Miami RedHawks football: Daunting early schedule awaits

In five years under coach Chuck Martin, the Miami RedHawks have proven to be a second-half-of-the-season team.

The schedule indicates they might have to be again in year six.

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“We’re about as tough-minded an outfit as there is,” said Martin, whose record is 22-39 in five seasons in Oxford.

“We‘ve been left for dead more than once in my time at Miami, and we typically keep playing very good and get better as the year goes on and somehow persevere. Unfortunately we’ve got a lot of practice at it.”

That experience started in 2016 when the RedHawks lost their first six games only to run off six wins in a row and qualify for a bowl.

They started 2-5 in 2017 before winning three of their last five, and last season they won five of their last seven after losing three of their first four.

“You don’t want to, but we do have some experience of getting some sand kicked in our face and being able to play really good football,” Martin said.

This season begins with a trip to Iowa, where the Hawkeyes are considered a contender in the wide-open Big Ten West and have appeared in multiple preseason top 25s.

After hosting FCS Tennessee Tech in Week 2, the RedHawks have a high noon showdown with long-time rival Cincinnati to be followed by a trip to Ohio State.

The Bearcats are a potential top 25 team, too, after going 11-2 last season, and the Buckeyes are likely to be in the top 10.

But the challenges don’t end with the nonconference slate.

After beginning MAC play at home against Buffalo, Miami plays at Western Michigan then hosts Northern Illinois.

The Bulls were the No. 3 pick in the MAC East preseason poll (one spot behind Miami) while the Broncos and Huskies were picked to finish second and third, respectively, in the West.

“Six of the first seven weeks are probably as challenging a schedule as there is in the country,” Martin said. “We’ve got to find a way to be a better football team each week, and that’s harder when you’re playing Ohio State, but that’s what you have to do.

“Obviously you’re going to throw caution to the wind and try to win games, but you have to make sure your kids competed the right way, played the right way and when there are those opportunities to make plays, did you make those plays?”

Some of the RedHawks will be somewhat familiar with the Hawkeyes, who beat them 45-21 two years ago in the season-opener in Iowa City.

That includes senior running back Maurice Thomas, a first-team All-MAC kick returner last season.

“It was just a great atmosphere,” he said. “Loved it. We have a night game this year so it will be a little bit different atmosphere and I’m looking forward to it.

“If it doesn’t go our way, we learn how to adjust. Everything is still in front of us, and we can still be MAC champions and win a bowl game. But we’ve been training really hard and we expect to win some games out of conference, if not all of them.”

In the last five weeks, Miami plays at Kent State (picked fourth in the East), at Ohio (picked first in the East), host Bowling Green (last in the East) and Akron (fifth in the East) and at Ball State (fifth in the West).

“We definitely just need to keep it even keel,” senior defensive tackle Doug Costin said. “We can’t get too down on ourselves, and if we were to pull an upset, we can’t get too high on ourselves. Unfortunately if we lost all three of those, we can’t think, ‘Oh wow, this is the end of it.’ We definitely have to have that group of guys keep our heads straight for the rest of the season.”

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