Miami football coach Chuck Martin has seen things in the first half of the 2017 season that he hasn’t in 25 years of coaching, he has said, and many of those aberrations have the RedHawks at 2-4 overall and 1-1 in the Mid-American Conference East Division instead of possibly being 5-1 and 2-0.
Bottom line? From his point of view, the RedHawks have nobody to blame but themselves. He believes last season’s 6-0 rush to end the regular season and late-game loss to Mississippi State in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Bowl left the team feeling a little too good about itself.
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“We could have five wins,” the fourth-year coach said Monday. “Could have five wins and having five wins are two different things. We know we’re putting ourselves in position to win, and we know we can win, but there are times in our games where we think we’ve arrived. We haven’t arrived.”
That was evident in the climactic play of the RedHawks’ 37-29 loss to East Division-rival Bowling Green on Saturday at Yager Stadium. Facing a 30-29 deficit, Miami had first down on the Falcons’ 1-yard line with less than two minutes to play. Martin deployed the short-yardage lineup, which included junior defensive tackle Nate Trawick at fullback, one step in front of and to the right of backup quarterback Billy Bahl.
Unfortunately for Miami, Trawick wasn’t far enough enough to Bahl’s right. The snap grazed Trawick’s left arm, never reaching Bahl. Bowling Green recovered and went 93 yards for the win-clinching touchdown.
“He lined up wrong,” Martin said. “Billy saw that he was way too tight. He almost called timeout.”
Martin believes that lack of attention to detail is the product of a collective feeling among the RedHawks that 2017 would be easy after he heady 2016 stretch run.
“You can’t execute for 56 minutes, or 57 or 58 or 59,” he said. “You have to execute and play smart football for 60 minutes. You have to be able to handle expectations.”
Senior tight end Ryan Smith admitted that the losses have been “tough pills to swallow,” but he described the team’s mood as “very excited.” He hasn’t felt the need, as a senior, to say much to his teammates.
“I’ve been focused on leading by example,” said Smith, who caught four passes for 33 yards against Bowling Green and is tied with fifth-year senior wide receiver Jared Murphy for second among the RedHawks with 17 catches and is second all alone with 232 yards and two touchdowns. “I’m not vocal, and I need to work on that. All of my leadership skills are by my actions.”
Fourth-year junior quarterback Gus Ragland, whose insertion into last season’s starting lineup sparked Miami’s six-game win streak, left Saturday’s game midway through the third quarter with what Martin continued on Monday to describe as a “lower body injury.” Ragland was scheduled to undergo a MRI on Monday, but Martin believed Ragland’s injury wasn’t season-ending.
The 6-foot-4, 233-pound Bahl, who had 12 career starts before suffering a mid-season shoulder injury that opened the door for Ragland in 2016, will start for the RedHawks in their MAC game at Kent State (1-5, 0-2) on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
“Billy really slings that ball,” Smith said. “He has dynamite in his elbow.”
Martin was “hopeful” that junior linebacker Junior McMullen would be healthy enough to return this week after missing the last three games, but he described redshirt freshman offensive lineman Tommy Doyle as a week away. Sophomore center Danny Godlevske, injured in the season-opening loss to Marshall, is out for the season, along with junior defensive lineman Dean Lemon, an Alter graduate, and junior running back Maurice Thomas, a Talawanda product.
Miami’s game against Buffalo on Oct. 21 is scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m., according to the athletic media relations staff.
Miami at Kent State, 3:30 p.m., 980, 1450