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2016 MAC Football Preview: Miami RedHawks vs. Eastern Illinois Panthers

Can the Panthers put up a fight in Oxford?

Miami RedHawks at Iowa
Miami RedHawks at Iowa
Kaleb Carter

After finding some success in Iowa City in a loss to Iowa last weekend, Miami returns to Oxford on Saturday to prove that it wasn’t a fluke against FCS opponent Eastern Illinois. The Panthers were picked to finish third in their conference, but this is a team that the RedHawks need to beat convincingly for their confidence before they get into the meat of their schedule, as well as rectify some their recent struggles against FCS schools.

Despite losing to Western Illinois Saturday, EIU is a team that can throw the ball all over the lot with Mitch Kimble throwing for 323 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception on 29 attempts last week. He also did a good job of spreading the ball around as he hit 12 different receivers on the day, with Korliss Marshall having himself a day with four catches for 111 yards and a score. They were a little soft on the run though, with 238 rushing yards and four TDs given up. On special teams, the Panthers leave a lot to be desired with a 37.8 yards per kickoff on five tries.

As a Miami fan, you have to be pleased with the way that the offense performed in spite of a lot of adversity on Saturday. The ‘Hawks were committed to the ground game and were able to move the ball with the run, while Billy Bahl made some big throws and didn’t throw an interception in that environment, which was huge. Something to look for this week as an adjustment is Bahl being a little more efficient; with as much as Chuck Martin wants to run the ball, he can’t afford to have a 10-incompletion game going forward if Miami wants to take that next step.

The RedHawk defense has some work to do though as it gave up a lot of big plays to Iowa, with the Hawkeyes getting 7.3 yards per rush and 9.6 yards per pass attempt. With only two tackled for loss and zero turnovers on the day, look for the defense to be a lot more aggressive Saturday to disrupt EIU’s offense.

Against the Panthers, expect the offense run the ball early to test that run defense to see if it’s made any adjustments. If not, the RB stable for the ‘Hawks might have themselves a day and Bahl might not be asked to do much. But if that defense improved, Miami’s going to take their shots downfield and we’ll see if Rokeem Williams and James Gardner can consistently make plays on a weekly basis. The defense of the RedHawks will be challenge, but they ought to be motivated by their showing last week and ready to make their presence felt early in Oxford.