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.”

Advertisements

E(nemy)-Mail: Bull Run

November 18, 2009

Wow, his logo is waaaay cooler than mine.

Slowly but surely the community of MAC bloggers is accepting this site as legitimate. Either that or the complete lack of competition (yay for monopolies) has led to various followers of Miami opponents contacting me for content on their own blogs. The latest to do this was Tim Riordan, author of University at Buffalo blog Bull Run. That’s when I thought to myself, “hey, if we’re gonna play along with this whole being legitimate thing, why don’t we act like it.” So in addition to answering all of Tim’s questions I sent him a few of my own. I know, right… be impressed.

How did Buffalo drop from MAC Champions to 1-5 in conference play? What has been the big difference between last season and now?

I’d love to blame it on injuries (particularly to our Offensive line and our Half Backs) but the only difference between this years team and last years Bulls was how the team respond to pressure. Last season time and time again UB fought back and won out close games (Temple, BGSU, Akron) this year they have fallen apart just about every time the game is close towards the end. UB Lost several games with seconds left. Maynard, as the quarterback, owns some of this but it really seems to be that all UB players perform their worst when the game in on the line.

Aside from falling apart in the second half this is a team that has had bad special teams throughout the year. UB has no credible shot at a Field Goal outside of about 37 yards, punting has been erratic and our return game has been awful. UB has no dedicated coach for special teams, it may be time for them to bring one in.

Losing James Starks at the beginning of the season was killer for the Bulls. Miami knows all too well how dynamic of a runner he is. What kind of impact has his absence had on the Buffalo offense?

UB is missing the leadership that starks would have provided but once we got pounded by Temple they decided to try backs other than Thermilus and Henry. Since then UB has become one of the better rushing teams in the MAC, in no small part due to Ike Nduka (when he is healthy) and Jeffvon Gill, who started the season as backs number four and five respectively.

If Ike Nduka is healthy about the only drop off UB will have at the half back position is in terms of screens. Starks was deadly on screens and the offense has greatly missed that this season.

Much was made of Auburn’s non-hire of Turner Gill. What has he brought to Buffalo after returning this season when he could have easily been coaching somewhere else? Did he miss his chance at a high profile job or do you see him getting another shot down the road?

I think when gill took himself out of the running for Iowa state he made a bigger statement than when Auburn turned him down. The statement is that he will be in Buffalo until the right job comes along. So far I think some better recruits are willing to take the chance he will stay in Buffalo for several years UB is sitting on three three star recruits including a couple who had offers from BCS schools I can honestly say I don’t remember the last time that has happened so early on in the year.

So long as Gill does not pull a J.D. Brookhart and disappear after one great season he will eventually get an offer somewhere else that he considers worth leaving for. No team in the MAC, save Temple, really pays their coaches enough money to expect a talented coach to stay on for very long. The MAC pay scale, and the chance to coach in a big time conference, will eventually be enough to pull Gill away from Buffalo.

The Bulls lost their last three games but the results don’t tell the whole story. Buffalo only lost by a combined seven points in those most recent contests. What has stopped this team from winning close games?

I’m working on a book about this very phenomena “how to lose game and torment fans”. UB has found so many ways to lose this year that I might need to publish it in volumes. Two blocked punts (deep) against Bowling Green, Having the Ball bounce right off of Marcus Rivers chest and into Shannon Ballard’s against Ohio, falling flat against WMU in overtime, disappearing in the second half against UCF, …, …

Most of this is owed to coaching problems, I am still a big believer in Turner Gill but there are two things he has to fix for next season. Firstly UB plays way too conservative of a game once they get the lead. Against Bowling Green the Bulls had the ball with three timeouts and about two minutes left in the first half, the proceeded to run the clock out. Why they did not for for the throat was a subject of much consternation on ubfan.com. The other problem with coaching relates to the special teams, our special teams are split between two coaches. Clearly the arrangement is not working as not one aspect of our special teams play has been passable this season.

Prediction: What do you expect to see Wednesday? What are the key match ups and who will win them to tip the scales?

It depends on which Zach Dysert shows up, UB has gotten better applying pressure to the QB as the season has went on and Dysert is either great or terrible under pressure depending on the phases of the moon and what house Saturn is in (like most first year starters). If Dysert keeps his calm he is a very frighting QB to face but if the Bulls get inside his head, even a little, I don’t see Miami moving the Ball on Buffalo.
————————————————————————————————
And just in case you were curious, here are my answers to his questions.

With the season winding down how much improvement have you seen under Mike Haywood? Aside from a different football philosophy what else has he brought to the RedHawk and did Brad Bates made the right call?

I am fully convinced that Haywood is the right man for this job. Aside from the obvious changes in team culture and coaching philosophy, a significant contribution has been player development. Haywood pretty much decided to start from scratch, which means many of the starting positions are filled by freshmen and sophomores. While this committed the RedHawks to a very literal re-building season, the team should see huge dividends from this investment in seasons to come as these players already have a full season of development and familiarity with Haywood’s system. Haywood has also shown flexibility as coach. He preaches a hard-nosed, smash-mouth style that is all about running the ball and stopping the run; mid-way through the season when this clearly was not working he was willing to change the offense to a pass first attack rather than just entrench in his own principles. Miami won its first game after the switch and almost knocked off Temple as well.

Zack Dysert has been, aside form the Bowling Green game, looking like a very promising quarterback. How in the world did Haywood start the season with Raudabaugh and how is Dysert doing this spending as much time on his back as he is?

Dysert has been a tasty treat as of late but it didn’t start out that way. During his first few appearances in game action he looked like a deer in the headlights. Haywood started with Raudabaugh because he wanted to ease Dysert into the starting role rather than just throw him in there against the likes of Boise and UK. As for all the sacks, those will come with all the big plays. Dysert seems extremely reluctant to just throw the ball away. Often this ends up in him making a huge play with his legs or finding an open receiver late, but it also ends in plenty of lost yards as well. He is an incredible athlete but still has a lot of adjusting to this level of play to do in addition to some maturing as both a quarterback and a leader.

I’m a big believer in playing the best schedule you can (FCS games are for chumps) even if it means you lose some games big. Given that the hawks are in a rebuilding phase how do you perceive Miami’s future scheduling priorities versus what you would have them be?

I too believe in challenging yourself with the non-conference games but I also think there is a difference between playing up and playing completely out of your league. Games against Northwestern are great because it exposes you to a better team but still gives you a chance to compete. Games against Boise don’t allow you to improve as much, however, because the talent gap is too wide. As of right now, Miami is scheduled to play Florida, Missouri and Cincinnati all on the road next season. Playing better teams holds some benefits but at some point this team needs to learn how to win.

Your defense seems to always play just poorly enough to lose games. While your offense is improving as time goes on the defense, even with guys like Gafford, continue to be mired in mistakes as the season goes on. Where are the real defensive problems for Miami?

The RedHawk defense cannot stop the run. This has been a chronic problem all season. A perfect example of this is the Temple game. When a team is losing with less than two minutes remaining it is pretty standard for them to implement a pass only offense in order to move the ball quickly and conserve time. But the Owls chose to run the ball because they had seen all game how porous the MU run defense is. Sure enough, Temple ripped off two double digit gains and ended up kicking a game-winning field goal. The biggest play Miami has trouble with is the zone sweep. Ohio was extremely successful with this and it seems most Miami opponents took notes and are doing the same.

Prediction: Will Miami finish their season with a win? If they win who is the hero, if the lose who is the goat?

Win or lose, Dysert will hold most of the responsibility. I know its easy to point to the quarterback as a default hero or goat but he really has dictated the overall performance of the RedHawks most of the season. If he can keep the turnovers to a minimum and make a few big plays, Miami should be able to beat the Bulls. But if Buffalo runs against the Miami D with the same success as other teams, it won’t take too many mistakes for the Hawks to lose.


IT ENDS TONIGHT

November 18, 2009

Win or lose, Miami’s season ends tonight. Said more bluntly, the misery that this season has been ends tonight. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed Haywood’s arrival and Dysert’s breakout; but there is no getting around the fact that this season, as a whole, was aweful.

Somehow I don’t think I’m the only one with this opinion. Right now, 10 minutes before game time, there are exactly 18 fans in the stands across the field from me. Where are the other 15,000 students that go to this school? At home not caring about this game.

I like to raise the stakes before the game. It’s an old journalism trick to make readers actually read your story. You know, tell them why the game is important and not just a game. Well tonight we have two teams with a combined two wins in the MAC. It’s raining. Not even 20 students are here. Yup, that’s about all the context I can give you. I guess it would be nice to finish with two wins instead of one but in the end this game really just doesn’t matter.

So now that you are all fired up for some football, I give you…

DK Kountry Key Matchups:

Buffalo Players vs The 12th man: While typically the 12th man refers to the thousands of fans screaming from the bleachers, tonight this term is much more literal. I’m telling you right now, that 12th man I counted, he’s the difference maker. I can hear the announcers now… “and the fan (as in singular fan) goes wild!” Hey, considering only 18 students showed up, I’d say I have pretty good odds.

The way I see it, everything else seems to be pretty even and thus does not warrent comment.

Prediction: The winner of this game will be the team that doesn’t care the least. I’m going with Haywood on this one. Miami 27, Buffalo 24.

————————————————————————————————–

6:09

If not for the free dinner I doubt I woulda shown up tonight. City BBQ… mmmmm

6:12

Miami started with the ball and has already picked up two 3rd and forevers. They are now inside the Buffalo 40. Miami better start doing better on 1st and 2nd down or it could be a long night. Working so far tho.

6:13

Another 3rd and forever…

6:14

Almost picked off. Yeah that didn’t last long.

6:23

Miami did stop Buffalo in three downs, but the run defense almost blew it. Then Miami’s return team really almost blew it. We’re starting our second possession and we’ve already filled the quota for dodged bullets.

6:28

Dysert looks like he has total control of this offense. Very calm and collected. Very decisive with the ball. He has Miami on another drive into Buffalo territory.

6:30

Tons of running room for Dysert so far. Did they not get the game tape this week? How were they not prepared for this?

6:31

Picked in the endzone. Bullocks! Dysert really needs to cut that out.

6:33

So I brought my RA along for the ride tonight. His name is Matt Hey, which means whenever role call is being taken he gets addressed as “Hey, Matt.” How great is that? He has a huge paper due tomorrow but couldn’t pass up the free City BBQ either.

6:38

If you are a cheerleader and there aren’t any fans, are you really a cheerleader? Doesn’t that make you more of a plain old cheer-er?

6:40

DAN RAUDABAUGH!? He still plays for Miami? What? I guess coach is giving him a pitty series or two tonight since its his last (finally) game.

6:43

Hey, what’s this? Miami is actually driving with DR back in action. Maybe Buffalo is worse than I thought.

6:46

Sack and then DR runs out of bounds before the first down marker. That’s more like it.

Punt team comes on and earns automatic first down on roughing the kicker call. 1st and 10 from the Buffalo 34!

6:50

Dude, Miami is dodgin bullets like its the freaking Matrix. Rogers catches a slant route pass then fumbles the ball into open field. If the Buffalo player picks it up he probably scores. Instead, the ball trickles out of bounds. This is getting a little ridiculous.

Cook field goal is good… and the FAN goes wild! Miami 3, Buffalo 0.

6:54

So we’re sitting next to a few NFL scouts and Hey, Matt is getting bored with the game. For anyone who knows Hey, Matt, this is a dangerous combination. Naturally he has already drawn up his own free-agent profile to give to the scouts in attempt to get drafted in April. Here are a few excerpts…

  • Pros: I will never violate NFL policies; I am the next Wes Welker (the one you’ve been looking for)
  • Cons: I have never played football on a college, high school, middle school or elementary team.

6:59

Who needs James Starks when you are playing a run defense like Miami’s? Buffalo just ripped off a big run all the way down to the goal line then jogged it in on a sweep the next play… and silences the fan. Miami 3, Buffalo 7.

7:03

Wow that was pretty pathetic. Buffalo squib kicks to the 28. Miami’s special teamer caught it cleanly then just fell to the ground with no defenders within 10 yards of him. The odd part is I think he meant to do this. Dysert is back in btw.

7:08

I realize that “Broadway” is a common name used for a city’s busiest street. But since this is also the name of Miami’s punter, I feel like this route is being used a tad too often tonight.

7:11

If Happy Gilmore were announcing this game, he would probably say the Buffalo running backs are “riding the bull, feeling the flow.” U@B is back in Miami territory on all run plays.

7:13

31-yard rushing TD… the fan is disgusted. Miami 3, Buffalo 14.

7:21

Miami didn’t do much, if anything, with the ball. Now U@B has it on the RedHawk 30 with 35 seconds left. The fan will probably leave at half time.

7:24

Miami 3, U@B 21.

HALFTIME

Well, it started out ok. But then Buffalo just stopped throwing the ball and that typically works pretty well against this Miami team. Haywood MUST recruit some run stoppers or it won’t be much prettier next season. This has been a problem all year and actually I think it got progressively worse. Overall Dysert look descent. He’s running too much because of bad protection and a a young/inexperienced WR corps that doesn’t get open often enough or quick enough. Hopefully Miami will recover from the injury bug and stay healthy on offense next season. O-Line is definitely another recruiting priority.

All the scouts left with the fan which means Hey, Matt never got a chance to give his pitch. It’s a shame too because I hear KC could use a WR.

7:51

Oh my, I look up and not only has the second half started but U@B has already scored. Two huge runs and a trick play that ended with a TE standing at the 1-yard line looking up into the lights waiting for the rainbow pass to fall into his open arms. I’m serious. He was just standing there. No RedHawk within 15 yards. Miami 3, U@B 28.

8:05

Touchdown Miami. Sorry I kinda signed off there for a bit. I really don’t know what happened on that drive at all. Hey, Matt and I have been too busy looking up pickup lines on Mathew Berry’s fantasy football column. Yes, you read that correctly and no, there are no typos. I was looking for pickup lines in a fantasy football column. Now you no why my current facebook status is over four years old. Miami 10, U@B 28.

8:13

So I realize you all (yes, I am working under the assumption that people are actually reading this) are now dying to know what insight we gleaned from our search. Here’s our best stuff so far…

  • Say baby, can I have your picture? I want Santa to know exactly what I want for Christmas.
  • Was there a rainbow nearby, baby? Because you’re the treasure I’ve been searching for.
  • I’m not drunk, baby. I’m just intoxicated by you.

Don’t worry, although we considered testing these on the stat girl who comes by after after ever scoring drive, we decided this was not a good idea. Also, stay tuned because there are more to come.

8:15

After a rare defensive stop, Miami ripped off a nice punt return and tacked on 15 more yards from a late hit out of bounds. This thing ain’t over just yet.

8:17

ZD with a nice run through traffic to set up 1st and goal. Say Baby, is there an airport nearby? Or is that just my heart taking off?

8:20

Wow, terrible series leads to multiple sacks and a missed chip-shot field goal.

8:27

So Miami has the ball back. That’s weird because that requires stopping Buffalo on two consecutive possessions.

8:34

RedHawks are driving again. That missed field goal after 1st and goal was a killer. This game would be getting good right about now with a score back there. Wow, there’s a nice grab by Woods on a wet football thrown hard and was already past him. “Say Baby, are you a parking meter? Because you’ve got ‘fine’ written all over you.”

8:37

Check that. A Miami ball carrier just fumbled one yard short of his first career TD. That pretty much sums up the entire season. Expectation for great things followed up by huge mistakes from a young and developing team.

8:44

If Tom Petty was calling this game would probably be saying Buffalo is “running down a dream.” Oh wait, never mind. They just scored on a deep PASS play. And the beat goes on. Miami 10, U@B 35.

8:46

Stat girl (still don’t know her name or number) is now due for another visit. Here are my remaining options…

  • “Say baby, can I borrow a Band-Aid? Because I just scraped my knee falling for you.”
  • “Hey baby, do you have a map? Because I keep getting lost in your eyes.”
  • “Say baby, if you were fast food, you’d be a McGorgeous.”

8:51

DR is back in. Good call Haywood. I’m not gonna say he deserves it but its the right thing to do. Even so, I refuse to give him a pick up line.

8:52

36-yard touchdown PASS! Good for Dan. I will say I’m happy for him. Getting benched for a freshman has gotta be rough so this is a nice way to go out. Still no pick up line tho.

8:54

Just realized I forgot to post the score. Well I’m not going to because that is completely irrelevant at this point.

8:59

Another U@B rushing TD from outside the redzone. Yup. Miami is pretty good at defense. Not. The score is now even more irrelevant and un-postable.

9:05

DR still in the game… this drive started well but ends on 4th down after a terrible throw way over the WRs head. I won’t say it, but you are all thinking it…

9:06

Ok U@B is in victory formation. That’s all for me. G’night yall!


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.


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.


Holy Toledo Live!

October 31, 2009

toledovsMU

During the 1830s, war broke loose between Michigan and Ohio. Each state claimed ownership over a precious piece of land on their border. After 15 years of simmering, a 19-year old Michigan governor grew restless and sent militia south to settle the dispute once and for all.

What was this promised land that both states so dearly valued? Toledo. Clearly people back in the 1830s weren’t so bright. Want proof? Not only were they fighting over (eh hem) Toledo, but they never actually fought because each army got lost in the swamps and thus failed to find each other.

Eventually Michigan came to its senses and succeeded the land. In exchange, congress awarded the state possession of the Upper Peninsula. Copper and iron deposits have since been discovered in this region along with the plentiful source of timber. Ohio, on the other hand, remains stuck with… Toledo (just a stone’s throw away from Bowling Green, the STD capital of Midwest America). I’ll let you decide for yourself who won the war.

As for today’s football game, expect plenty of fireworks, and by that I mean exploding rockets. With exception of a 0-38 loss to Ohio State, Toledo has scored at least 20 points in every game and at least 30 points in four of its games. This includes a 54-38 bombing of Colorado, a game Miami gave up in exchange for its Tumble at the River.

For Miami to stay competitive today, the RedHawks will need Zac Dysert to run a highly efficient and productive offense. This actually seems reasonable, and even though its Halloween I don’t mean that as a joke. While the Rockets score plenty of points, they give up plenty of points as well. Dysert did not throw a pick on Homecoming, a sign that he is making strides in the turnover department. As long as the players carrying the ball for Miami can at least dress up and pretend to be real running backs I think the RedHawk offense can hang with Toledo.

DK Kountry Key Matchups:

  • Toledo vs Halloween ticks: On paper, the Rockets should easily blast off to their fifth win of the season, but today is October 31st and crazy things are known to happen on Halloween. Oxford is known for its stray cat population, and who knows, maybe a black one will make its way down to Yager for the game. I think this contest will have its fair share of quirks which could end up deciding the victor.
  • Toledo vs Haywood tricks: Haywood has shown thus far that he is not afraid to call a trick play or two… or three or four. Watch out for the fake punt, onside kick and some crazy combination of reverses today, especially if the RedHawks get down. This should make for some great eye candy.
  • RedHawk ring and run vs Rocket powered D: Miami finished with -11 net rushing yards last week. That is a fantastic way to lose games. Dysert has the talent to keep this thing close through the passing attack, but he just hafta has help from his ball carriers.

Prediction: I foresee lots of tricks and lots of treats. The first team to 30 wins. Miami shows improvement each week but they also seem to find new creative ways to lose each week as well. At first they couldn’t play past the first quarter. Then they couldn’t stop turning the ball over. Now they can’t even finish a game with positive rushing yards. This season has been flat out spooky. Somehow, on Halloween of all days, I don’t expect that to change. Rest assured, the RedHawks will find a frightening way to not win. RedHawks 21, Holy Toledo 34.

—————————————————————————————————-

3:30

There are roughly 120 people on the student section side of Yager right now. I counted. That’s how few people there are. I looked across the stadium and in no way felt overwhelmed by the idea of counting fans. Awesome.

3:42

Miami gets the ball first. Dysert misses two open receivers down field but two dump off passes to Merriweather each go for first downs. Can Miami just not attempt a run play ever again and use screen passes as its ground game instead? Can’t be worse than the actual run game, right?

3:47

Miami’s first drive ended with out a single rushing attempt (by a running back) in nine plays. I think Haywood and I are on the same page. This is great news. Inside Toledo territory I really expected a fake punt but some guy named Broadway was making his first career punt attempt so I guess you gotta give him he dignity of actually kicking it. On the return, two Rockets each tried to catch the ball and ran into each other. Miami did not recover the fumble.

3:50

HOLY TOLEDO! A penalty pushes Toledo back to its own nine yard line. Two play later… PICK 6!!! TOUCHDOWN MIAMI!!! Extra point is goooooood! Miami 7, Rockets 0.

3:55

Toledo’s drive began with a big run helped by poor (as in, lack of) Miami tackling. After that the D locked down to force a punt. Miami’s drive starts on its own 12.

3:58

On its 11th play from scrimmage, Miami finally runs a running play. Five yard pick up aint bad, especially coming off a big pick up from a pass interference penalty.

4:04

Dysert fumbles to give Toledo the ball inside the 40. Regardless of the fumble I must say Dysert has not looked as sharp as usual today. Very inconsistent in terms of accuracy. This could be a huge problem if Toledo starts scoring with any regularity (which it definitely can).

4:09

One of the Toledo coaches keeps holding up a HUGE sign. The back side (the side facing me) is all white and I really want to know what it says on the other side. In other news, Toledo just picked up a fourth and one inside the 15. They got there on a big pick up from a sweep play to the right. This was the second of two big gains for them today, both pretty much on the same play.

4:14

Looks like Haywood isn’t the only coach in Yager willing to be risky. Toledo just went for it on fourth and one from the four yard line to pick up their second fourth down conversion of the drive. Two plays later they pick up the TD. RedHawks 7, Toledo 7.

4:19

The first quarter end all tied up. Miami has the ball second and two from the Toledo 46. Dysert just ran a really nice fake hand off quarterback sneak play. He still is off on his deep throws but is hitting the short slants pretty well.

4:22

Miami isn’t running the ball much, but when they do it seems to actually work. Not only does the rush attack look quzi competent but it seems to be functioning in a very healthy manner. And whatdayaknow, the pass game opens up for a few nice gains down field. Its almost like that’s how its supposed to work.

4:27

TOUCHDOWN MIAMI!!! In a very Roethlisberger-esq move, Dysert steps up in the pocket to avoid what looked to be a sure sack and then nailed a receiver in the back of the endzone for the score. Side note, this is the first time all season Miami has led in the second quarter. Now THAT’s scary. RedHawks 14, Rockets 7.

4:29

So while Miami seems to have at least temporarily solved its problem of rushing the ball, the inability to stop the other team’s rushing attack is still quite prevalent. Toledo just ripped off a looooong run play all the way down to the Miami 20.

4:31

Miami D holds with the help of a punishing sack by Jerrell Wedge, who just flew into the backfield on third down and drilled the Toledo QB. Ouch.

4:35

Dysert is really clicking this drive with the short slant routes. Miami ball on the Toledo 27… first down!

4:36

Make that the Toledo 3… now five completions in a row.

4:41

TOUCHDOWN MIAMI!!! Dysert hit Robinson on yet another slant for what woulda been his 6th consecutive completion in a row this drive (and 8th counting passes before the drive) but Robinson got hit and dropped the pass. Dysert ran it in himself on the next play. What really caught my eye was the way Dysesert danced into the endzone and then did a double fist pump while looking up to the sky. So nice to see some emotion and enthusiasm from this RedHawk team. Miami 21, Toledo 7.

4:46

So I completely over estimated the power of the rocket offense. That or Miami is playing ridiculous defense. Maybe both. Either way Toledo only has seven points with just over five minutes left in the first half. And Miami has the ball inside their territory… again.

4:48

Dysert’s pass got tipped straight up in the air. A rocket lineman went up for the pick only to have Zac come over, leap up and swat it away. RE-JECTED!

4:53

An absolute bomb of a pass took Toledo from their own 15 to Miami’s 40. If the receiver is hit in stride its an easy TD but instead he had to make a really nice diving catch. The rocket offense only went backwards from there tho and now Miami has the ball on its own 3 after a great punt.

5:01

A long run by Merriweather, a questionable call by the refs and another big pass by Dysert has Miami inside the Toldeo 35. 50 seconds left in the half. Could the RedHawks really take a three score lead into halftime?

5:04

WOW! Trevor Cook just blasted a 55 yard field goal. Un freaking believable. This crap could only happen on Halloween. The kick set Miami’s all time record for longest field goal by a Miami kicker. RedHawks 24, Toledo 7.

HALFTIME

Forget about the score. Miami looks like a real football team. Now that is both a trick and a treat! Obviously there is still a whole half of football to play but the Hawks really do look like they have it all figured out on offense and mostly figured out on defense. Toledo has been able to get off a concerning amount of deep passes and long runs. So far the MU D has always limited it to just that and shut down the drive right away. Even so, the big play ability scares me and could prove instrumental in a comeback effort. On offense, Miami has somehow managed to establish a legitimate (and at times, even dangerous) ground attack and it is doing wonders for Dysert. Since the first quarter he’s look much better down field but the quick hits are whats really working. The Rockets better find away to get pressure on ZD and stop the run or it won’t matter how many points they score in the second half.

5:28

Some first half stats for ya. Dysert went 21-37 and threw for 215 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT. Merriweather ran for 29 yards on only four carries. Dysert ran for 28 yards on five carries.

5:34

touchdown toledo. Wow, that didn’t take long. The drive was largely aided by a questionable late hit out of bounds call, but the fact still remains that the Rocket powered offense just shredded the Miami D. This is what I expected from the beginning but not even close to what we saw in the first half. Let’s hope it was just a one-time trick. RedHawks 24, Toledo 14.

5:40

Oh wow. Dysert looked to have miss cued once again on a deep ball down field but a ridiculous one-handed diving catch completed the pass. We’re talking sportscenter top 10 worthy here. Side note, Merriweather still looks strong running the ball.

5:42

So Miami’s drive (i.e. one big play) stalled and Cooked barely missed his field goal attempt. Toledo is now busy ripping off more big runs. No, I’m not nervous, are you?

5:44

Add big pass plays to the list of things Toledo is busy ripping off. I knew Miami couldn’t keep letting the Rockets do this. Eventually they will start finishing drives. They are now inside the 10.

5:46

Well, the MU D held em to 3. RedHawks 24, Rockets 17.

5:54

TOUCHDOWN MIAMI!!! With no one to throw to, Dysert opted for a 25 yard TD run. Looks like they made it to 30 first so lets hope that ensures the win like I said it would. RedHawks 31, Rockets 17.

5:59

And the shootout is on! Toledo is driving down field with concerning ease once again. I don’t think either defense plans on playing this half, at least not until their opponents get into the red zone.

6:03

A potential Toledo TD run is under review, while we wait, I will amuse myself by watching Swoop and Rocket chase each other behind the Toledo bench… so great!

6:05

After review, mascots chasing each other are awesome… oh and the TD stands. Maybe its actually first to 40 wins. I don’t see this stopping anytime soon. RedHawks 31, Rockets 24.

6:11

Uh oh. Those of you who read this blog regularly know I have a knack for jinxing Miami. Well, their drive just stalled, right on cue. MU needs a stop.

6:15

Toledo is punting. I wish I could say its because Miami played great D but the truth is that the Rockets stopped themselves. A receiver ran the wrong route on second down and another pass was dropped on third down. Both woulda been firsts. Miami gets the ball on their 10.

6:19

ZD just does not like to throw the ball away. He holds on to it as long as he possibly can. Often it results in a sac but he pulled off a nice pass for a first down here. Still, its definitely an area he could use some maturing in.

6:25

Miami punts but at least showed signs of life this time before doing so. The special teams unit downed the ball on the one yard line, but not before falling down in the process. Oh, Swoop and Rocket are back at the whole chasing thing, and this time they even pretended to fight. Swoop tackled Rocket, sat on him and the began ‘punching’ him in the face over and over. This needs to happen more often. A lot more often!

6:30

Toledo was 0-8 on third down coming into this drive but now has converted their last two. Very frustrating considering the drive started on the one. If Toledo doesn’t score on this drive time will become a very important factor in the rest of the game. Only 4:45 left right now.

6:33

Toledo now 3-11 on third down and at the Miami 33. This is getting scary.

6:36

1st and 10 from the 13 with 1:22 left… I can’t watch I’m so spooked. I’m definitely sleeping with the lights on tonight.

6:38

touchdown toledo. under review. this sucks.

6:42

AHHHHHHHHHHH!!! Toledo ball carrier fumbled the ball into the endzone right before he crossed. By rule, this is a touch back and MIAMI BALL!!! How’s that for a trick and a treat! Toldya crazy things happen on Halloween!

6:49

Its official. MIAMI UNIVERSITY WON A FOOTBALL GAME!


E(nemy)-Mail

October 23, 2009
Come on, just look at that cute doggie face. You would done the same thing.

Come on, just look at that cute doggie face. You woulda done the same thing.

Like a thief in the night, the “Red and Black Attack” (NIU blog) struck swiftly and without invitation. There was nothing I could do. Either I spilled my guts or they would spill them for me. So I did what any coward would do in this situation… I talked. I told them everything. This is not something I’m proud of, but its the truth and I just want to be honest with all of you. Below is the transcript of the interrogation.

(PS so maybe that’s over dramatized just a tad. Mike Breese was actually a really nice guy and a total class act. But honestly, isn’t the whole thief in the night thing way more cool?)

1. First of all, what are the major differences in offensive and defensive schemes now that Mike Haywood is your coach? How has the transition been so with implementing everything and has team turnover been limited?

I think there is a lot of tension between the type of football
Haywood wants to play and the type of football his players are capable
of playing. Haywood really wants to run a tough, disciplined team that
can run the football and stop the run. He wants a team that will wear
down opponents for all 60 minutes with intense, physical play.
Unfortunately he didn’t get to Oxford until December, which is mid way
through the recruiting season. As a result, he is stuck mostly with
players recruited to play Shane Montgomery football. The last four
years are often referred to by fans as the country club era for its
lack of just about everything Haywood has preached so far. So far
Miami hasn’t come close to establishing a ground game so the offense
looks a lot like it did the last few years. It still a quarterback
driven offense that relies heavily on short to mid range passes. It
often substitutes bubble screens and swing passes in for a run game.
There are still a lot of draw plays when they do run. One significant
difference, however, is that Haywood is much more aggressive in his
play calling. He takes a lot more shots down field and he doesn’t ever
hesitate to go for it on fourth and short, even in Miami territory.
There have even been a fair share of trick plays, fake punts and
onside kicks. These things never even crossed Montgemery’s mind as an
option.

2. You’ve played one of the toughest schedules in the nation so far playing tough teams and only 2 out of 7 at home. How has your team responded to this brutal gauntlet?

Well obviously the 0-7 record says the team hasn’t responded very
well to the brutal schedule, but I would argue that the schedule has a
much less significant role in that then people may think. Sure it
didn’t help playing Boise and UC but lets keep in mind that Miami lost
to Kent State as well. I certainly think all the away games wears on a
team; the RedHawks definitely showed more life and energy against UC
in their one game in Oxford so far then they have on the road. Mostly
though the 0-7 records speaks to the fact that this is a very young
and inexperienced team that is still trying to buy into a whole new
system under a new coach.

3. Freshman Zac Dysert has showed spurts of talent here and there, but has fallen to the turnover bug. Where do the problems lie on the offensive side of things?

Turnovers have been a killer. Its not just Dysert although the
frequency of fumbles has dropped in recent weeks. What really hurts is
when the turnover come. Dysert especially has thrown picks in the most
crucial of moments. Another big problem is injuries. Miami top three
wide outs coming into the season are all hurt. Andre Bratton, the only
back to show any signs of consistency out of the backfield is hurt as
well. Its been hard for this offense to figure itself out with a new
set of guys on the field each week. The four skill players mentioned
are also talented upperclassmen so their playmaking and leadership is
dearly missed. The third big problem, as mentioned before, is a less
that futile ground attack.

4. On defense it’s kind of the same thing as they tend to keep Miami in games, especially against Northwestern. What are some playmakers on that side of the ball and do you see them improving?

Jordan Gafford is a big playmaker for the Hawks on defense. It
seems like he is in on every tackle. He flies to the ball and is
extremely dynamic when blitzing the quarterback. Jerrell Wedge has
also really impressed me. He has really developed as a redshirt
sophomore and has been one of the few defenders to create turnovers. I
definitely see this group getting better. They are so young and
inexperienced that this year has just been mostly about finding their
identity as a unit and developing both their skill and schemes. Being
coached by Carl “Bull” Reese doesn’t hurt their chances of improvement
either.

5. Prediction time. I don’t need an exact score, but where do you see the game going on Saturday. Do you see any wins on the rest of your schedule?

There should be a ton of energy around this team Saturday. They are
finally through that brutal stretch of six road games in seven
contests and quite appropriately this is also homecoming weekend. That
being said, NIU is clearly the more talented and developed team in
this match up and a home crowd can only carry a team so far. After
watching Miami play OU last weekend, NIU’s dual attack at running back
is a huge cause for concern in my mind. The combination of that
rushing attack with the fact that eight Husky receivers average over
10 yards per catch leads me to believe the NIU offense will be very
hard to stop for Miami. Just like the OU game, the RedHawks will
probably be caught guessing whether to load up the box or drop extra
help deep. I’m thinking it will be close at halftime but NIU pulls
away for an easy win after the break.

If Miami wins a game this season it will probably come in one of its
last two games against BG or Buffalo. Both of those are home week
night games (no fans lost to hockey or OSU). I’m thinking they get it
against against Buffalo. James Starks who absolutely burned Miami last
year won’t be around which is a huge plus for the Hawks. By that point
in the season I don’t expect the Bulls to have anything left to play
for and Miami will desperately be trying to avoid a winless season.

(I’m out of town this weekend and thus will not be covering the game. This means no live blog and no game recap. Don’t worry, we’re not breaking up. I just need some time alone to figure some stuff out for myself. I hope you understand.)