When a team gets beat by 36 points a week after losing by 14 in a game that remained scoreless late into the fourth quarter, it's hard to call it a step forward. But, Miami's 50-14 loss to Illinois (3-1) was just that, even if it's hard to see.
Entering Saturday's match up, Miami (0-4) was, statistically, the worst team in the FBS. Near the bottom in almost every offensive category, the RedHawks were the definition of awful. 210 college football players had more offensive touchdowns through four weeks than the entire Miami RedHawks' offense (2). 52 FBS schools were averaging more yards than the 'Hawks had gained all season, and the team's punter was averaging more than three times as many yards as Miami's offense.
|Final - 9.28.2013||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Miami (Ohio) RedHawks||0||0||7||7||14|
|Illinois Fighting Illini||7||29||7||7||50|
But yesterday the 'Hawks managed to gain more yards in the second half, than they had averaged a game. They even scored two touchdowns, the first on a pass from Austin Boucher to Rokeem Williams with 2:09 left in the third. That score ended an offensive drought that had lasted 12 quarters, and 195 minutes and 44 seconds. A little over five minutes later, the "Hawks found the endzone again.
Sure, those two scores didn't impact the final results of the game. Miami still was outplayed in ever facet of the game. The defense gave up 601 offensive yards, and let the Illini score at will in the first half. Of Illinois' 11 offensive possessions, all but four ended in a touchdown, and one of those four was when the clock hit zero at the end of the game. But for a team that averaged seven first downs a game, finishing with 14 was a huge step forward.
Even bigger, punter Zac Murphy entered the game averaging 465 yards per game, but Saturday, the nation's leader in punts per game heading into Saturday's contest, only punted the ball five times against the Fighting Illini. A huge improvement over the eight times he punted against Cincinnati.
Miami actually opened the playbook up in the second half, and built some momentum in the passing game. After completing just one pass in the first half, Boucher was able to complete six in the second half, and finished the game with 95 yards through the air, and completed more than 45 percent of his passes for the first time this season.
The read option still didn't work for the 'Hawks, with Illinois penetrating through the line with ease, but it looked less awful in the second half as Miami was able to actually move the ball down field.
Defensively the RedHawks still looked lost, and grasping for straws as it attempted to keep pace with an offense that outmatched it. With Miami's offense playing as awful as it has, the defense struggled mightily in the first half, but looked better in the second half as it was able to catch some breath on the sidelines between Illinois possessions.
The RedHawks are still bad. They're still 124th in the nation in total offense (698 yards, or 97 more than the defense gave up to Illinois Saturday). They're still 124th in scoring, 122nd in passing, 118th in rushing, and 122nd in first downs on the season. Defensively they're still allowing nearly 40 points (117th in the country) and nearly 600 yards-per-game (122nd in the country). But things are starting to click for Miami in some aspects, and that has to be viewed as a bright spot in a season that will be lacking in them.