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RedHawks could be without nine players for MAC opener at Bowling Green

Playing physically rugged opponents finally caught up with the Miami RedHawks.

Miami came out of this past Saturday’s 26-3 non-conference loss at Minnesota with as many as nine players who might not be available for the upcoming Mid-American Conference opener at Bowling Green.

Among the injured were senior wide receiver James Gardner, a first-team all-conference pick last season, and senior running back Kenny Young, the RedHawks’ leading receiver with 16 catches in six games.

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Coach Chuck Martin described the injury predicament as “not good” at his Monday media session.

“James is not likely to be back the rest of the year,” the fifth-year Miami coach said. “He’s facing surgeries. We think we’ll get Kenny back quickly. He thinks he’ll be able to give it a go this week. We’ll see.

“We’ve still got six or seven other kids that we’re waiting for (magnetic resonance imaging) tests and other tests to come back on. We’ll see as the week goes on. James is the only one who’s definitely out.”

Predictably, the injury list could have a significant impact on the depth chart.

“Half of it is up for grabs based on injury,” Martin pointed out. “There’s going to be a number of kids on offense and defense who are going to get time. We’ve got eight or nine kids who are questionable for Saturday. Some will be fine. Some will be limited. Some may not answer the bell.”

Losing Gardner and Young is problematic for an offense that has scored a total of three points in the last two games.

Martin pointed out that it’s not just the RedHawks’ bodies that have taken a beating during their 0-3 start, which extended to 26 their streak of consecutive losses to non-conference Football Bowl Subdivision opponents since a 35-28 win over Army on Oct. 8, 2011.

“I told them after the game on Saturday that I have a lot of trust and faith in this group,” Martin said. “There are a lot of people who think we’re not going to have a good season or that the season is lost. We’re a little beat up at 0-3. Mentally, we’re beat up, and physically, we’re beat up. I told them this is when we find out how we handle adversity. It’s time to figure out who we are.”

Fourth-year junior running back Maurice Thomas, who carried the ball a team-high 10 times for 36 yards to become Miami’s leading rusher with 76 yards through three games, gauged the team’s frustration level at “3” when asked to apply the medical-field pain scale of one through 10.

“That’s hard to answer,” he said. “We have a next-play mentality, so if you have a bad play, you might be frustrated for that minute, but then you have a clean slate. It’s not something we think about. You move on

“We know the ceiling that we’re able to reach,” the Talawanda graduate added. “We know we’re going to do it.”

Besides Thomas, the RedHawks also had safeties Mike Brown and De’Andre Montgomery as bright spots in the Minnesota loss. Montgomery, moved to safety after spending three seasons at linebacker, responded with a career-high 15 tackles against the Golden Gophers. Brown, a sophomore making his first career start, responded with a career-best 10 tackles.

Brown described the RedHawks as “very confident” as conference play looms. Miami is a combined 10-6 in the MAC over the last two seasons.

“We’re really excited,” he said about the looming game at 1-2 Bowling Green. “This has been a nice little test. We feel like we’re prepared to make a run in the MAC. We know we can compete. There’s a natural sense of frustration, but you can’t get too frustrated.”

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