Miami set to host Western Michigan

RedHawks play three of their final five games at Yager Stadium

After playing five of its first seven games away from its home field at Yager Stadium, Miami’s football team starts on Saturday a run of three home games over its final five of the regular season.

The RedHawks hope that they can capitalize on the familiar confines well enough to earn a berth in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game on Dec. 3 at Detroit’s Ford Field, but they will need help. They go into Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. game against the Western Michigan Broncos tied with Kent State for fourth place in the MAC East Division. Both teams are 1-2 in the conference, one game behind Bowling Green and Ohio and two behind division-leading Buffalo.

Miami is 3-4 overall and facing in Western Michigan a team that is 2-5 overall and 1-2 in the MAC West Division. The Broncos are coming off three straight home games, a stretch that started with a 44-7 win over Football Championship Subdivision New Hampshire before back-to-back MAC losses to Eastern Michigan of the MAC West, 45-23, and to Ohio, 33-14.

“We saw lots of stuff on tape that we need to fix,” Western Michigan coach Tim Lester said. “The defense started slow, but then it took control and kept us in the game through most of the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, we got too loose with the with the ball, and that’s on us. That’s on me. We have to do better. We have to do better for the defense. The offense has to find ways to change. We’ve been evaluating everything on the offensive side of the ball. We’ve made a lot of little changes. The training staff has been doing a great job of getting us healthy enough to play a great Miami defense.”

Led by seventh-year middle linebacker Ryan McWood, Miami leads the MAC with averages of 24.0 points allowed per game, 347.4 total offense yards allowed per game and 101.3 rushing yards allowed per game.

The Broncos rank 11th in the 12-team MAC with averages of 305.7 total offense yards per game and 190.4 passing yards per game. Lester passed on much of the credit to ninth-year Miami coach Chuck Martin.

“Number one, (Miami coach) Chuck (Martin) does an unbelievable job,” the sixth-year Broncos coach said. “He always has. He’s a super-smart football coach and they have a great scheme. They’re solid. They don’t bring a ton of pressure, but they still create havoc plays, which is a unique thing. Most of the time, teams need to bring pressure to create havoc plays. We have to establish the run game and get our offensive line up to a higher level and protect better.

“We have to change some things. We’re looking at everything. Changes will be made.”

Miami’s offense hasn’t exactly been prolific. Led by 6-foot-3, 203-pound redshirt-freshman quarterback Aveon Smith, who took over after junior Brett Gabbert suffered what Martin has described as a season-ending left (non-throwing) shoulder injury in the opener at Kentucky, the RedHawks rank 11th in the MAC with an average of 19.7 points per game and dead last with averages of 303.1 total offense yards and 134.0 passing yards per game.

“They do a good job of playing complementary football,” Lester said. “Their defense is a huge part of their team, but they run the ball smart and don’t put their quarterback in bad situations. If they get into third-and-long, they run inside zone and punt. One thing we have to do a better job of is not putting our quarterback in bad situations. Don’t get into third-and-long. They play smart football. They lean on their strengths. If Gabbert plays, they’re a little more traditional – a little more explosive. They throw it a little more.

“They’re always a solid team. They always find a way to play complementary football. We need to bring all three phases to Miami. Gabbert may come back. I don’t really know. I guess we have to be ready for both.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Western Michigan at Miami, 3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 980, 1450

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