout. The tying touchdown play was in the works and the Miami faithful few knew it. When tight end Danny Noble caught the ball and plodded toward the pylon, it only confirmed what had already been deemed a certainty.

As the line judge signaled the score, Haywood began discussing the overtime game plan with offensive coordinator Peter Vaas. The booth review of the play seemed to be mere formality. Not even Anthony Kokal, who made the goal-line tackle, held much hope. Noble either scored or was pushed out at the one-yard line, right? Wrong.

Upon review, the referee discovered that before Noble entered the end zone Kokal forced him to fumble the football, which hit the pylon as it fell to the ground. By rule, this resulted in a touchback and turned possession over to Miami on the 20-yard line.

“Touchback sounded a lot like touchdown so I wasn’t sure at first,” Kokal said. “A couple guys started coming up and hugging me and then I realized he actually did say touchback.”

To expire the remaining minute of play and seal its first victory of the season, Miami needed just three rushes and a kneel down. The win snapped a school-record 13-game losing streak dating back to Oct. 18, 2008.

weswilliams

Freshman Wes Williams fired the Hawks up early with his pick-6 to put MU up seven.

“This is huge,” kicker Trevor Cook said. “It’s been spiraling and I feel like so many times we’ve been so close. Last week we were so close, against Northwestern we were so close. Kent State too. Now we have the confidence that we needed to drive forward with the new coaching staff.”

Yager Stadium quickly became a house of horrors for Toledo when freshman linebacker Wes Williams returned his first career interception for a touchdown just four minutes into the game. The Rockets tied the contest to end the first quarter but then succeeded 17 points to Miami in the second frame. Cook ended the half with a 55-yard field goal, the longest three-pointer in MU history.

The offensive outburst hinged on the arm of redshirt freshman quarterback Zac Dysert, who threw for 344 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. Haywood has preached smash-mouth football all season but changed his game plan a mere 17 and a half hours before Saturday’s game. At 10 o’clock Friday night he decided to switch to a pass-first offense and deemphasize a ground game that has proved futile for most of the season. As a result of the change he became aware of Saturday morning, Dysert threw 51 passes against the Rockets.

“Coach Vass came in (to the morning pre-game meeting) and he had 17-0 written on the board,” Dysert said. ”We all had no idea what it was. He said ‘game plan has changed fellas. We’re going to go into this game thinking we are down 17.’”

An unforeseen consequence of the change was vast improvement from the running backs with a suddenly lighter load. Thomas Merriweather, Miami’s only ball carrier other than a scrambling Dysert, averaged 5.5 yards on eight total carries. He still finished with 34 fewer rushing yards than his signal caller, who carried the ball 13 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns.

After holding a potent Rocket offense to just seven points in the first half, the Miami defense allowed Toledo to score 17 points of its own in the third quarter. The Rockets torched the RedHawks for 397 total yards of offense in the second half including 138 yards on the ground.

“The message at half time was that we need to play this game as if it’s a 30-minute game and it’s zero to zero,” Haywood said. “We didn’t play as well as I would have liked coming back out after half time but we played well enough to win.”

Miami overcame two of its vices during Saturday’s win. The RedHawks lead the MAC with 27 turnovers and owns a league worst -18 turnover margin but only lost the ball once against Toledo. Miami’s grounded rushing attack also took off to produce 92 yards and two touchdowns.

“I talked to (the team) in the locker room after the game about stopping the spiral,” Haywood said. “It’s like life. Sometimes things are going bad for you in life and it’s like a spiral. You have to find a way to stop it. This is a life lesson. They found a way to stop it. So now it’s time for us to propel off of that and move forward and start playing consistent football.”

Three games remain on Miami’s 2009 schedule. The RedHawks play Temple University on the road before finishing the season with two televised weeknight home games.

“(Brayden) Coombs came up to me after the game and said ‘coach, congratulations on your first win but we’ve got to win the next three to send this out the right way,’” Haywood said.

For a team that now stands 1-8 on the season, that would be quite the trick and treat.


Haywood angry… Haywood smash!

October 21, 2009
Haywood says his team lacks toughness. Maybe they could learn how to play smash mouth football from these guys.

Haywood says his team lacks toughness. Maybe they could learn how to play smash mouth football from these guys.

Homecoming holds extra meaning this year for a RedHawk football team returning to Oxford after playing six of seven games on the road. The Miami University gridders now enter the final stretch of their season featuring four of five contests inside the friendly confines of Yager Stadium.

“We’ve got Northern Illinois and that’s our homecoming game,” linebacker Jerrell Wedge said. “We’re really amped up to try to get our first win.”

At 0-7 the RedHawks are battered and bruised, another phrase that holds both figurative and literal interpretations for Miami. Team confidence continues to run low, as noted by head coach Mike Haywood, and team’s injury list continues to grow with every passing game.

Wide receiver Eugene Harris III reinjured his hamstring against Ohio University. His status remains uncertain for Saturday as he joins wide out Dustin Woods and running back Andre Bratton on the list of ailing ’Hawks at the skill positions. This is all in addition to the season-ending surgery suffered by Chris Givens and doesn’t even mention the many injuries riddled all throughout the rest of the roster.

Amidst the depleted wide receiver corps, junior Armand Robinson has risen as the most reliable target down field. He leads the team with 39 catches 442 yards. Andrew Curse has been thrown into the proverbial fire, being expected to produce right away as a freshman.

“It’s an opportunity for another young man to have success,” Haywood said of the many injuries to his wide receivers. “Cruse is getting better, but he’s going to have to step it up. He’s being counted on more now than he has since he left high school and he’s going to have to answer the call.”

Hey now (Miami football player), you're an all star, get your game on, go play!

Hey now (Miami football player), you're an all star, get your game on, go play!

In past weeks the RedHawk practices focused on eliminating turnovers. This week Haywood looks to tackle a new problem: physicality. When the first-year head coach arrived in Oxford he promised the implementation of smash-mouth football. So far, however, the only mouths being smashed are their own, as noted by a futile run game and the goose egg in the win column.

“We’re not a physical ballclub and that’s just disappointing,” Haywood said. “We have to become more physical to run the football. Our running backs are running with their legs and not running with their eyes. There are seams inside that they’re supposed to hit and they misread the play.”

The running backs are not the only players on the team responsible for the grounded rushing attack. Physicality is lacking up front on the offensive line as well.

“The thing we don’t like to do as an offensive line is to run block,” Haywood said. “That’s a mind-set that ‘We’re going to come off and hit you in the mouth, and we’re going to hit you in the mouth for 60 minutes.’ It’s not in their makeup.”

To address this problem that Haywood views as team wide, the coach redesigned practices this week. Offense versus defense drills will be nine players against seven. The team scrimmaged on Tuesday and wore pads on Thursday. Haywood wants opponents driven back instead of falling forward. He is also bringing back the old Oklahoma drill in which three offensive lineman and a running back go head to head with three defensive linemen – missing a block will be hard to hide.

“Guys are going to learn that they’re going to have to play the game physical, or that they’re in the wrong organization,” Haywood said.

Haywood's promised team of tough, disciplined football players has turned out to just be a bunch of summergirls.

Haywood's promised team of tough, disciplined football players has turned out to just be a bunch of summergirls.

Regardless of what happened in practice, Northern Illinois won’t easily be pushed around Saturday. At 3-3 the Huskies boast quality victories over Western Michigan University, Purdue University and Western Illinois University. NIU lost by just one point to the University of Toledo and gave Big Ten opponent University of Wisconsin more than it bargained for in a close 28-20 season opening defeat.
Northern Illinois averages 358 yards per game, the bulk of which is produced by a husky ground game. Running backs Me’co Brown and Chad Spann compose a two-headed attack from the backfield, averaging 93 and 52 yards per game respectively. Of NIU’s 22 touchdowns, Spann has scored 10.

The Huskies are dangerous through the air as well. Eight different receivers average more than 10 yards per catch. Quarterback Chandler Harnish has completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 967 yards and six TDs.

Win or lose, Haywood wants to see his team play hard, smash-mouth football for all 60 minutes.

“You want your team to be known as a disciplined, physical football team that will be in the game until the end because of their physicality and execution,” Haywood said.

Kickoff comes at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Yager Stadium. Fans are encouraged to celebrate homecoming by wearing red to the game.


RedHawks grounded in Athens

October 19, 2009
The Bobcats, not the RedHawks, flew high Saturday in Athens

The Bobcats, not the RedHawks, flew high Saturday in Athens

Playing in a small Ohio town named after the finish site of the fabled first marathon, the Bobcats ran all over their visiting conference rivals. The RedHawks, on the other hand, struggled to run anywhere.

Ohio University ripped off 226 rushing yards while only allowing 52 en route to a 28-7 victory over Miami University and their first 3-0 start in MAC play since 1997. The win gave OU its fourth consecutive triumph against the RedHawks and its largest margin of victory over MU since 1960.

“It was a total team loss,” head coach Mike Haywood said. “We didn’t play very well on offense, defense or special teams.”

Miami silenced Ohio’s homecoming crowd early with a 10-play opening drive for a touchdown. Redshirt freshman quarterback Zac Dysert orchestrated the attack with 71 yards on four completed passed, then carried the ball into the end zone himself on a one-yard touchdown run.

The score gave Miami a lead for only the second time all season. Against Kent State University the RedHawks held their margin for a fleeting 11 seconds. This time it took nine minutes for the lead to evaporate.

“I think we kind of lost our intensity a little bit,” Dysert said. “We came out real fired up and real energetic. We went down and scored and believed we could do that stuff all day. Then we got stopped and it took something out of us, I don’t know why.”

This sophomore back, who didn't even appear on OUs pregame two-deep depthc hard, gave Miami Donte's inferno with his Harden running

This sophomore back, who didn't even appear on OUs pregame two-deep depthc hard, gave Miami Donte's inferno with his Harden running

After Ohio’s initial drive of the game failed with pass-heavy play calling, Bobcat running back Donte Harden broke off consecutive rushes of 41 and 33 yards to jump start his team’s second possession. Two Miami penalties and two more Harden runs carried OU to its first of four scores.

Harden finished the game with 121 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. He split carries with L.J. Flintall who racked up 54 yards of his own and thus out gained Miami’s entire ground game by himself as Ohio’s secondary rusher.

“I was definitely surprised how well they were able to run the football,” Haywood said. “It really caught me off guard. We tried to do a few things at halftime to slow down the run but we are going to have to go back and look at the film to re-evaluate some of the things we are doing on defense.”

Haywood may also need to re-evaluate some of the things they are doing on offense. In particular, the run game continues to be grounded. Miami ranks 110 in the country with 88.3 rushing yards gained per game and 112 in the country with 2.8 yards per carry. These stats are actually inflated, as they include scrambles by Dysert.

Without and effective rushing attack, Miami’s offense becomes one-dimensional and extremely predictable. The RedHawk passing game faces many problems of its own, however, especially in the form of injuries. Miami lost wide out Eugene Harris III to a hamstring ailment and the timetable for his return is unknown. This leaves the RedHawks without three of its top receivers as Chris Givens sits out for the season and Dustin Woods continues to miss time with a hamstring injury of his own.

“It’s a makeshift group (of wide receivers) out there,” Haywood said. “You never know who’s going to be out there. I have to look up sometimes when the substitutions are going in.”

Saturday’s loss closed out a seven game stretch in which the RedHawks played six road games. The team now enters the home stretch of the season and will play four of its last five games in Oxford. Miami’s homecoming begins Saturday against Northern Illinois University. While linebacker Jerrell Wedge says the team is amped up for its return home, Haywood does not believe location alone affects performance on the field.

“We’re excited about playing at home but playing at home has nothing to do with the way we’ve played on the road,” Haywood said. “We have to become a better football team and that’s individual from the head coach down to the assistant coaches down to each individual player.”


NWU Preview: Road weary ‘Hawks head to Illinois

October 8, 2009
The RedHawks leave town for the fifth time in six weeks

The RedHawks leave town for the fifth time in six weeks

On the road again. It’s the all too familiar tune playing behind Miami University’s 0-5 start to the 2009 season. After suffering a 37-13 defeat in it’s first game in Oxford all year, the RedHawks fire up the buses once again for a trip to Northwestern University.

Saturday’s contest marks the team’s fifth game away from Yager Stadium in a brutal first half of the season that sends the RedHawks on the road six times in seven games. The quality of their opponents during this stretch proves equally merciless. Northwestern stands as Miami’s fourth enemy of the season to either hail from a BCS conference or carry a national ranking.

Last year the Wildcats boasted a vicious attacking defense that recorded 86 tackles for a loss and led the Big Ten in sacks. This season the tables have turned. While the Wildcat defense is putting up more pedestrian numbers in 2009, the offense averages nearly 32 points and 396 yards per game.

Senior quarterback Mike Kafka, one of 20 players to land on the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Watch List, leads the Northwestern attack. He has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,273 yards and five touchdowns this season. Against Syracuse University he scored five times as he threw three touchdowns, ran for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass. Kafka racked up 923 passing yards in his three most recent games including a career-high 390-yard effort against the Orangemen.

“They are a big play passing team that likes to hit the deep ball,” Miami head coach Mike Haywood said. “If you make a mistake and do not get to your landmark and cut off the right defender it’s a big play.”

Haywood also noted that the Miami defense needs to prepare for the Wildcat option. He emphasized that defending these plays requires a high level of discipline from his players.

Only Colt McCoy and Dan LeFevour complete passes at a higher rate than Kafka.

Only Colt McCoy and Dan LeFevour complete passes at a higher rate than Kafka.

“We can’t let the quarterback get out and scramble,” Haywood said. “He can run away from D-linemen, but I don’t think he can run away from linebackers or secondary guys.

Northwestern graduated a significant portion of its offensive production from 2008 with the departures of Tyrell Sutton, Eric Peterman, Ross Lane and Rasheed Ward. Three Wildcat receivers already total more than 230 yards this season, however, as the purple pass attack continues to excel.

Northwestern may not be as dominant on defense as last year but the Wildcats still managed to hold Purdue to only 62 rushing yards in their most recent game. The RedHawks ground game has struggled thus far with Miami running backs totaling only 290 rushing yards through five games in 2009.

Leading Miami’s offense will be redshirt freshman Zac Dysert who is set to make his third start under center for the RedHawks. He faced a unique Cincinnati defense last weekend but expects Northwestern to implement a more tradition scheme. Dysert doesn’t believe the Wildcats will blitz often or try anything too complicated.

Against the Bearcats, Dysert limited his passes to short wide receiver routes and dump offs to running backs. He said this was done to stay underneath UCs 3-4 scheme in which it often dropped eight defenders into coverage. If wide receivers are open downfield against Northwestern, however, Dysert says he will not hesitate to challenge the Wildcat secondary.

While assessing his first two starts as a Miami quarterback, Dysert noted a growing comfort level with the offense but said he wants to cut down on the turnovers. The rookie has thrown six interceptions this season including a costly redzone pick Saturday.

“I just have to learn from it,” Dysert said. “I can’t force stuff, especially when we are on the three-yard line.”

Haywood believes his signal caller is getting better every day and is especially developing as a team leader. Mistakes like the UC turnover, however, stand in his mind as a huge obstacle preventing this team from playing winning football.