Miami eyes MAC East Division title, championship game berth in home finale

RedHawks host Buffalo Bulls on Wednesday night at Yager Stadium

Credit: Joseph Cooke

Credit: Joseph Cooke

OXFORD — Miami’s football team faces on Wednesday a University at Buffalo squad that likes to try keeping defenses off-balance by rotating quarterbacks — virtually, from series to series.

Luckily for the RedHawks, they got kind of a practice for the approach during their 19-0 win over Akron last Wednesday, when passing-oriented Jeff Undercuffler was injured and replaced by Tahj Bullock.

Whether that pays off on Wednesday when the Bulls show up for a Mid-American Conference game at Yager Stadium remains to be seen.

Kickoff for the MAC East Division matchup and Miami’s final home game of the season is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Cole Snyder is Buffalo’s usual starter and leads the Bulls in passing with 1,854 yards and 13 touchdowns with nine interceptions.

Junior CJ Ogbonna spells Snyder. Ogbonna has thrown just 17 passes, but he’s fourth on the team with 121 yards on 29 carries.

“Obviously, it creates different dynamics,” RedHawks senior defensive tackle Austin Ertl said during Miami’s weekly media session on Friday. “You can’t prepare for one game plan. You have to prepare for both quarterbacks.”

“They present a challenge with two different-style quarterbacks,” Miami coach Chuck Martin said. “The starter can run the ball, but the backup is dynamic and causes issues. It’s definitely an issue.

“They’re really good on defense. Toledo couldn’t run the ball against them at all. You have to just line up. They don’t waste time pre-snap. They do a tremendous job. They have two quarterbacks who are capable of hurting you.

“Buffalo is good at creating turnovers,” Martin added. “They’re aggressive and they attack the football. They have two ballhawks at the back end.”

“They’re a big, physical team up front,” Ertl added. “They’ll try to run the ball. We’re excited for it.”

Buffalo sophomore Devin Grant leads the MAC with five interceptions, while graduate-student defensive end Max Michel ranks No. 1 with four forced fumbles, forcing the RedHawks to focus on taking care of the football.

While the Bulls look intimidating in some areas, they are 3-7 overall and 3-3 and fourth in the MAC East Division going into the game. They’ve lost their last two games, 31-13 at Toledo and 20-10 at home to Ohio.

Miami is 8-2 overall and in first place with a 5-1 record going into the final two games of the regular season. The RedHawks went into the week with a one-game lead over Ohio and Bowling Green, and with wins over both of those teams already on their ledger, need just a victory in one of their last two games to clinch the division championship and a berth in the MAC Championship game on Dec. 2 at Ford Field in Detroit.

They are scheduled to play at Ball State in the annual “Redbird Rivalry” game on Nov. 25 to wrap up the regular season.

The MAC title game opponent would be conference defending-champion Toledo, which already had clinched the West Division title with the help of a 21-17 win over Miami at Yager Stadium on Oct. 21.

The RedHawks rank No. 1 in the MAC in several individual and team categories, including team sacks with 31, led by junior middle linebacker Ty Wise’s conference-leading seven. Miami’s special teams also continue to excel. Junior kicker Graham Nicholson leads the conference with averages of 8.6 points per game and 19 field goals on 19 tries. Junior punter Alec Bevelhimer is first with an average of 46.7 yards per punt. Junior punt returner Cade McDonald tops the conference with an average of 13.0 yards per punt return.

Buffalo defeated Miami 24-20 last season. Snyder connected with Justin Marshall for a 15-yard game-winning touchdown pass with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Miami quarterback Aveon Smith, playing in place of the injured Brett Gabbert as he is expected to again on Wednesday, threw for 119 yards and ran for 142 and two touchdowns, but the RedHawks couldn’t overcome 11 penalties.


Buffalo at Miami, 7 p.m., ESPN2, 980, 1450

About the Author