Miami set for 13th bowl appearance in inaugural Frisco Football Classic

FILE - Miami (Ohio) quarterback Brett Gabbert looks to throw a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Sept. 14, 2019. Gabbert is the younger brother of Blaine Gabbert, who is Tom Brady's backup in Tampa Bay and was the 10th overall draft pick by Jacksonville in 2011. The younger Gabbert has thrown for 1,475 yards and 15 touchdowns in the past four games. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
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FILE - Miami (Ohio) quarterback Brett Gabbert looks to throw a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Sept. 14, 2019. Gabbert is the younger brother of Blaine Gabbert, who is Tom Brady's backup in Tampa Bay and was the 10th overall draft pick by Jacksonville in 2011. The younger Gabbert has thrown for 1,475 yards and 15 touchdowns in the past four games. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Credit: John Minchillo

Credit: John Minchillo

RedHawks face North Texas at 3:30 p.m. Thursday

The last time Miami played a football game on a grass field was the 2010 seasonopener at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

The RedHawks get to experience that feeling again on Thursday when they face the North Texas Mean Green in the first Frisco Football Classic at 20,500-seat Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. Kickoff for the 13th bowl appearance in Miami program history, which will be played in a stadium that serves primarily as the home of the Dallas’ Major League Soccer franchise, is scheduled for 3:30 p.m..

North Texas, the alma mater of National Football League Hall of Fame defensive lineman Charles Edward “Mean Joe” Greene, and the RedHawks both go into the game with 6-6 records. The RedHawks are coming off a disappointing 48-47 loss at Kent State that cost them the Mid-American Conference East Division championship and a berth in the MAC championship game. The Mean Green goes into the bowl game on a five-game winning streak, including a convincing 45-23 win over then No. 15 and previously undefeated University of Texas at San Antonio on Nov. 27.

Behind an offensive line that leans heavily on pulling guards and tackles, North Texas averages 50.6 rushing plays and 246.2 rushing yards per game, led by 5-foot-7, 199-pound senior running back DeAndre Torrey, who averages 101.3 rushing yards per game and has scored 13 touchdowns.

“Their offensive line is really athletic,” Miami coach Chuck Martin said Saturday, the day before the RedHawks left for the Dallas area. “They run the ball really well. They’re really good at it. You can see them getting better and better and better at it. They have a ton of different schemes.”

Mean Green fourth-year sophomore quarterback Austin Aune is in his second season as the starter after sitting out the 2018 season following a transfer from Arkansas. Aune previously spent six seasons in the New York Yankees farm system after being drafted in the second round as the 89th overall pick in the 2012 draft.

“He’s 27 years old,” Martin pointed out.

North Texas also has twin brothers Grayson and Gabriel Murphy anchoring as ends on a defense that allows averages of 27.5 points and 378.2 yards per game.

“They’re athletic on defense,” Martin said about the Mean Green, who play in Conference USA. “Athletically, they’re like a high-end MAC team.”

Martin seemed to be more concerned with the state of Miami’s defense going into the game. He anticipated being down due to injuries three linebackers and three cornerbacks, including fifth-year junior safety Sterling Weatherford. Weatherford finished the regular season third on the team with 66 tackles, 39 unassisted, and tied for the team lead with two interceptions and four pass breakups.

Martin anticipated having to rely on a bunch of younger players such as redshirt freshman cornerback John Saunders Jr., who’s made three starts this season. There been several different starters in the secondary this season, so Martin has grown accustomed to adapting on the run.

The RedHawks go into their first-ever game against North Texas having allowed a MAC-best 22.9 points per game, their lowest average since the 2011 team yielding the exact same average. Led by third-year sophomore quarterback Brett Gabbert, the Miami offense has 39.8 points per game has averaged 500.0 yards of total offense and 39.8 points per game over the last four games.

The RedHawks will be looking for their first bowl win since beating Middle Tennessee State, 35-21, in the 2010 GoDaddy.com Bowl. Since then, they’ve lost to Mississippi State, 17-16, in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Bowl and to Louisiana, 27-17, in the 2020 LendingTree Bowl after the 2019 regular season.

Miami is 7-5 in bowl games. The RedHawks were 6-2 in bowl games after beating Louisville, 49-28, in the 2003 GMAC Bowl before losing three of the next four post-season appearances.


THURSDAY’S GAME

Miami vs. North Texas, 3:30 p.m., ESPN, 980, 1450

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