Miami seniors, coach revel in chance to play one more game

RedHawks will face North Texas in Frisco Football Classic on Dec. 23

Sterling Weatherford had to admit that, before Sunday, he never had heard of Frisco, Texas.

“I had to look it up,” he said Monday morning during a media session.

The fifth-year Miami football safety is bound to learn a bit more about the city that’s home to around 180,000 people a few miles north of Dallas in the next few days. The RedHawks are scheduled to face North Texas (6-6) of Conference USA in the Frisco Football Classic at 20,500-seat Toyota Stadium on Dec. 23. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in a game due to be carried live on ESPN.

The matchup was announced on Sunday. Miami (6-6), which finished second in the Mid-American Conference East Division after losing, 48-47, in double overtime at Kent State on Nov. 27, qualified for the 13th postseason appearance in program history by reaching six wins.

Sixth-year Miami wide receiver Jack Sorenson, a first-team All-MAC selection, first learned about the appearance on social media and immediately reached out to his long-time roommate, sixth-year defensive end Ben Kimpler.

“It’s awesome, but it’s kind of a bittersweet ending to something that started six years ago,” Sorenson said. “A lot of guys came back.

“This is another opportunity to show what we’ve spent six years building. It’s pretty cool.”

“I’ve never been to Texas,” Weatherford said. “It’s special to travel to places you’ve never been to before.”

The RedHawks, limited by pandemic protocols to three games in the 2020 season, reached a bowl game in a second consecutive full season for the first time since the 2003-2004 seasons. They lost to the University of Louisiana in LendingTree Bowl following the 2019 season.

The Frisco Football Classic is not to be confused with the Frisco Bowl, which is scheduled to be played in Toyota Stadium two days before the Miami-North Texas game. The Classic is in its first season after replacing, ironically, the now-defunct San Francisco Bowl – ironic because “Frisco” is a nickname for the Northern California city.

Toyota Stadium also is home to the Major League Soccer FC Dallas team and the Football Championship Subdivision championship game.

Eighth-year Miami coach Chuck Martin was happy to be going anywhere

“I wouldn’t have minded playing cold weather,” he said. “I would’ve played in Alaska. Hopefully, we’ll have warm weather.

“It’s tons of fun to see opponents you haven’t seen before and teams from different leagues. It’s exciting.”

The game gives Martin a chance to indulge in extra practices and scrimmages and weight-lifting, especially for the younger players who didn’t see much playing time during the regular season and spent practice time on the scout team before the RedHawks get to work on preparing for the Mean Green, famous mostly for producing Pittsburgh Steelers’ Hall of Fame defensive lineman “Mean” Joe Greene.

“One of the advantages is it gives you extra practices and extra lifting,” Martin said. “It’s like bonus spring ball. There are so many advantages.”

The appearance also gives Martin a little more time to spend with sixth-year RedHawks such as Sorenson and Kimpler and tight end Andrew Homer, players who took a chance in 2016 on joining a program that had dropped 24 of its previous 28 conference games. They chose to take advantage of the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility to players after pandemic protocols wrecked many 2020 college football schedules.

“I told a couple of them that, when they leave, I’m leaving,” he said with a smile. “When the sixth-year guys got here, we were getting blown out by anybody who could walk and chew gum. Jumping in was like jumping on the Titanic. We had gone through what probably was the worst 10 years in Miami history.

“What I like about these guys is every time they got knocked down, they never flinched. Every time things didn’t go their way, they’ve gotten better. It’s a special group to me. They should be a special group to anybody who cares about Miami football.”

Frisco Football Classic

Dec. 23

North Texas vs. Miami, 3:30 p.m., ESPN, 980, 1450

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