When Chuck Martin was asked to deliver an opening statement at his weekly Monday morning media session this week, all he could do at first was sigh.
Miami’s fourth-year football coach still was pondering what might have been for his RedHawks at Marshall two days earlier, a season-opening game that ended in a frustrating 31-26 loss to the Thundering Herd .
“Thirty-six hours later, after watching it live and seeing it three times on film, I don’t want to say it’s the most frustrating loss I’ve ever experienced, but it’s as frustrating as any loss for me as a coach or player,” he said.
Miami outgained Marshall in total offense, 429-267, and held the ball for more than 10 minutes longer than the Thundering Herd, but the RedHawks gave up two kickoff returns and one interception return for touchdowns.
“We limited their big plays with our defense,” Martin said. “We got stops and held an up-tempo offense to basically 10 points. That was greatly aided by our offense. We moved the ball with long drives. If you want to stop a high-powered offense, you’ve got to play good defense and good offense.
“We controlled the clock. We controlled the game. We were good on third down. We were good in the red zone, but we had two turnovers – one that directly led to score and the other one took away a chance to get some points.
“For the most part, our offense and defense played well on the road in a hostile environment,” he added. “Not everything is going to go your way, but the kids were really well-prepared. Having two kickoffs returned for touchdowns was hard on the sidelines.
“Losing teams talk about how they played a great game except for one bad play. Well, you’ve got to eliminate that one bad play.”
»ARCHDEACON: Time to start believing in Miami’s Heath Harding
Martin and his staff already were working on that, planning personnel changes on the kickoff team for Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. home opener against Austin Peay.
“We were disastrous on the kickoff team,” he said. “We had guys on the ground, guys not in their lanes, guys not doing what they were coached to do.
“Other than that, we had some positive special teams. (Sophomore) Sam Sloman, in his first game as a college place-kicker, made all of his kicks. The punt team did a nice job. I think (third-year sophomore) Kyle Kramer can punt better, but he punted well. Our kickoff return team was not very good. We have to improve on both kickoff (teams) and ASAP.
“Every game, special teams dictate the outcome. Just like on offense and defense, you’re going to have bad plays, but you can’t have egregiously bad plays. We have to get better.”
The RedHawks came out of the Marshall game relatively unscathed except for losing sophomore center Danny Godlevske for the season with a broken foot. Godlevske was on the pre-season watch list for the Rimington Award, which is given annually to the nation’s best center. Fourth-year junior Mitch Palmer shifted over from backing up at right guard to take over as the starting center.
“It’s a major blow when you lose a Rimington Award candidate, but Palmer played fine as a backup,” Martin said. “Still, you’d like to have a guy on the Rimington watch list for a full season.”