Before a proper preview for the upcoming week can take place, I've deemed it necessary to take a few moments to appreciate the fact that Miami finally snapped the longest active losing streak in college football. The wait is over.
The last time Miami won a football game, ISIS was just an
agency "hostile work environment" in the goofy spy sitcom, Archer. President Obama had not yet been elected to his second term. I'm pretty sure Alaska wasn't even a state yet. But Saturday, October 4, the RedHawks redeemed themselves.
Forget that it took Miami 707 days to win a football game since they upset No. 23 Ohio in 2012 (Or was it 708? There might have been a Leap Day). Forget that Miami barely had enough students attending the game to cover the "M" at midfield when they stormed the field (also, please forget that I can't spell). Forget that, including this past weekend, the 0-6 Minutemen have blown second half leads in four of their last five games. The fact of the matter is that Miami won. And not only did they taste victory, they did so in dramatic fashion, coming back from four scores down to take the contest, 42-41.
Everyone in the press box, including myself, had finished their stories a few hours before any reasonable deadline, leading with phrases such as "UMass lights up Oxford with record 41-point half." I overheard two photographers discussing plans to bail at the end of the third quarter, citing the blowout and the windy, damp weather as reason enough to head home with the shots they'd captured having to suffice. But the unthinkable happened, and the RedHawks battled back to take the win to the tune of national applause. Senior quarterback Andrew Hendrix is up for Capital One Impact Performance of the Week, senior wide receiver David Frazier is now officially on the Biletnikoff Award radar, and senior tight end Alex Welch was named John Mackey Tight End of the Week. It might be hard for the rest of the college football world to admit but Miami deserves some admiration for its play this year, which is why they have a much better chance heading into this weekend than anyone would have originally given the RedHawks credit for.
The Zips (3-2) will likely pose the greatest defensive challenge the RedHawks have faced thus far. Ranked No. 15 nationally in points against with 17, and they stand as a top-three team in total defense, run defense, and pass defense in the Mid-American Conference. It's a stout squad that has held three of its first five opponents to six points or less, including a shutout versus Howard in the season opener. Akron allows just 359 yards-per-game, which has been the primary reason the Zips have kept their heads above .500 so far this year. The offense, led by junior quarterback Kyle Pohl, has struggled to find its footing at times. Pohl and company looked brilliant, though, in the 31-6 dismantling of Eastern Michigan last weekend. The Zips cruised with 356 yards through the air, making short work of the vulnerable Eagle defense. To the untrained eye, a similar adjective could be used to describe the RedHawks' defensive tenacity; they've allowed more than 31 points in five of their first six contests, including 40-plus points to Marshall and UMass. But three of those five games were to run-and-gun offenses, including a Thundering Herd unit that ranks fourth in scoring offense nationally. The Red and White's defensive squad has created nine turnovers in their past four games, and that span actually contains a game in which they forced none against that potent UC passing attack. Though Miami's defense is by no means elite, it isn't quite fair to write them off as a lost cause, either.
The real matchup will be happening on the other side of the ball, anyway. Hendrix leads the MAC in total offense and is second in passing, so it isn't much of a stretch to assume he will be the focal point of just about every play the RedHawks run. He's been terrific on running plays, both drawn-up and scrambled. Even though he's the fifth-most sacked quarterback in college football, he still finds a way to get it done - Hendrix managed 91 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown in last week's win.
With "MACtion" well underway, the RedHawks have their work cut out for them if they want any realistic shot at a bowl berth this season. They'll try to snag their second win in a row at 2 p.m. Saturday in Akron.
Oh, and for the first time in a long while, recent history bodes well for Miami - the last time the 'Hawks took two in a row was in weeks four and five of the 2012 season, when they came out on top against UMass and Akron, respectively.