Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush drops back to pass with pressure from Miami (Ohio) linebacker Brad Koenig during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in South Bend, Ind. Koenig was reponsible for three of the RedHawks’ defense five turnovers in last week’s win over Akron. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Koenig, defense allow RedHawks to play through adversity

“I was a running back and tight end, and I took one Wildcat snap at quarterback,” the Miami senior linebacker recalled on Monday.

»RELATED: Young, Koenig power Miami to big road win

The fifth-year senior from Ann Arbor, Mich., Pioneer High School spent almost as much time with the ball at Akron as some RedHawk offensive skill players. Koenig intercepted two passes and forced a fumble that he recovered, finishing with three of Miami’s five takeaways that fueled a come-from-behind Mid-American Conference East Division win over the Zips.

“It definitely was a fun game,” said Koenig, who was named on Monday the MAC East Defensive Player of the Week.

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Koenig, who normally plays outside linebacker but replaced the injured Junior McMullen at middle linebacker on Saturday, was the example of what Miami coach Chuck Martin has been talking about during the RedHawks’ 2-4 start – players making plays at critical junctions. Junior nickel back Bart Barati logged his first career interception, leading to a field goal, and fifth-year senior left tackle Jordan Rigg recovererd a fumble in the end zone for Miami’s final touchdown.

Fifth-year senior running back Kenny Young bounced back from missing two games with injuries to score two rushing touchdowns and one on a Gus Ragland pass.

Martin admired how the RedHawks responded when Akron took a 17-14 lead early in the third quarter on the return for a touchdown of a fumbled punt.

“At that point, you’re thinking, ‘We can’t catch a break,’” Martin said Monday. “We’re down 17-14 on the road. Doubts start to creep into your mind. I’m sure it’s been done, but I’ve never been a part of a kid creating (three) turnovers – and he wasn’t playing his normal position. That was an unbelievable sequence for us. We talk all the time about playing through it, playing through it, playing through it. When we got down, we didn’t flinch.”

Martin was especially proud of how his players were able to overcome the loud reactions of the Miami fans sitting behind the visitors’ bench.

“We were reeling, but we weren’t reeling,” he said, smiling. “The fans behind us were yelling negative things, and they were our fans. Some of them might’ve been family.

“They’re crazy passionate. They put a lot of money into it. After the fumbled punt, they should be unhappy. You’ve got to learn to play through those moments.

“It was a dogfight. It was a really good road win.”

The return of Young and third-year sophomore right tackle Tommy Doyle helped Miami, now 2-1 in the conference and third in East, finish with 422 yards of total offense, the most of the RedHawks’ three conference games and second-most overall only to the 444 they piled up in their 35-28 season-opening loss to Marshall.

The status of McMullen and senior cornerback Deondre Daniels, who both missed the Akron gam with injuries, is less certain for Saturday’s 2:30 home game against East Division-rival Kent State (1-5, 0-2), Martin said.

Raising awareness: Each of Miami’s 112 players will on Saturday be wearing helmets with a colored ribbon of their choice, symbolizing how their lives have been affected by cancer. They had their choice of nine colors on what has been designated Cancer Awareness Day. Koenig chose light blue, the color attached to prostate cancer.

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