On one hand, Chuck Martin was as shocked as anybody else on hand at the stunning turnaround in the last two minutes of Miami’s 37-29 Mid-American Conference loss to Bowling Green last Saturday.
On another, the RedHawks’ fourth-year coach suspects that veteran MAC followers weren’t at all surprised.
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Miami fell to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in the MAC East Division with the loss, but Ohio – picked to win the division in a pre-season poll of conference media members – also fell to 1-1 with a 26-23 loss to Central Michigan, which lost to the RedHawks, 31-14, on Sept. 23.
Miami and Ohio are two of four teams tied for second in the East with 1-1 records, one game behind 2-0 Akron.
“It doesn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know,” Martin said Monday about MAC balance. “Everybody looks at records, but not a whole lot of things make sense unless you follow the MAC. There are a lot of Saturdays you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
That means Miami’s game at Kent State on Saturday could bear close inspection. Like teams’ won-lost records, Martin believe the Golden Flashes being ranked 11th among the MAC’s 12 teams in average points and total defense allowed is misleading.
“I’ve felt this way for four years,” Martin said. “Kent State is as great or better defensively than any team in the MAC.”
The Golden Flashes were outscored by a combined 98-6 in losses to Louisville and defending national champion Clemson, but they’ve held every other opponents to 31 or fewer points.
“Nobody can run on them,” Martin said. “Offensively, they had a plan. They were going to run the ball, but they lost their top guy.”
Fifth-year senior Nick Holley, listed on Kent State’s roster as a quarterback-wide receiver, leads the Golden Flashes in with 207 yards despite playing just the first three games before suffering a season-ending injury.
Martin now knows how that feels after losing junior starting quarterback Gus Ragland to a lower body injury in the third quarter last Saturday. Ragland’s injury might not be season-ending, but he’s expected to miss 2-5 weeks, according to an athletic department spokesperson.
Junior Billy Bahl, who started seven games as a true freshman and the first five last season before suffering a shoulder injury that opened the door for Ragland, stepped in and almost led Miami to a comeback win.
Martin respects the maturity the 6-foot-4, 230-pound right-hander from Woodstock, Ill., has shown in playing the backup role.
“It’s tough for a kid to lose his job like that,” Martin said. “We’re very comfortable with him.”
Miami and Kent State met at the exact same point in last season’s schedule – game No. 7, when Ragland made his first career start and led Miami to a gritty 18-14 win at Yager Stadium in Oxford. Holley scored both of the Golden Flashes’ touchdowns before Miami pulled out the win when Ragland and running back Kenny Young connected on a 56-yard pass play with 1:34 left in the game. That was the first of the RedHawks’ six straight wins to close out the regular season.
Kent State coach Paul Haynes believes Miami is one of those teams that’s better than its record.
“You look at them at 2-4,” he said. “They could very easily be 5-1. They lost to Cincinnati in the last minute of the game. They lost to Bowling Green in the last minute – Marshall the same way. They play very confident, going back to when they rattled off six in a row. They’re not going to be rattled with where they are record-wise, because they did it already.”