RedHawks ‘excited to be back home’

Miami-Ohio Wide Receiver Jack Sorenson (13) celebrates with his teammates after catching a 23-yard pass for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Minnesota, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Minneapolis. Minnesota won 31-26. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)
Caption
Miami-Ohio Wide Receiver Jack Sorenson (13) celebrates with his teammates after catching a 23-yard pass for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Minnesota, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Minneapolis. Minnesota won 31-26. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)

Credit: CRAIG LASSIG

Credit: CRAIG LASSIG

Miami, which has played 13 of its last 19 games on the road, plays LIU in home opener Saturday

OXFORD -- Going into spring practice for the 2020 college football season, Miami was looking forward to the most ambitious home schedule in program history.

For the first time ever, the RedHawks would be playing seven home games. In addition to Mid-American Conference opponents Ohio, Ball State, Kent State and Eastern Michigan, they also were anticipating visits by Army and arch-rival Cincinnati, along with Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Instead of seven home games, Miami played one, edging eventual MAC-champion Ball State, 38-31, last Nov. 4 in the RedHawks’ “season opener” after pandemic protocols forced cancellation of prior games. Subsequent home games against Ohio and Kent State also were cancelled.

The RedHawks are scheduled to open this season’s five-game home schedule on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against the Football Championship Subdivision Long Island Sharks at 24,000-seat Yager Stadium. Eighth-year Miami coach Chuck Martin couldn’t wait. Martin pointed out on Monday that Miami had played at Yager Stadium just six times over its last 19 games.

“If you count the (2019) MAC Championship game and the bowl game, we’ve played 13 road games out of the last 19,” he said. “That’s unheard of. We’re excited to be back home. Any chance to be at home is huge for us. We don’t mind being on the road. I’m not making excuses. That’s just kind of how it is. We love our fans. We love playing at Yager Stadium.”

Martin got a sense of what Yager might be like this Saturday while the RedHawks were scoring 17 unanswered points in the second half at Minnesota to cut the Golden Gophers’ lead from 18 points to one before succumbing in a 31-26 loss.

“Their fans were pretty quiet in the second half,” Martin said. “You could actually hear our fans. It was nice.”

Miami-Ohio head coach Chuck Martin, left, talks with the game officials during a break in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Minnesota Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Minneapolis. Minnesota won 31-26. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)
Caption
Miami-Ohio head coach Chuck Martin, left, talks with the game officials during a break in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Minnesota Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Minneapolis. Minnesota won 31-26. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)

Credit: CRAIG LASSIG

Credit: CRAIG LASSIG

Miami and Long Island both are 0-2 for 2021 going into Saturday’s game. The Sharks, who play in the Northeast Conference, have lost to West Virginia and Florida International by a combined 114-10. They played four games in March, going 2-2 and are led by 6-foot, 225-pound fifth-year senior running back Jonathan DeBique and 6-3, 210-pound junior quarterback Camden Orth. DeBique has been limited to just 57 yards on 15 carries. Orth is a combined 26-of-50 for 257 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.

“LIU has a different cast of characters,” Martin said. “They were pretty even with Florida International for the first 36 or 37 minutes. They have a talented quarterback and a big, strong tailback. They do stuff that’s similar to what a lot of colleges do. We’ve seen a lot of what their defense can do, though they do have some wrinkles. They run a lot of defenses. They run a lot of coverages. You have to be on your toes. They like to pressure you. They like to get after you.”

Miami has won its last nine games at Yager Stadium, dating back to a 40-39 MAC loss to Western Michigan on Sept. 29, 2018, but the RedHawks still are searching for an identity. Second-year freshman running back Keyon Mozee, the 5-7, 182-pound transfer from Kansas State, leads the team with 99 yards rushing through two games. Third-year sophomore quarterback Brett Gabbert is expected to make his second start of the season after missing the season-opening loss at Cincinnati. The 6-foot, 205-pound Gabbert was 14-of-29 for 201 yards and two touchdowns with one interception this past Saturday at Minnesota.

Defensively, 6-foot, 242-pound linebacker third-year sophomore Ivan Pace Jr. and 6-4, 215-pound fourth-year junior safety Sterling Weatherford are tied for the team lead in tackles with 14. Weatherford also has one of Miami’s two interceptions.

The RedHawks are scheduled to play at Army on Sept. 25 before opening MAC play against Central Michigan on 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 2 at Yager Stadium.


SATURDAY’S GAME

Long Island at Miami, 3:30 p.m., ESPN+, 980, 1450