Saturday, September 18, 2004

Bobcats could be tonic for reeling RedHawks

Ohio at Miami

Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

OXFORD - Miami opened the 2004 college football season with its 14th consecutive win, the longest winning streak among Division I-A teams.

Today, in their 2 p.m. game against arch-rival Ohio at Yager Stadium, the RedHawks will be trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak since the end of 2001.

There's no question that everybody in the program understands the importance of the game. Coach Terry Hoeppner made sure of it.

"I had a meeting with the seniors," he said. "It was very frank. I liked their attitude. Then they had a players-only meeting.

"This team is better than the way they've been playing."

Another streak is on the line, starting with today's Mid-American Conference opener for both teams. Miami, which last season roared to its first MAC championship since 1986, will open its bid for the team's first back-to-back conference championships since the 1975 team won the last of three in a row.

A victory also would give the RedHawks a half-game lead over Marshall, which was picked in the preseason MAC media poll to unseat Miami in the East Division. Marshall doesn't open MAC play until Sept. 29 in Huntington, W.Va., against Miami on ESPN2.

Miami and Ohio have played each other 80 times since their first meeting in 1908, and they've been competing in the MAC since 1947, but they have never played each other in each team's conference opener. They also have never played this early in the season.

"We typically play them at the end of October or early November, and to open up league play with a rival is something new," Ohio coach Brian Knorr told the Athens Messenger. "Opening Mid-American Conference play is big enough, but then when you have your rival on top of it, it makes it a big week."

Miami has won 15 of the last 20 games in the series, including five in a row at Oxford since losing to the Bobcats at Yager Stadium in 1993.

Ohio is operating with a new, one-back offense that emphasizes the passing of former Miami quarterback Ryan Hawk, who threw his first collegiate pass for the RedHawks against the Bobcats in 2000.

What to watch: Former Miami quarterback Ryan Hawk makes his first appearance in Oxford since transferring to Ohio. He set a career high with 41 passes in the Bobcats' loss at Pittsburgh last week and career highs in completions. Yardage and touchdowns in their opening win over VMI.

Hawk, in just two games, is approaching his full-season numbers from last season. He has gone 32-of-65 for 392 yards in Ohio's first two games, a 42-14 win over VMI and a 24-3 loss at Pittsburgh. He was 49-of-100 for 765 yards last year.

The Bobcats also have eight starters returning from last year's defense. Ohio has allowed averages of 253 yards and 19 points per game in the first two games, which lead MAC teams.

"Ohio is playing really well," Hoeppner said. "They played well enough to win the Pitt game. There were 14 points the defense really didn't give up.

"The 2004 version of their offense is markedly different than anything I've seen in my 19 years here. They'll play five wideouts at times."

Ohio at Miami

Kickoff: 2 p.m., Yager Stadium

Records: Ohio 1-1 (0-0 Mid-American Conference), Miami 1-2 (0-0 MAC)

TV: Ohio Sports Network

Radio: WCKY-AM (1360)

Series: Miami leads 49-29-2

Line: Miami by 19

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