Miami football coach Chuck Martin: ‘Being close isn’t good enough’


SATURDAY’S GAME

Miami at Akron, 3 p.m., 1450, 980

If attitude won football games, Miami might be 5-0 instead of 0-5.

Of course, football teams need more than a positive outlook to win games. Among other aspects, they need to avoid mistakes such as penalties and turnovers, which have combined to keep the RedHawks winless almost halfway through the 2017 season.

Miami uncharacteristically committed four turnovers and the Ohio Bobcats capitalized on three of them to score all of their points in a 17-7 win over the RedHawks in their Mid-American Conference opener last Saturday at Yager Stadium.

The turnovers were an aberration – Miami still has committed three fewer combined turnovers than its opponents through the season’s first five games – but the RedHawks 10 penalties for 99 yards were just the latest example of an ongoing problem. Miami has reached double figures in penalties in each of the last four games and leads the MAC with a total of 50.

They help offset such advantages as outgaining opponents in four of Miami’s five games, winning the turnover battle in two games and finishing even in a third, winning the time of possession battle in three of the five games. They lead to losing by one score three times going into last Saturday’s defeat.

The problem definitely has third-year coach Chuck Martin’s attention as the RedHawks prepare for their MAC game on Saturday at Akron (3-2, 1-0).

“We’ve got to clean up the offensive penalties and defensive pass interference penalties,” Martin said. “We’ve got to clean up our mistakes. We’ve still got a ways to go with our discipline.”

Among the turnovers were two interceptions thrown by sophomore quarterback Billy Bahl before he left the game with a shoulder injury. True freshman Noah Wezensky. took over and fumbled while being sacked in the end zone in the last two minutes of the game.

Wezensky, who was 14-of-25 yards for 154 yards and a touchdown while Miami was outgaining the Bobcats in total offense in Saturday’s loss, is the likely starter against the Zips. Martin listed Bahl as “probable to questionable.”

“We hope he’ll be available on Saturday as either a starter or a backup,” Martin said. “He won’t practice early in the week.”

True freshman wide receiver Jack Sorenson, who played quarterback last season as a senior at Kildeer (Ill.) Stevenson High School after being named first-team all-state as a receiver during his junior year, is either the backup or third-string quarterback, depending on Bahl’s status.

Miami’s inability to stay out of its own way hasn’t had an impact on the RedHawks’ mental outlook, Martin said. He was moved by the way the defense promised to keep the Bobcats in check and give the offense a chance.

“The team was unbelievable at halftime (on Saturday),” he said. “It was an awesome feeling watching the defense talk to the offense.

“We don’t act like an 0-5 team in practice. They’re not down. They’re not moping. Our approach is right. We told them after the Ohio game, “All we have to do is bottle it and do it again.’ Over the last two weeks, even our pre-game (preparations) have improved.”

At the same time, he doesn’t need social media or other forms of fan feedback to know that the right approach and winning everything but the actual game isn’t going to cut it much longer at a school with a proud football tradition.

“I’m not one of those coaches who follow (social media),” he said. “I don’t have the time. If you want to tell me what you think about Miami football, come find me. I’m 100 percent focused on helping the team get better and win games. We have a lot of work to do.

“It keeps me up at night. It makes me not want to eat. It makes me sick. Being close isn’t good enough. Being close is not there yet.”