“They’re similar to us,” Miami coach Chuck Martin said Monday. “They like to run the ball and go to play-action. They’re sound defensively. The transfer portal has been good to them. They played two quarterbacks against Dayton. They’re still sorting through their quarterbacks. They play a 4-3 defense. They’re simple and sound. I think they’ll get better with their new faces as they go.”
Based on the reactions of Martin and wide receivers Max Hippenhammer and Jalen Walker, the RedHawks were looking forward to simply playing at home. Saturday’s game will be the earliest Miami has played on its home turf since beating Tennessee Tech, 48-17, on Sept. 7, 2019. That also was the last season Miami opened a season 1-1 after opening with a 38-14 loss at Big Ten Iowa.
The COVID-19 pandemic cut Miami’s 2020 home schedule to one game, a 38-31 MAC win over Ball State in November, and the RedHawks didn’t play at home last season until Week 3 in a 42-7 win over Long Island University. They already were two games into the season with losses at Cincinnati by 49-14 and 31-26 at Minnesota.
“We don’t play many home games early in the year, so we’re excited,” Martin said.
“We’re excited to play in front of all the students,” said redshirt sophomore linebacker Matt Salopek, who finished third on the team with seven tackles in Miami’s 37-13 season-opening loss at Southeastern Conference Kentucky last Saturday.
“It’s not like we travel a lot,” said redshirt senior wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer, who led Miami with seven catches and 85 receiving yards against the Wildcats. “It will be good to play at home in front of our family.”
“This is a great opportunity,” added sixth-year senior wide receiver Jalen Walker, who was second on the team with four catches and 25 yards at Kentucky. “It’s easier when you play at home in front of your family. We definitely want to keep the streak alive.”
The RedHawks will have to work redshirt freshman Aveon Smith making his first career start at quarterback after incumbent Brett Gabbert suffered an injury to his left, non-throwing shoulder late in the game at Kentucky. Walker is confident that he and his teammates can adjust, especially after seven players make their first career starts against the Wildcats.
“We had a lot of young guys against Kentucky – a lot of new faces,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of (coaching) staff changes. I thought our guys handled the changes well.”
“We had a lot of new faces – a lot of transfers, a lot of freshmen,” Salopek said. “I think we’re going to get better each week. Everyone brings something good to the table.”
Robert Morris at Miami, 6 p.m., ESPN3, 980, 1450