Bearcats survive RedHawk scare

October 6, 2009
UC trails in the overall series but clearly holds the upper hand now

UC trails in the overall series but clearly holds the upper hand now

Three yards separated the RedHawks from contention. The No. 10 nationally ranked Bearcats, who once owned a 20-0 lead, were on the ropes.

Down by three scores, Miami University used two pass-powered drives to vault within 10 points of its 114-year archrival. Then, with momentum surging in his team’s favor, head coach Mike Haywood caught everyone by surprise.

No one saw the onside kick coming. The record crowd didn’t expect it. Brian Kelly, the pride and coach of Cincinnati didn’t expect it. The UC special teams unit, who initially turned its back on the bouncing ball, certainly didn’t expect it.

Blindsided, the Bearcats gave the ball back to Miami. Moments later, the RedHawks stood on the doorstep of resurgence.

“In a rivalry game you’re going to get someone’s best shot,” Kelly said. “We got Miami’s best today.”

From the three-yard line in enemy territory, redshirt freshman Zac Dysert dropped back to pass. Just after locating an open receiver and beginning his throwing motion, however, Miami’s opportunity slipped away. Dysert lost his footing and vastly under threw his target. Instead he hit JK Schaffer of the Cincinnati Bearcats.

“When he threw the pick,” Haywood said, “the first thing I did was run up to him and say ‘just relax. It’s not life or death right now. We can comeback and still have an opportunity to win this game.’”

Despite Haywood’s reassurance, Miami chance had been thrown away. Cincinnati allowed the ’Hawks back into its territory only one more time for the rest of the game. Meanwhile, the Bearcat offense scored two more touchdowns of its own. The game ended in a lopsided 37-13 decision, one that both coached admitted did not adequately represent the efforts on the field.

“Today was not our A game,” Kelly, who was not pleased with the performance of his star quarterback or his team’s execution of numerous plays, said. “We still won by 24 and it wasn’t (Tony Pike’s) best. I’ll take that.”

Haywood, on the other hand, believes this game illustrates the significant progress his team has already made in just five games. Nevertheless, he refuses to celebrate a loss.

“The guys are playing hard, competing and getting better but not playing well enough to play winning football at this point in time,” Haywood said. “I think we are making progress but I don’t think there are any moral victories.”

After running wild at Kent State, Dysert was bottled up by a UC defense that recorded 10 sacks of the redshirt freshman

After running wild at Kent State, Dysert was bottled up by a UC defense that recorded 10 sacks of the redshirt freshman

Dysert finished the game with 286 yards and a touchdown on 33 completions. His two interceptions inside the UC 30-yard line proved costly, however, and left an ugly mark on an otherwise beautiful performance. After ripping off 107 rushing yards against Kent State University in his first career start, the redshirt freshman was sacked 10 times to finish with negative yards on the ground.

“We sometimes forget that this is only his second start of his collegiate career,” Haywood said. “He has a long ways to go but I think he’s progressing on the right path.

Pike, who vaulted himself into Heisman Trophy conversations with his impressive start to the season, did not look like the nation’s top player against the RedHawks. He completed just over 50 percent of his passes and s held under 300 yards.

“He didn’t make a couple of throws that he normally makes,” Kelly said. “I think he’s human.”

On the ground, Miami struggled. The Bearcats held the RedHawks to just 30 rushing yards on 35 carries. This team has battled a stagnant ground game all season; excluding quarterback scrambles, the ’Hawks total only 290 rushing yards through five games in 2009.

To combat the rushing ineptness, Haywood often used swing passes to the running back out of the backfield. Starter Andre Bratton caught 11 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown, all three of which are career highs for the senior.

“Just being out there with my team battling for the bell is a great feeling,” Bratton said. “I had to do it one last time in my senior year and just give it my all.”

Saturday’s attendance reached 23,493 fans, a record crowd for Yager Stadium since its remodeling and lowered capacity in 2004 and Miami’s largest home crowd since 2003. After playing four games away from Oxford to start the season, Miami now heads back on the road for two more away games. Up next is a noon meeting with Big Ten opponent Northwestern University. Haywood doesn’t want his team to hope for a win. Instead, he wants them to believe in one.

“Some people hope. When you hope to win that’s only a50-50 chance,” Haywood said. “You have to believe to win. We talk about having faith, trust, belief and commitment to yourself and to this organization.”

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RedHawks hope to whiteout UCs top 10 ranking

October 1, 2009
Do the Bearcats even need to bother bringing the Victory Bell all the way to Oxford this year?

Do the Bearcats even need to bother bringing the Victory Bell all the way to Oxford this year?

The University of Cincinnati comes to Yager Stadium Saturday as the first top-10 opponent to ever play on Oxford gridiron. Red-shirt freshman quarterback Zac Dysert, who made his first start as a RedHawk against Kent State University, says the national ranking makes no difference at all.

“Playing against UC in a rivalry you can pretty much throw that out the window,” Dysert said.

Hatred for the Bearcats is drilled into Miami players from the moment they step on campus, in the locker room or even the bathroom stalls. Everywhere they go, signs are posted and they all send the same message: beat UC.

“No one likes UC around here,” Dysert said. “Everybody hates them.”

The Miami vs Cincinnati rivalry isn’t just about ill will but tradition as well. When these two teams take the field Saturday it will stand as their 114th meeting, making it the fifth most-played rivalry in Division 1 (FBS). The first game played between MU and UC was also the first college football game played in the state of Ohio.

Miami controls the all-time series with a 59-47-7 record, but the Bearcats have won the last three meetings to mark their longest winning streak against the RedHawks since winning four in a row from 1986-1989.

Besides touting a No. 10 ranking in the mostly subjective media poll, the Bearcats have also earned high marks based purely on performance. Cincinnati boasts the fifth best scoring offense with 43.3 and the fifth best passing offense with 344.8 yards per game. The Bearcat attack is led by senior quarterback Tony Pike who ranks fourth in the country in passing yards and fifth in QB rating.

Cincinnati not only scores often, but early and with incredible efficiency as well. UC posted at least 21 first-half points in all four of its games this season and against Fresno State University the offense was only on the field for a total of 16 minutes and 18 seconds.

Go to the game Saturday. It's the WHITE thing to do (disclaimer: this comment is not meant to be racist in any way, nor is it a commentary on the student population at Miami. I'm just trying to promote the whiteout here folks)

Go to the game Saturday. It's the WHITE thing to do (disclaimer: this comment is not meant to be racist in any way, nor is it a commentary on the student population at Miami. I'm just trying to promote the whiteout here folks)

On defense UC provides a unique look by only rushing three linemen and dropping eight backs into coverage. This test will be much different for Dysert who constantly battled backfield pressure against Kent State. Dysert proved to be a threat on the ground as well as in the air against the Flashes as the KSU pass rush often forced him to scramble downfield.

“You’ve got that clock in your head so whenever you find yourself saying ‘oh no, oh no, oh no’ you just take off,” Dysert said.

Since most of these runs did not come by design, it remains to be seen if he will be as effective carrying the ball against a new defensive scheme.

With the promise of eight Bearcats back in coverage, Dysert must also be warry of throwing interceptions. Turnovers have haunted Miami in recent games as the RedHawks succeeded five giveaways against KSU, five against Western Michigan University and four against Boise State University. This reoccurring problem is an issue head coach Mike Haywood is determined to address head on.

“You have to address it daily,” Haywood said. “We’ll have entire periods this coming week during practice where all we address is ball security. The major part of ball security is technique and fundamentals. We’re not carrying the ball high and tight and not squeezing the point of the ball to our body. It’s my responsibility that we teach our players the proper technique and fundamentals.”

Continuing recent tradition, Miami’s true home opener Saturday will be a whiteout for RedHawk fans. UC already sold out its ticket allotment for the game and Bearcat fans, who have been told to wear black, have thus begun buying up Miami’s tickets.  For RedHawk fans to minimize the effect of this impending black hole, they must show up loud, in large numbers and wearing white.


There’s always room for Dysert

September 30, 2009

DYSERTtime

I’m guessing that with hockey season just around the corner most Miami fans have already lost their appetite for RedHawk football this season. Before you leave the table, I’d like to offer you some Dysert.

Zac Dysert made his first career collegiate start Saturday against Kent State, putting up a stat line that can only be described as tantalizing. Can I tempt you with 31 completed passes on 53 attempts for 337 yards and a touchdown? If throwing isn’t your fancy then maybe a little bit of ‘scramble-ability’ will do the trick. How does 107 yards on 17 carries sound?

Beyond the stats, however, the real treat was watching how they came to be. To end the first half, Dysert led a 78-yard two-minute drill ending in a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Rodgers. Someone clearly forgot to tell this gunslinger that he is just a red-shirt freshman. He calmly and coolly directed the offense down the field, avoiding constant pressure and finding the open receiver. Here I saw Dysert do three things Raudabaugh could not: escape sacks, throw the ball deep and provide leadership in the clutch.

On Miami’s second touchdown drive of the game, Dysert dished out a second serving of sweetness. This time taking his team 81 yards for the score, Dysert completed 7 of nine passes before Thomas Merriweather punched it in from one yard out. Usually the run is used to set up the pass but on both of these drives Miami stuck almost strictly with the freshman’s arm, calling 20 passes on 23 plays.

Dysert’s third drive of note, however, provided a completely different flavor. This time he beat Kent with his legs. Midway through the fourth quarter and down by two scores, Miami’s play calling remained pass heavy. The Golden Flashes, learning from past mistakes, determined to put pressure on the freshman to avoid being picked apart once again. On three separate plays Kent defenders appeared to have Zac down for a sack. All three times those defenders either tackled each other or just fell to the ground as Dysert cut, spun or simply ran away.

Words cannot describe how impossible this guy is to catch. He is blessed with an eye-popping ability to both escape defenders in the backfield and run past them down field. Raudabaugh certainly showed occasional signs of brilliance as a short-route passer but Dysert’s mobility brings a completely new weapon to this RedHawk offense.

The Bearcats may be more than the RedHawks can chew Saturday, but they may find Miami's Dysert more than a mouthful as well

The Bearcats may be more than the RedHawks can chew Saturday, but they may find Miami's Dysert more than a mouthful as well

Miami plays its first true home game of the season Saturday. With the Cincinnati Bearcats entering the contest as the only Yager opponent to ever be ranked in the nation’s top 10, the odds of Miami winning or even keeping it close seem fairly long. You may not be too excited about trekking all the way down Weeb Ewbank Way just to watch UC ring the Victory Bell 114 times, but I’ll assert that every football fan on this campus needs to see this kid play.

Miami vs Cincinnati is the fifth oldest annual rivalry in the entire country. What’s more, Bearcat head coach Brain Kelly has said in years past that he wants to end it.

Hate for the ‘UC in suck’ is drilled into Miami players. Whether they are visiting a locker or a urinal they see signs that say ‘beat UC.’ To say this series is filled with tradition wouldn’t begin to do it justice.

This year, however, part of that tradition is broken. With Cincinnati ranked No. 10 in the AP poll, this game is no longer just a local battle between two southwest Ohio schools for a bell. All of sudden, this game takes on huge national significance. Sure Miami may be leagues away from playing in a national championship but Saturday it can deny another team (its arch rival none the less) of that privilege as well.

So before you make your way over to the Goggin to christen the 2009-08 hockey season, go check out the Dysert menu down at Yager. Considering the upgrade in competition Zac probably won’t put up another 444-all-purpose-yards performance. Even so, I’m willing to the Bearcats find him to be more than they can stomach.


KSU Recap: RedHawks rain turnovers, spoil Dysert’s delicious debut

September 28, 2009

turnover

On a night flooded by consistent downpour, it was the RedHawks and not the weather that made a sloppy mess on the field.

Despite dominating every offensive statistic in the game, the Miami University football team turned over a golden chance to win for the first time in 2009. The RedHawks gave the ball away five times Saturday night, bringing their turnover total to 10 in the last two games and 14 in the last three games.

“I feel like we earned a win because we didn’t turn the ball over,” Kent State University head coach Doug Martin said when asked if he felt like his team stole a win from Miami. “Turnover margin is the number one dictator of who wins and loses.”

The RedHawks out gained the Golden Flashes by 302 yards. The RedHawks doubled the Golden Flashes in total first downs. In the end, however, the RedHawks lost to the Golden Flashes 29-19 because they couldn’t hold onto the ball.

“We practice in the rain when we’re in Oxford. Rain has no effect (on turnovers),” Miami head coach Mike Haywood said. “All you have to do is protect the football with five pressure points, roll your shoulder over the top and you’ll protect it.”

Miami's pile of turnovers is piled high this season

Miami's pile of turnovers is piled high this season

With the win Kent State beat Miami in consecutive seasons for the first time in 21 years. The ’Hawks hold a 44-13 series record against the Golden Flashes but have now dropped three of their last four meetings.

With less than 10 minutes remaining on the game clock, the Miami offense faced a third and long from its own 26-yard line. Dropping back and rolling to his right, red-shirt freshman Zac Dysert, making his first collegiate career start, was caught. The sack would give Miami its first three and out since the opening drive of the half and leave the ’Hawks with a 10-point deficit as time ticked away.

But as two Kent State defenders converged onto the thrower, Dysert ran away. In a golden flash he was gone, cutting downfield for a 13-yard gain and another Miami… first down.

“That’s frustrating when we’ve got coverage and we miss tackles after we have him bottled up,” KSU linebacker Cobrani Mixon said. “I think we just under estimated him. He’s kind of quick.”

Three plays later Dysert kept the drive alive again, spinning away from a KSU linebacker who was left sprawling on the turf. Another double-digit gain; another Miami… first down.

Dysert wasn’t done either. Twice more, once with his arm and then again with his legs, the freshman converted for the RedHawks. Dysert’s sweet performance led to a Miami field goal to bring the ’Hawks within seven points and hungry for more.

“One of the most important things that we learned is that they don’t quit.” Haywood said. “Guys keep competing.”

Back within one score of the Flashes, the RedHawk defense failed to hold. Kent State sustained a nine-play, four-minute drive for three points to seal the game. Sophomore Jacquise Terry, a wide receiver converted to running back, carried the ball on every down except for the final two. Freshman kicker Freddy Cortez, who missed his only two field goal attempts prior to Saturday, booted the final score.

Dysert finished the night with 337 passing yards on 31 completions and 119 rushing yards on 17 carries. He closed the first half with a touchdown pass after leading a clutch two-minute drill covering 78 yards. While several of Dysert’s tantalizing runs came by design, he admitted most resulted from improv on broken plays.

“He’s a good quarterback,” Martin said. “They found something tonight. He adds an element to their offense that they didn’t have with Raudabaugh.

Kent State quarterbacks, on the other hand, only attempted 11 passes all night. Instead, the Golden Flashes generated points off of excellent field position resulting from turnovers and special teams. In addition to five Miami giveaways, Kent State blocked a punt and returned a kick off for a touchdown. Five KSU drives began in MU territory and two others began just short of mid-field.

After dropping to 0-4 on the season and 0-2 in MAC play, the RedHawks now prepare for the Battle for the Victory Bell Saturday against the University of Cincinnati. The Bearcats will enter Yager Stadium as the only top 10 opponent to ever play in Oxford. Saturday’s contest is Miami’s only game in Yager during its opening seven games.


KSU Preview: A golden flash of hope for Miami

September 24, 2009

KSUvMU

Change is on the way for the Miami University football team. After an 0-3 start to the season, head coach Mike Haywood decided to bench fifth-year senior quarterback Daniel Raudabaugh in favor of redshirt freshman Zac Dysert.

“We believe that we should be more effective on offense,” Haywood said of the team’s first three games. “The staff felt it was a great opportunity to put Dysert into the starting lineup so that we could do the things that we do best on offense. Zac’s quick passing game and his ability to run the football will help us succeed.”

With Raudabaugh starting under center, the RedHawks failed to score during the season’s initial 10 quarters. Only once Western Michigan University built a 35-0 second half lead and began giving playing time to its reserves did Miami find the endzone. In those first three games, Raudabaugh completed 59 of 111 passes for 569 yards with five interceptions and two touchdowns.

As he changes quarterbacks Haywood acknowledged that the offense must change as well. Dysert brings a different skill set to the position than Raudabaugh and the team must adjust accordingly. In Haywood’s opinion, Dysert is more athletic, more of a runner and the passing game will be quicker under his direction. Since Saturday will be the youngster’s first career start, Haywood plans to reduce the amount of reads he gives him.

Dysert appeared briefly in Miami’s two most recent contests. He made his first career start at the collegiate level against Boise State University. His first throw as a RedHawk went for an interception and gave the Broncos possession inside the redzone. He finished that game with completions on two of four passes with two interceptions and only one total yard.

The next week against Western Michigan Haywood gave Dysert another chance and the freshman demonstrated vast improvement. Playing a new set of Broncos Dysert completed three of seven passes for 74 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. In two possessions, he guided the RedHawks on touchdown drives of 80 and 62 yards.

“He did a nice job when he went into the game (at Western Michigan),” Haywood said. “He showed awareness and scramble-ability, and he showed much more confidence that he did the week before at Boise. His eyes weren’t as big as saucers anymore.”

WIth injuries at QB and RB, Kent State is quickly losing its footing on offense.

WIth injuries at QB and RB, Kent State is quickly losing its footing on offense.

Both Miami and its Saturday opponent Kent State University (1-2) have endured season ending injuries to their respective best offensive players. The RedHawks lost their leading wide out Chris Givens to a shoulder tear while the Golden Flashes lost their star senior running back Eugene Jarvis to a Kidney injury. Sources told The Cleveland Plain Dealer that a physical exam revealed that Jarvis’ injured kidney is the only one he was born with.

Jarvis rushed for 798 yards as a red-shirt freshman, 1,699 yards as a sophomore and 801 yards during an injury-plagued junior season. He opened the 2009 campaign with 143 yards against Coastal Carolina before suffering the kidney injury at Boston College.

Haywood refused to acknowledge that Jarvis’ absence gives the RedHawks an advantage. His defensive game plan for Saturday remains highly focused on stopping the run.

“Their second team running back is as good as anyone we have,” Haywood said.

The Golden Flashes are likely to be without their starting quarterback as well. Sophomore gunslinger Giorgio Morgan, who took over quarterbacking duties in light of Julian Edelman’s departure to the NFL, played most of the season’s first two games with a badly sprained left ankle. He missed Kent State’s third game, however, and KSU head coach Doug Martin told ESPN that he is still really hampered, is not moving well and does not want to put him in a game until he can protect himself and play to his abilities.

Even without his starting quarterback and running back, Martin remains confident in his team’s ability to perform.

“I guarantee right now we’re going to have a winning season, and we’re going to a bowl game,” Martin told the Plain Dealer. “I’m burning the ships.”

If you can win, just start buring things, especially boats. That's KSUs strategy at least.

If you can't win, just start buring things, especially boats. That's KSUs strategy.

Miami’s defensive captain Jordan Gafford believes Kent State runs a unique style of offense. He said they routes run non-traditional routes and implement a unique protection scheme. Because the Golden Flashes’ offense is so different from anything the RedHawks have seen thus far, Gafford noted that preparation this week in practice becomes even more important.
The Miami D played more like an F in the first three games, giving up over 40 points in all three contests. Against Western Michigan, however, the score may have been inflated due to the offense’s frequent turnovers inside its own territory. Even so, Gafford refused to use this as an excuse. Instead, he looks at it as a challenge.

“We can’t look at the offense as a separate unit from us,” Gafford said. “The offense is like our brother, so when we get in tough spots like that we go out with the mindset of ‘hey, my brother needs me right now.’”

To turn the tide of defensive meltdowns, Gafford said they are focusing on playing fast and physical against Kent State.
“The first rule of defense is to get out of control,” Gafford said. “You want to knock someone back.”

While the defense gets out of control, the RedHawks will try to get their season under control as they look for their first win of the year. A victory against the Golden Flashes would even Miami’s conference record at 1-1. The contest marks Miami’s fourth consecutive game away from Oxford during a season in which the RedHawks make only one appearance at Yager Stadium during their first seven games.


WMU Recap: You can put it on the board… YES!

September 21, 2009
Don't be fooled by Miami's first score. The Broncos still trampled the RedHawks with ease.

Don't be fooled by Miami's first score. The Broncos still trampled the RedHawks with ease.

The RedHawks turned over a new leaf Saturday, scoring for the first time in 2009 after 10 pointless periods. Miami University also turned over the ball five times, leading to its third consecutive loss of the season, a 48-26 defeat to Western Michigan University.

On the first offensive play of the game, RedHawk running back Thomas Merriweather fumbled the football into the hands of a Bronco defender. Western Michigan made the most of the mistake by quickly securing six points on the return.

For a winless and then scoreless Miami team who’s only point of pride was strong starts, the early error proved devastating. The half ended with three more RedHawk turnovers and an insurmountable 28-0 Bronco lead.

“You can’t turn the football over and win games in the Mid-American Conference,” Miami head coach Mike Haywood said. “The Broncos did a really nice job of going down and scoring when we made our mistakes.”

WMU pushed its lead to 35 on its second drive of the second half. The script seemed frighteningly familiar to a team hoping to escape its scoreless blowout losses from the first two games when it commenced conference play. Adversity had come calling once again, a foe the RedHawks had not fared well with in the past.

Instead of folding up like a lawn chair, however, the Red and White came back to fight. Answering Western’s fifth touchdown of the game, Miami composed a scoring drive of its own. Senior quarterback Dan Raudabaugh led the RedHawks down the field, amassing 76 yards, five first downs and not a single handoff. Wide out Eugene Harris hung on to the final throw, a 14-yard touchdown pass marking Miami’s first points of the 2009 season. The team took an immediate liking to the new experience of scoring and went on to post three more touchdowns in the game.

“You could see it in the team’s eyes,” Harris said of his score. “(The first touchdown) really motivated us, and it gave us a lot of confidence.”

Although the Miami defense gave up more than 40 points for the third consecutive game, the RedHawks outgained the Broncos on the night by 51 total yards. WMU efficiently scored a large number of points on a relatively average number of yards by capitalizing on Miami turnovers. Four of the Bronco’s scoring drives covered 38 yards or less.

WMU denied Miami's bid for its first win, running away with the game from the very first play. Sure Miami scored, but it was against mostly Bronco backups.

WMU denied Miami's bid for its first win, running away with the game from the very first play. Sure Miami scored, but it was against mostly Bronco backups.

The Western Michigan rushing attack that gained only 60 total yards in two games prior to Saturday reeled off 152 yards against the RedHawks. In a game that provided playing time to many Bronco backups, WMU played three different quarterbacks and three different running backs while nine different players caught passes for Western.

Raudabaugh led the RedHawks in all passing categories but backup Zac Dysert once again saw limited playing time as well. With running back Andre Bratton ailing, freshman ball carrier Roman Lawson led the Miami ground game with 43 yards on seven carries; starting back Merriweather only managed 15 yards on nine carries. With Chris Givens out for the season, junior Armand Robinson led RedHawk receivers with 95 yards on nine receptions.

“They got a level of confidence in themselves, finally putting a touchdown on the board,” Haywood said. “They say, ‘Wow, we can really put a touchdown on the board,’ and then all of a sudden, the next thing we know we’re moving the ball with some consistency with good blocking inside and running better routes.”

The loss to Western drops Miami to 0-3 on the season and 0-1 in MAC play. In the last 53 games the RedHawks have posted 17 wins and 36 losses; this stretch of futility comes on the heels of a 37-16 stretch prior to that.

“I think 90 percent of this is a psychological deal that we have to overcome and we have to get better at it,” Haywood said. “It’s the coach’s responsibility and it starts with me, getting guys to have faith, trust and belief in themselves and they can believe in their teammates as well.”

Miami finishes a four game stretch away from Oxford Saturday at Kent State University. The Golden Flashes were picked to finish just above the RedHawks in the MAC preseason poll. Saturday’s contest under the lights pits two team’s looking for their first conference win of 2009. To turnover a win, Miami must first stop turning over the ball.


WMU Preview: ‘Hawks look to avoid another stampede against a new set of Broncos

September 16, 2009

MUvWMU

Prom dates and football have this in common: it’s tough to score when playing out of your league.

After failing to post a single point in either of its first two non-conference games, the Miami University football team knows this all too well. The RedHawks hope to leave the past behind them, however, as they now prepare to kick off MAC play Saturday against the Western Michigan Broncos.

“We match up well. We’re excited,” junior captain Jordan Gafford said. “We played two pretty good offenses the first two weeks. Western Michigan definitely has talented guys on offense but we think that we can attack them a little more and really play aggressive.”

To give his team a mental fresh start to the season, head coach Mike Haywood is breaking the schedule into four “quarters.” The first two out-of-conference games were the first quarter; Miami’s next two road games against MAC opponents are the second quarter. Haywood urges his team to leave the first quarter behind because it is in the books and there is nothing they can do about it anymore.

“As fragile as this team is from a psychological point of view, you have to wipe away all the adversity from the previous games and attack this season in different segments,” Haywood said. “They aren’t mentally tough enough to look at it as a total big picture.”

The first-year head coach attributes both of his team’s losses to mental issues. He believes they started each contest well but folded after costly turnovers. Helping his young players learn how to overcome these adverse situations is a top priority and a daily point of emphasis.

“It’s a psychological deal,” Haywood said. “We start doing things really well. We’re moving the ball really well and playing well on defense. All of a sudden there are turnovers that happen and the team just falls apart. When we start fighting through that adversity we will become a better football team.”

Where Miami failed in the second half, Western Michigan excelled. If the RedHawks want to stem this trend of final period falters, it must do so against a team that outscored its opponents 19-6 in the second halves of its first two games. Conversely, the Red and White have ample opportunity for another strong start, as the Broncos fell 48-7 in the first halves of those same two games.

WMU is led by senior quarterback Tim Hiller who ranks in the top 3 among active career leaders in six of 10 NCAA passer categories. The gunslinger, who was nominated on four pre-season award watch-lists, plays behind five offensive linemen who all weigh at least 300 lbs. Gafford noted from film study that Hiller releases the ball quickly, which means the RedHawk defense must vary pre-snap reads and put pressure on him in the backfield.

WMU QB Tim Hiller has an entire website dedicated to just him. WhereIsTimHiller? Still in Kalamazoo. Where ever that is.

WMU QB Tim Hiller has an entire website dedicated to just him. WhereIsTimHiller? Still in Kalamazoo. Where ever that is.

“From a defensive point of view, our No. 1 emphasis is to stop the run and provide pressure on the quarterback,” Haywood said. “Western’s quarterback is a big tall player who sits in the pocket and throws the ball well. We need to flush him out of the pocket and keep him on the run.”

While the Bronco passing attack looms as a threat, the WMU rushing attack appears to be a weakness. Western Michigan ran for only 60 yards on 53 carries in its opening two games.

The Miami backfield continues its weekly remodeling. Junior running back Thomas Merriweather reclaimed the starting role after impressing Haywood against Boise State University. Senior Andre Bratton is listed as day-to-day with a groin injury and his status for Saturday is in question. If he is unable to play, freshman Danny Green will back up Merriweather along with freshman Roman Lawson.

Senior Daniel Raudabaugh is scheduled to start at quarterback for the RedHawks after being pulled from Saturday’s game in favor of freshman back up Zac Dysert. Both signal callers threw two interceptions against the Boise Broncos. Haywood said Dysert’s allotted amount of future playing time depends on the performance of Raudabaugh.

Converting on third down served as another point of emphasis in practice this week. Gafford referred to this as the “money down.” He said the team watches its opponents on tape to discover their tendencies on third down plays and then practices those situations on the field. Miami allowed Boise to convert five of 10 third down plays, three of which resulted in touchdowns. On offense, the RedHawks improved on their meager 2-15 conversion rate from the season opener to post a 7-15 rate against the Broncos.

Miami’s puts its unblemished conference record on the line Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Kalamazoo, Mich. Hoping to avoid another stampede, the RedHawks look to score their first points and claim their first victory against the Broncos.