Miami seeks fresh start in Mid-American Conference play

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 15: Esezi Otomewo #9 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers recovers a fumble against Matt Skibinski #77 and Dominique Robinson #11 of the Miami RedHawks during the third quarter of the game on September 15, 2018 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Golden Gophers defeated the RedHawks 26-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 15: Esezi Otomewo #9 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers recovers a fumble against Matt Skibinski #77 and Dominique Robinson #11 of the Miami RedHawks during the third quarter of the game on September 15, 2018 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Golden Gophers defeated the RedHawks 26-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

RedHawks open conference play Saturday at Bowling Green

Of all the freaky plays that plagued Miami football last season, none was freakier or more heartbreaking than the mishap that cost the RedHawks a win over Bowling Green.

Miami was trailing by one but 1 yard away from the go-ahead touchdown in the last two minutes. The RedHawks lined up in a shotgun-snap formation and defensive tackle Nate Trawick, lined up as an additional blocking back, shifted slightly to his left a split second before center Mitch Palmer snapped the ball. It grazed Trawick and never reached quarterback Billy Bahl before Falcons linebacker Brandon Harris picked it up and rambled 93 yards for the clinching touchdown.

»RELATED: What you need to know about Saturday’s game

Obviously, it’s a play Miami is trying to forget, but it’s also a play that will enjoy a long life in Bowling Green football lore.

“The whole sideline went crazy,” Falcons safety Jerry McBride III recalled at Bowling Green’s weekly media session earlier this week. “Let’s just hope it doesn’t go down to the fourth quarter like that again. It had everybody’s nerves bouncing.”

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.”


SATURDAY’S GAME

Miami at Bowling Green, 3 p.m., 980, 1450

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