No team in college football history has won six straight games after starting the season 0-6. There are only three teams in history that reeled off five straight following the same inauspicious start: 1971 Illinois, 1988 Tennessee, and this season’s Miami RedHawks. Despite losing to FCS Eastern Illinois, shuffling quarterbacks, and dealing with injuries and a suspension, Miami is on the cusp making history as well as claiming the MAC East crown and a trip to Detroit (albeit with a little bit of help from Akron).
After having a strong showing at Iowa (scoring more points on the Hawkeyes than #3 Michigan did, fwiw) to start the season, the RedHawks had a disastrous showing at home against aforementioned EIU, which wasn’t a good result for a disgruntled fanbase that wanted to see results after a couple of years of strong recruiting by Chuck Martin. The groaning was getting louder after one-score losses against Western Kentucky and Cincinnati, which was worsened by a crushing loss to archrival Ohio and an injury to Billy Bahl. The ‘Hawks were overmatched at Akron with true freshman Noah Wezensky, and at 0-6, it was a despondent time in Oxford, but little did we know that the best story in the MAC was just around the corner.
Gus Ragland, who tore his ACL in spring ball this year, was finally healthy ahead of Kent State, where it took him a half to get settled in prior to going 7-12 for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the second half in the 18-14 win. #BigGameGus never looked back as he threw for 894 yards, 12 scores and no interceptions in his five starts while adding 182 yards and a pair of TDs on the ground. The threat of Ragland on the ground has opened up the running game for Miami as it has rushed for 200+ yards in four straight games, while its highest rushing total before Gus took over was 158 yards in the opener at Iowa.
It would be a mistake to not talk about the RedHawk defense, which has played lights out since starting MAC play. The team is currently first in the conference in total defense with 319.6 yards allowed per game in league contests and is tied for second in the MAC with nine interceptions in league play. The emergence of De’Andre Montgomery has been a big boost on the back end with his 57 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, four picks, six pass breakups, a fumble recovery, and a huge defensive touchdown last week against Buffalo. J.T. Jones has made some hay up front as well with 11 TFLs and 6.5 sacks.
For the Red and White to complete the process, they have to win on Tuesday against the Ball State Cardinals and the Ohio Bobcats have to lose at home to the Akron Zips, who are still fighting for their bowling lives. P.J. Fleck is doing some amazing things for Western Michigan and the MAC, but Martin should be a strong consideration for MAC Coach of the Year when you take into account where the program was when he got there and what the team had to overcome to get to this point. This is the most exciting time to be a Miami fan since the magical 2010 season, and everyone needs to get out to Yager Stadium on Nov. 22 to support this very special group.