For every Ohio football game, Speakeasy Sports will be going into the den of the opponent to get first-hand analysis. By reaching out to team beat reporters and opposing players, Speakeasy provides a unique look-in at how the ‘Cats will fare against their adversaries. In a question-and-answer format, Speakeasy chats with another team’s reporter to gain a new perspective on Ohio’s opponents.
Speakeasy Sports: I know last season Miami played a spoiler in Ohio’s 1-4 downfall to the end of their regular season. What do you have to say of the RedHawks’ upset capabilities this time around at Peden Stadium?
Joe Gieringer: I would definitely say the new interim head coach. It’s not often that it’s a coach that’s a game changer. You think of a key to the victory in an upset as being a player. In this case it’s definitely interim head coach Mike Bath. He’s revitalized this young team and completely changed the way they approach this season. He focuses on what he calls an attack mentality on both sides of the ball. That’s called getting after it on defense, getting those turnovers. Miami had two huge turnovers this past weekend. Even though they didn’t win, it was still a close game against the Akron Zips. They came through on a goal-line stand twice and forced fumbles. It’s just that mentality that he’s instilled in these guys: Go after it and get it. On the offensive side of the ball as well: fighting for extra yardage after contact, making those big plays, coming back for the ball in the air. He’s just really got the guys pumped, which is really tough to do when your winless in your first half and change of the season. He’s done a good job at keeping the players focused and keeping the players playing for something and that’s to really finish the year out strong for the seniors and set the tone for next year, which will hopefully bring a few more Ws.
SS: How have the players reacted to the coaching change thus far?
JG: They love it, not to say that Don Treadwell was a bad coach; he just wasn’t the right fit for Miami. He had more of a laid back style and the players weren’t going after it and getting it. As soon as Coach Bath took over, it was little things in the mentality of the players. Sort of getting them up for the games. All of the captains – quarterback Austin Boucher, tight end Steve Martin and defensive lineman Dee Brown – have appreciated how Bath has handled the transition. It’s tough because Spencer Treadwell, one of the running backs, is Don’s son, so he’s still playing on the team even after his dad got fired, so it’s an awkward situation for everyone. All of them have handled it with real class. It’s the brotherhood mentality with those football players; they really care about each other because they’re a family, and Coach Bath really embraces that. When I go to interview players at practice, they have loud pump-up music playing over the loud speakers, they have timed segments and they do hurry-up between the segments. It seems like a program that has won a few games, and I think they’re definitely looking forward to this Ohio game because it’s a traditional rivalry. It will be interesting to see how the RedHawks hold up with two weeks of new playbook now under their belt.
SS: Who could be some players on offense, defense or special teams that could be a potential x-factor for Miami against Ohio?
JG: First of all, the most valuable player for Miami has been the punter Zac Murphy, led the nation in yards per punt going into this past weekend. He was averaging right around 45 yards per punt and really does a good job at pinning teams 10 [yards] and in and forcing bad field position. He’s definitely a guy if Miami’s offense is struggling to get it done like they have the past seven, eight weeks, then he’s going to be a guy they’re going to rely on to pin them deep and get the defense up and running.
Kent Kern, a sophomore linebacker, he’s another guy. He took a big hit in the fourth quarter last week when he went to go tackle Akron running back [Conor] Hundley. I’m not sure what his status is heading into the weekend. He looked pretty shaken up this past Saturday, so if he plays, he’s had four games this year with 10 or more tackles. He’s a play-by-example, lead-by-example type of guy. He’s definitely one on the defense, as well as Josh Dooley who plays in our rover position. He flies all over the field, forces turnovers, he’s big in the run and pass game and he does pretty much what he wants.
On the offensive side of the ball I’ve got to stick with Austin Boucher, the redshirt senior captain. He got the 2010-11 MAC championship and GoDaddy.com bowl win when he took over for an injured Zac Dysert and proved that he could play in big games. He just doesn’t have the tool set around him that that team did, so it’s tough for him to make plays on his own. But he is a mobile quarterback; they use him in a dual-threat role, so he can run very well, he can pass on you if they can open up the passing game, which Miami has started doing under interim head coach Mike Bath. So Austin Boucher is going to be the guy on the offensive side of the ball who could really hurt you, and he’s going to do it with both his arms and his legs.
So it just depends on if all the pieces are clicking for Miami this week. That’s going to be the only way they’re going to be able to ruin the Bobcats’ weekend is if all three pieces – special teams, defense and offense – are functioning coherently as an entire unit. So far this year it hasn’t happened, but under Coach Bath a lot of progress has been made. They’re starting to tighten up and sure up those mistakes and really start working as a functional unit. I think it’s going to be a good matchup. I think Ohio will take this one, but I think it will be a lot closer than people expect, especially in the early going. Bobcats might run with it a little later, but Miami I think will hang tough for at least three quarters and not give up. I think they’re still revitalized by this coaching change and some of the things he has implemented.
SS: A nice story for Ohio this year so far has been how the secondary has come together as a functional unit and is really causing teams problem in the red zone. Last week cornerback Devin Bass intercepted EMU quarterback Tyler Benz to change the course of the game for the Bobcats late in the third quarter. What does the Miami offense have to do to avoid being tempted by the Ohio D?
JG: They’ve got to make sure that they mix up the play calling. That was the problem with the RedHawks earlier on in the year was predictable play calling and not really flipping through the pages of that playbook, and they really struggled to get the ball moving and get a lot of the team involved. And I think if Miami wants to be successful against this Bobcats defense, which has played very staunchly throughout the year and has done a very good job of shutting teams down, especially late in the game. Miami is going to have to limit the turnovers and really pay special attention when Boucher’s throwing the ball because when you are running new plays, players aren’t really with it where they would like to be in understanding routes. Boucher is going to have to call smart plays at the line, because he does call his own plays.