After coming off of a competitive contest against #20 Iowa, the Miami RedHawks return to Oxford for their Homecoming Saturday as they face off against FCS foe Tennessee Tech. The game represents a brief breather for the ‘Hawks in nonconference play as the coming weeks will feature battles against the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Despite going 1-10 in 2018, Tennessee Tech started the season off strong last week as it opened with a 59-58 double overtime win against Samford. Quarterback Bailey Fisher accounted for five scores in the game as he threw for 415 yards and a pair of touchdowns while rushing for 48 yards and three scores.
The Golden Eagles had two wide receivers go for 110+ yards in Austin Hicks and Darrius Stafford, while Andrew Goldsmith and Metrius Fleming provided a complement in the ground game with 157 yards and a pair of scores. On the other side of the ball, Samford moved the ball at will against TTU as it threw for 428 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for 133 yards.
The goal for Miami offensively against the Eagles has to be to get the ground game going. The ‘Hawks were only able to muster 59 yards on the ground against Iowa, and that affected what they could do offensively against the Hawkeyes. If Jaylon Bester, Davion Johnson, and Maurice Thomas can be effective in the running game Saturday, we can get to see how dynamic this offense can be with Brett Gabbert running the show.
Additionally, Gabbert can use this game as a chance to grow into a more efficient quarterback. Despite his success last week, he threw a backbreaking interception late against Iowa and could not keep the offense on the field as the team went 4-12 on third down. The only way that the Eagles have a chance to win Saturday is if Miami does not finish drives on offense, so Gabbert needs to make good decisions and manage the game effectively.
Defensively speaking, Miami has to play better situational football. Against Iowa, the ‘Hawks could not get off the field in the second half (0-5 in getting stops on third down) and that led to the Hawkeyes eventually breaking the game open late. TTU was able to operate effectively in clutch situations as it went 11-21 on third downs, 3-3 on fourth downs, and pulled off a two-point conversion to pick up the win.
It is also worth noting that the Eagles’ special teams unit is capable of winning the field position battle as five of the six kickoff that they had against Samford were touchbacks, they downed two punts inside the 20-yard line, and Fleming ripped off a 41-yard kickoff return. Special teams is a unique strength of Miami, but it cannot afford to take TTU lightly. This game represents an opportunity for the defense and special teams to execute in clutch situations and it needs to take advantage of those opportunities.