Four Miami football teams of note were brought onto the field at Yager Stadium Saturday.
Players from the 1954 and 2004 teams were there because they each had won the Mid-American Conference title. And the 1974 players took the field not only as MAC champions, but also for beating Georgia in the Tangerine Bowl.
Then there was the current team that took the field against Eastern Kentucky University — a lower level FCS school — and ended up further cementing its title as the worst team in major college football right now.
The RedHawks turned the ball over six times, missed one field goal, had another one blocked, committed numerous penalties in key situations and were bamboozled by a trick play near the end of the game — all of which accounted for a 17-10 loss to EKU in a stadium where the attendance was said to be 16,670 but looked more than half empty.
Miami has now lost 18 games in a row, the longest active losing streak in major college football. The RedHawks’ last victory, a 23-20 triumph over Ohio University, came Oct. 27 of 2012.
Chuck Martin, Miami’s dejected head coach, knew how bad it looked afterward: “Obviously we’re sitting here with a long losing streak and we just lost to a 1-AA team.”
Martin — who compiled a 74-7 record at Grand Valley State, won two FCS national titles there, finished as national runner-up another year and then made himself an even hotter coaching commodity with four standout years on the Notre Dame staff — was brought in to revive a long-proud Miami program that has had one winning season in the past eight years.
Although his team is 0-2 this season, I believe he will turn into the great resuscitater here. That said, Saturday was not one of his better days, a point he went out of his way to make Saturday evening.
Few head coaches are as candid or stand-up as he is. Part of Saturday was because so much went wrong, but some of it, I believe, was to take the focus away from his players, who he admitted “felt the pressure” and “lost their confidence” in the second half.
“I’m very disappointed in myself,” Martin said. “I’m the head coach and the offensive coordinator so you don’t have to look much further than me. If you ask why we didn’t win the game — I didn’t get it done for the kids today. I didn’t have them prepared for what EKU decided to throw at them.
“You can second guess everything we did offensively.”
He noted his team could not run the ball, nor could it properly protect quarterback Andrew Hendrix, the four-year backup at Notre Dame who followed Martin to Oxford to help with the salvation job.
Hendrix threw 52 times Saturday for 359 yards, but just one touchdown, on the third play of the game, 40 yards to Jared Murphy. He was picked off three times, sacked five times and took a solid pounding on many of the 16 times he rushed against the Colonels.
“We can’t put so much pressure on No. 12 (Hendrix),” said Martin. “For two weeks he’s been running, throwing and he’s going to get worn down. Part of it was that by the fourth quarter he’d taken a bunch of hits, a couple late hits and he’d run over a guy to get a tough first down And then he’s pretty much running out of gas at the end.”
After Miami took the quick 7-0 lead, the teams traded field goals and EKU tied it 10-10 when cornerback Stanley Absanon ran back an interception 55 yards for a touchdown.
EKU won the game on a 43-yard pass off a reverse, receiver Jeff Glover throwing to wide open fellow receiver Deno Montgomery with 4:43 left.
“I think we’re gonna dig ourselves out of this hole and I think we’re going to do it this year, I really believe that,” Martin said. “Does it look like it right now? Hell no. So anybody who wants to doubt us, well, I doubt us too. But I really believe our kids have the makings to win more than a few games this year.”
Before it gets easier though, it gets tougher.
Miami plays at Michigan next Saturday.
And even before that, Martin knew he had to go home Saturday night:
“As my wife will tell me when I get home, ‘You do all the things you tell me bad teams do.’
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