Championship game-bound Miami eyes 10 wins for first time in 20 years

RedHawks close out regular season Saturday at Ball State

The Miami RedHawks are worked up about playing Toledo for the Mid-American Conference football championship on Dec. 2 at Ford Field in Detroit.

At the same time, they are working desperately to stay focused on more immediate matters.

Miami, the MAC East Division champions, is scheduled to travel to Muncie, Ind., on Saturday for a game against the Ball State Cardinals in the latest edition of the Red Bird Rivalry series. A win by the 9-2 overall and 6-1 MAC RedHawks would allow them to reach 10 regular-season wins for the first time since 2003 and seven regular-season MAC wins for the first time since 2010.

Miami veterans such as junior center Kolby Borders were working to make sure teammates didn’t look past West Division rival Ball State, which was 4-7overall and 3-4 in the MAC after a 34-3 win against Kent State on Saturday. The RedHawks, who already this season have logged rivalry road wins against Cincinnati in the “Victory Bell” series and Ohio in the “Battle of the Bricks” grudge match, will be trying to follow up on last season’s memorable 18-17 win over the Cardinals at Miami’s Yager Stadium.

Miami rallied from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit for a win that made the RedHawks bowl eligible, leading to a trip to the Bahamas Bowl. Aveon Smith threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Miles Marshall with 1:42 left to give the RedHawks their only lead of the game. Brian Ugwu’s interception in the final minute clinched the win.

“Detroit is in the back of our heads, but we know we still have a job to do,” Borders said during the program’s weekly media session. “This is a rivalry game, and we want to keep the trophy in house.

“Last year was closer than we thought it would be. We’ve won the last two years because their offense made some mistakes.

“They’re a good team compared to their record. They’re a talented bunch. We know they’re going to be good. Everybody wants to win rivalry games. It doesn’t matter what their record is.”

Ball State’s 2023 roster includes freshman kicker Jackson Courville from Centerville, freshman running back Christian Davis from Miamisburg and freshman wide receiver R.J. Mukes of Wayne.

Miami coach Chuck Martin anticipates a challenge similar to last season’s encounter. He pointed out that the Cardinals won, 20-17, at Northern Illinois and were just 10 or so points from being 5-2 in the MAC and 6-5 overall after losing by only seven to Toledo at home and three at Bowling Green.

The Cardinals went into the week in a four-way tie for third place in the MAC West with two straight wins. The Cardinals also edged Northern Illinois, 20-17, at Dekalb, Ill., on Nov. 7.

Going into the week, Ball State was allowing 117.5 rushing yard per game, which was second best in the MAC, but the Cardinals had a conference-worst 140.7 passing yards per game.

Miami was among the MAC’s least-penalized teams and was leading the conference with an average of 39.4 penalty yards per game.

“Ball State is tough every year,” the 10th-year coach said. “There will be a lot of running, running, running. It will look a lot like what Akron did to us. They have a very strong defense. They’re not giving up a lot of points to anybody.

“There’s not much difference in the MAC between being 3-4 and 6-1. We’re not going to rest kids. We’re trying to get to 10 wins.”


Miami at Ball State, Noon, CBS Sports Network, 980, 1450

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