Miami wraps up non-conferece play at Northwestern

Few connections with non-conference college football programs are stronger than Miami’s with Northwestern.

The RedHawks of the Mid-American Conference have met the Big Ten Wildcats nine times and won six, all on Northwestern’s home field in eight tries. The Wildcats have benefitted more from Miami’s “Cradle of Coaches” legacy perhaps more than any other program, having lured three from Oxford to Evanston, Ill. – Ara Parseghian, John Pont and Randy Walker, though Pont made stops at Yale and Indiana before arriving at Northwestern.

Walker was on the mind of current Miami coach Chuck Martin as the RedHawks began preparing for Saturday’s game against the Wildcats at Northwestern’s 47,130-seat Ryan Stadium.

“The first thing you think of is Randy Walker,” Martin said on Monday during Miami’s weekly media session. “I didn’t know him, but if you follow college football, you know what Randy Walker did. He was a very rare guy with ties to both places.”

Walker, a Troy, Ohio, native and Miami fullback, took over as the RedHawks coach in 1990 and set records by coaching 99 games and producing 59 wins over nine seasons before leaving for Northwestern, where he became the first coach to lead three different teams to bowl games and the first to guide three straight teams to four or more Big Ten wins. Walker died at age 52 in 2006.

Both teams are 1-2 going into their final non-conference game. Last week the RedHawks lost to Cincinnati, 38-17, at Paycor Stadium while the Wildcats were stunned by Football Championship Subdivision Southern Illinois, 31-24 – their second consecutive home loss. Northwestern has committed seven turnovers in those two losses.

“They have great athletes – not like Ohio State or Penn State – but they play the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” Martin said.

Evan Hull isNorthwestern’s go-to guy. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound junior running back has carried the ball 64 times for 308 yards and three touchdowns while catching 27 passes for 301 yards and one touchdown. Out of 215 touches by Northwestern’s running backs and receivers, Hull has 91. That’s 42 percent.

“You’ve got to know where Hull is,” Martin said. “You have to be mindful that he’s had more than 40 percent of their touches.

“They really catch the ball well,” he added. “In three games, we’ve seen one drop.”

Martin is building his own legacy at Miami. He has matched Walker’s record for number of seasons as the RedHawks coach and can expect to pass Walker and reach an even 100 games coached when the RedHawks play at Akron on Oct. 29. Walker also is tied with Bo Schembechler (1963-1968) for sixth on the career wins list with 40, one shy of tying Chester Pittser (1924-1931) for fifth and three short of matching Pont (1956-1962).

Martin, who will be looking for his first win over a Big Ten team in his eighth try, appreciates the connections between the two schools and programs. Miami’s last win over a Big Ten team was 44-14 at Northwestern on Sept. 13, 2003 – Ben Roethlisberger’s last season in Oxford. The RedHawks finished that season 13-1 and ranked 10th in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll.

“We’re very like-minded universities and football programs,” Martin said. “We’re facing a Big Ten opponent on the road in a great venue.”


Miami at Northwestern, 7:30 p.m., BTN, 980, 1450

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