After one-year hiatus, RedHawks, Bobcats set for ‘Battle of the Bricks’

Miami-Ohio Wide Receiver Jack Sorenson (13) celebrates with his teammates after catching a 23-yard pass for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Minnesota, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Minneapolis. Minnesota won 31-26. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)
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Miami-Ohio Wide Receiver Jack Sorenson (13) celebrates with his teammates after catching a 23-yard pass for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Minnesota, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Minneapolis. Minnesota won 31-26. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)

Credit: CRAIG LASSIG

Credit: CRAIG LASSIG

The last time Miami and Ohio met on a football field, back on Nov. 6, 2019, college football was celebrating the 150th anniversary of its first-ever game.

This year’s game, tonight with a 7:30 kickoff at Ohio’s 27,000-seat Peden Stadium in Athens, won’t have that same kind of celebratory atmosphere, but the almost annual renewals of the “Battle of the Bricks” rivalry usually don’t need it.

The visiting RedHawks go into the game 4-4 overall and 3-1 in the Mid-American Conference East Division, tied with Kent State for first place. With a third consecutive overall win Miami can take at least a temporary lead in the race since Kent State, also 4-4 overall, doesn’t play until Wednesday against West Division-leading Northern Illinois, which is 6-2 overall and 4-0 in the MAC.

Pandemic protocols cost Miami its home game against Ohio last season, but eighth-year coach Chuck Martin’s RedHawks have won their last two games against the Bobcats by a combined five points after losing five in a row in the series. Ohio, led by first-year coach Tim Amblin, is 1-7 overall and 1-3 in the MAC East after losing its last three games by a combined 11 points. They also lost to Duquesne by just two points in a non-conference game. Ohio’s only decisive losses were by 20 at home to Syracuse in the opener, by 35 to Louisiana and by 29 at Northwestern.

Amblin took over for Frank Solich, who retired after the 2020 season after 16 years in Athens. Amblin was with Solich for his entire Bobcats’ tenure.

“They’re running similar stuff,” Martin said during last Monday’s Miami football weekly media session. “They don’t look any different. I’ve already watched seven or eight games. They’re 11 points from being 4-0 in the league..”

The Bobcats, who include 5-foot-10, 205-pound fifth-year senior running back Jake Neatherton from Miamisburg High School and 6-3, 275-pound true freshman defensive lineman Kaden Rogers from Ross High School, are coming off a 34-27 loss to Kent State in which they lost two fumbles and threw an interception in the end zone.

Third-year sophomore quarterback Kevin Rourke, who started Ohio’s first five games before being replaced by fifth-year senior Armani Rogers, took over on the fifth drive against Kent State, leaving Miami’s coaching staff wondering who might start on Tuesday.

“They had a debacle in the first quarter,” Martin said about Ohio’s game against Kent State. “They had turnovers on three of their first four possessions and they ended up losing, 34-27. They’re running the ball really, really well.”

“Every opportunity, we’re equal-repping the quarterbacks,” Albin said after the Kent State game. “That’s what we’ve done. They’re both going to play in the game. They both have skill sets to help us move the ball and win games.”

Ohio goes into the game ranked 11th in the 12-team MAC in scoring with an average of 21.1 points per game and passing with an average of 166.8 yards per game. Ohio is ranked 12th in with an average of 224.5 rushing yards per game.

“I am optimistic with this coaching staff and this football team,” Albin said. “We have not used those things to get them to play their best. It’s been more about the process and let’s get better every day and gradually build up to play our best game on Saturday. There are going to be challenges, but I really feel like our culture and the players we have will fight.”

Ohio’s offensive approach reminds Martin of Ball State, which likes to run a lot of trick plays. The RedHawks edged the Cardinals, 24-17, at Ball State on October 23.

“Ohio is the same way,” he said. “Their another team that loves to run trick plays. They’ve got a few of them, too.

“It looks like it’s going to be a dogfight. We have to have the same mentality and keep grinding.”

TODAY’S GAME

Miami at Ohio, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU, 980, 1450

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