Coaches of football teams coming off wins – especially big ones – and going into bye weeks usually have mixed feelings.
They want to maintain momentum. They also want to give some injured players time to recover.
Not Chuck Martin in 2019. Sure, his Miami team is coming off Saturday’s turnaround 34-20 Mid-America Conference win over Buffalo, but the RedHawks coach had other priorities.
“For us, we’ll take the bye week,” he said during Monday’s weekly media session. “We need it. It’s a good time for it. It will give us a chance to look at what we’re doing good and at the things we’re not doing well.”
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The sixth-year coach is hoping the extra week will give several players, especially along the banged-up offensive line, time to recover before traveling to Kalamazoo, Mich., to face Western Michigan on October 12 at noon.
“Some will be ready in two weeks,” Martin said. “Some of the guys are still going to be missing.”
True freshmen offensive linemen Caleb Shaffer and Rusty Fath were pressed into service on Saturday against the defending East Division champions. Miami (2-3, 1-0) also had true freshman Brett Gabbert at quarterback, and true freshman wide receiver James Maye saw his playing time increase after fourth-year junior Jack Sorenson suffered an early injury that had him in street clothes by halftime. Remarkably, not only was Miami penalized just two times for a total of 20 yards, but the RedHawks didn’t commit a turnover while forcing Buffalo into three.
The RedHawks went into the game averaging eight penalties for 69.2 yards.
“Any time you only have two penalties and no turnovers, you at least give yourself a chance,” Martin said.
That disparity helped Miami overcome the Bulls rushing for 309 yards to the RedHawks’ 145, a career-high 107 by junior Jaylon Bester, who’d missed the previous three games with an injury and wasn’t even listed on Miami’s pre-game two-deep depth chart.
Bester was one of three Miami players who swept the MAC East players-of-the-week awards that were announced on Monday. Bester was named Offensive Plsyer of the Week. Junior safety Mike Brown was named Defensive Player of the Week after coming up with two interceptions and returning one for a touchdown, Senior kicker Sam Sloman was named the division’s Special Teams Player of the Week after connecting on two field goals, including one of 53 yards that is tied for the third-longest in program history. Sloman’s seven kickoffs all resulted in touchbacks.
Sloman’s kickoffs and Maurice Thomas’s kickoff returns also played key roles in Miami’s win. Thomas averaged 18.7 yards on three kickoff returns and 22.7 yards on three punt returns. Besides returning zero kickoffs, the Bulls returned just two of fifth-year senior Kyle Kramer’s punts for a total of 20 yards.
That all adds up to the RedHawks having an average drive-start point of their own 44-yard line. The Bulls average drive-start point was their own 22.
It also added up to a more pleasant Sunday video review than the previous week’s session, which followed a 76-5 loss at Ohio State.
“It was a great atmosphere,” said Thomas, the Talawanda product who now has more kickoff-return yards than any player in Miami history. “Coming off a win is always nice.”
Martin pointed out that the 14-3 lead Buffalo opened up early in the second quarter meant that Miami had been outscored, 90-8, in a span of six quarters before scoring 31 straight points.
“Everybody pitched in” he said, giving credit to the players, the coaches, the medical staff and even the media relations department. “It’s a lot different this Monday than last Monday. Thomas did a crazy good job flipping the field. I don’t think anybody has ever been outscored 90-8 and then scored the next 31 points. When we were down 14-3, I wasn’t sure I was going to be this happy.”
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