Miami football coach Chuck Martin believes he knows exactly how Mike Jinks, his Bowling Green counterpart, is feeling these days.
Martin’s RedHawks are scheduled to face Jinks’ Falcons at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in a Mid-American Conference East Division game. Bowling Green is trying to regroup after opening the season 0-5 for the first time since 1988. Jinks now is 4-13 in his second season with the Falcons.
»RELATED: Bester, Gardner shine in Notre Dame loss
Martin knows about struggling after going a combined 5-19 in the first two of his four seasons in Oxford.
“It was a slow, arduous process,” Martin said. “We won a few games our first year, but we basically stunk. We won a few our second year and we still weren’t very good. Last year, we had enough experience that, even though we were 0-6, we were more competitive and improving, but we just couldn’t get over the hump. Then, in Week Seven, we got (quarterback) Gus Ragland back. He was the last piece in the puzzle to push us over the top.”
Miami won its last six regular-season games, all in the MAC, to earn an East Division co-championship and St. Petersburg (Fla.) Bowl berth. The RedHawks (2-3, 1-0) can extend their conference winning streak to eight games on Saturday against the Falcons, who are coming off a 34-23 home loss to Akron in their MAC opener last Saturday.
“I think they’ve shown good progress from Year One to Year Two,” Martin said, referring to Jinks’ tenure. “I know the record may not show it, but they definitely are a better-looking football team than they were a year ago.
“They have a better defense by a wide margin, and they still have electric kids on offense. There’ve been times when they get going, but then they shoot themselves in the foot, but you can see elements of them getting better. They have enough pieces to hurt you.”
The Falcons listed sophomore quarterback James Morgan and true freshman Jarret Doege as possible starters at Miami on this week’s depth chart. Morgan stepped in when Doege injured his back while catching a pass in the first quarter against the Zips.
Among Jinks’ primary focuses is simply keeping the team on course.
“We’ve got a lot of football left to play,” he said Monday. “We’re not going to be more talented than any team we play, but the flip side is that there’s parity in this conference. There’s no team in this conference that is that much more talented than we are. It’s even.”
One of Bowling Green’s most imposing obstacles are the naysayers outside of the program, Jinks said.
“We have to stand, back-to-back and shoulder-to-shoulder, and fight through this thing together,” he said. “It’s college football and people are passionate about, and that’s what we want. We know the work we put in, and we know that no one wants to win more than these players and coaches. We’ll stay together and continue fight. It’s not time to panic. It’s time to bond together, to stay confidence and continue to play the game the right way.”
While Bowling Green has struggled in many areas, creating turnovers isn’t one of them. The Falcons lead the nation with 10 fumble recoveries and are plus-three in turnover differential. The RedHawks consistently focus on ball security in practice, senior wide receiver Sam Martin said.
“As long as we hand the ball to the referee at the end of every play, we’ll be fine,” he said.