Saturday’s 3 p.m. Mid-American Conference opener for both teams at Bowling Green’s Doyt Perry Stadium also is the third straight home game for the 1-2 Falcons, who finished fifth in the MAC East last season with a 2-6 record and were picked to finish fifth again in the preseason MAC media poll. They are looking at this game as crucial.
“It’s one that can really set the tone for the season,” Falcons coach Mike Jinks said.
“The out-of-conference games, they’re fun and all, traveling to Oregon, battling Maryland at home, but at the end of the year, everybody wants a MAC championship, and the road to a MAC championship starts right now,” McBride added.
Miami, winless in three non-conference games and outscored by a combined 47-3 in the last two, also is hoping to get off to a good start in conference play. The RedHawks were picked to finish third in the East after tying Buffalo for third with a 4-4 record last season.
Miami’s more immediate concern is replacing several injured starters, including wide receiver James Gardner, who is most likely lost for the season. Also out or questionable are senior running back Kenny Young, sophomore offensive right tackle Tommy Doyle and junior tight end Nate Becker. Martin is counting on the depth from two highly regarded recruiting classes to help fill the gaps.
“Any time you lose a good player, it’s going to hurt you, but I don’t see our game plan totally changing,” Miami coach Chuck Martin said, pointing out the losses also could have an impact on special teams. “You feel awful for the guys who can’t play the sport they love, but on the other hand, there is someone standing there waiting.”
One of them is junior running back Maurice Thomas, who ranks second among the Redhawks with 15 carries but leads with 76 rushing yards and an average of 5.1 yards per rush. He has yet to be tackled for a loss. The Talawanda graduate, who missed nine games last season with a knee injury, has become the most consistent performer in a stagnant Miami offense that ranks last in the MAC with an average of 10.3 points per game and second-last in total offense with an average of 280.3 yards per game.
“There’s a frustration,” he said. “We just need to play with the mindset that we’re going to go in and execute the offense and defense. We need to try to do Miami football. It’s a whole new (MAC) year.”
Miami at Bowling Green, 3 p.m., 980, 1450