This Week’s Matchup
Miami University and the Mississippi State Bulldogs will square-off in the 2016 St. Petersburg Bowl on December 26 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The 11 a.m. kickoff will take place inside Tropicana Field.
Follow The RedHawks All Week
MiamiRedHawks.com will have you covered all week as the RedHawks tour the state of Florida beginning on Dec. 22. At the conclusion of each day we will have video recaps, but also suggest following @MiamiRedHawks and @MiamiOHFootball on Twitter for more action. For those into Snapchat, make sure to follow miami_redhawks and miamiohfootball. A different member of the team will be taking over the athletics account each day, while the football account will be detailing the entire trip.
The matchup with the Bulldogs will be carried live on ESPN. Dave LaMont will handle the play-by-play duties and Rene Ingoglia will be the color analyst. Chris Doering will provide updates from the sideline.
In its 10th year of its partnership with IMG College, the Miami Sports Network continues its coverage of Miami Football with a group of affiliates blanketing most of Southwest Ohio and Southeast Indiana. “The Voice of the RedHawks” Steve Baker will deliver the play-by-play coverage, while Terry Bridge will provide color commentary. Randy Hollowell will be the network’s sideline reporter. Tune-in to one of Miami’s game-day affiliates:
WMOH-AM 1450 (Hamilton, Ohio)
WFMG-FM 101.3 (Richmond, Ind.)
WDBZ-AM 1230 (Cincinnati, Ohio)
WONE-AM 980 (Dayton, Ohio)
WKBV-AM 1490 and 100.9 FM (Richmond, Ind.)
Live stats for the contest can be found at www.miamiredhawks.com
Need To Know
• Miami football ranks first all-time in the Mid-American Conference in wins (679), MAC Championships (15) and bowl wins (7).
• In 127 years of Miami football, the RedHawks have had just 33 losing seasons. Since joining the MAC in 1948 (67 years), Miami has had just 16 losing seasons.
About Chuck Martin
• Head coach Chuck Martin, who earned that title on Dec. 3, 2013, brings an impressive resume to Oxford, Ohio.
• Not only was he 74-7 in six years at Grand Valley State (2004-09), he has coached in seven national championship games in the past 15 seasons. Martin has an all-time head coaching record of 85-32.
• He has twice been named the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) National Coach of the Year and has been a coordinator on both sides of the ball.
• Martin was inducted into the Hall of Fame at Grand Valley State University on Oct. 23, 2015.
About Miami - MAC East Champions
Miami is riding a six-game win streak into the Dec. 26 matchup with Mississippi State after beginning the season 0-6. Offensively, MU averages 23.4 points and 361.4 yards per game under sophomore quarterback Gus Ragland. Defensively, they rank as the top unit in the conference, allowing 354.6 yards per game and are second in rush defense at 139.7. The RedHawks finished 6-2 in MAC play to claim a share of the MAC East Division title.
About Mississippi State
Mississippi State finished 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the SEC. Overall, the Bulldogs average 31.5 points and 449.0 yards per game behind quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, a dual-threat quarterback, threw for 2,287 yards and 21 touchdowns and added 1,243 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Defensively, the Bulldogs allow 33.1 points and 461.2 yards per game and are led by defensive end Johnathan Calvin, who recorded 54 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks on the season.
Series vs. Mississippi State
The Dec. 26 contest will be Miami’s first meeting with Mississippi State. The RedHawks are 11-18-1 all-time versus teams from the SEC and have not played a SEC school since facing Kentucky in 2013, a contest Miami lost 41-7. Miami’s last win over the SEC was on Sept. 2, 2000, a 33-30 victory over Vanderbilt.
Bowl Game History
The St. Petersburg Bowl will be Miami’s 11th bowl game in school history. Overall, the RedHawks are 7-3 in bowl games, last playing in the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Ala., in 2010.
Complete Miami Bowl Game History
• 1948 Sun Bowl (Won 13-12 vs. Texas Tech)
• 1950 Salad Bowl (Won 34-21 vs. Arizona State)
• 1962 Tangerine Bowl (Lost, 49-21 vs. Houston)
• 1973 Tangerine Bowl (Won, 16-7 vs. Florida)
• 1974 Tangerine Bowl (Won, 21-10 vs. Georgia)
• 1975 Tangerine Bowl (Won, 20-7 vs. South Carolina)
• 1986 California Bowl (Lost, 37-7 vs. San Jose State)
• 2003 GMAC Bowl (Won, 49-28 vs. Louisville)
• 2004 Independence Bowl (Lost, 17-13 vs. Iowa State)
• 2010 GoDaddy Bowl (Won, 35-21 vs. Middle Tennessee State)
Seniors Experiencing First Bowl Contest
Miami has 11 seniors playing in their final game: Collin Buchanan, Sawyer Dean, Jordan Diamond, Austin Gearing, JT Jones, Matt Smallbone, Spencer McInnis, Buchi Okafor, Sam Shisso, TJ Williams and Rokeem Williams. These 11 seniors were 5-37 overall in their career prior to Miami’s current six-game win streak.
Miami’s six-game win streak ranks eighth in the nation, behind only Alabama (13), Western Michigan (13), Oklahoma (9), Penn State (9), USC (8), Temple (7) and Western Kentucky (7).
With the win over Ball State to close out the regular season the RedHawks moved to 6-6 overall after opening the season 0-6. No team in NCAA history had ever accomplished that feat. Two teams came close. Illinois in 1971 and Tennessee in 1988 opened seasons 0-6 and won its final five games to finish the season 5-6. Both teams only played 11 games that season. The Elias Sports Bureau is responsible for this info.
Miami had seven players earn All-MAC this season, which matches Miami’s total from 2014 (5) and 2015 (2) combined. Heath Harding (first-team), JT Jones (second-team), Collin Buchanan (second-team), Junior McMullen (third-team), De’Andre Montgomery (third-team), James Gardner (third-team) and Maurice Thomas (third-team kick returner) were honored by the conference. Five of the seven All-MAC award winners will return for next season.
Red Zone RedHawks
The red zone had not been kind to the Red and White earlier this season. In Miami’s first six games, MU reached the red zone just 18 times and scored seven touchdowns and six field goals. Overall they walked away with points 72-percent of the time, but scored touchdowns at just a 39-percent clip. During the six game win streak Miami has entered the opponent’s 20-yard line 19 times and scored on 17 occasions (89.5%). Even more impressive, they have scored 14 touchdowns in that span (73.7%).
In each of Miami’s last four games they have scored touchdowns on their opening drives. Versus EMU, the RedHawks went 10 plays for 75 yards, against CMU, Miami marched 70 yards in seven plays, went 75 yards in six plays at Buffalo and traveled 74 yards in four plays versus Ball State ... all touchdowns on Miami’s first possession on the contest. The RedHawks also scored touchdowns versus Central Michigan and Ball State on their first drives of the second half.
Been a While
The win over Ball State to end the regular season moved the RedHawks to 6-2 in conference play and was their sixth-consecutive win. The last time Miami finished at least 6-2 in conference play was in 2010 when the RedHawks went 7-1 in the MAC. That same season, Miami finished the season with six-straight wins. A win over Mississippi State would give the RedHawks seven-straight wins, a feat that has not been accomplished since Miami won 13 straight back in 2003.
Seven different times this season Miami has controlled the ball for over 31 minutes of action. Overall, Miami ranks third in the MAC and 27th nationally in time of possession (32:17).
Team Time of Poss.
at Iowa 36:21
Eastern Illinois 35:37
Western Kentucky 35:45
at Akron 31:25
at Bowling Green 38:39
at Eastern Michigan 34:40
at Buffalo 33:39
Helping with that time of possession has been the fact that Miami’s offense has for the majority of the time had long touchdown drives this season. Of Miami’s 33 touchdown drives, 30 of them have started on Miami’s side of the field. Miami has seven touchdown drives of over 80 yards in length and another 15 drives that are between 70-79 yards.
State of the Program
The RedHawks are in their third year of a massive rebuild under the leadership of Coach Martin. When Martin got to Miami on Dec. 3, 2013, the RedHawks were coming off a 0-12 season in which they averaged 9.8 points and allowed 35.7 points per game. Martin has used highly-ranked recruiting classes (top-3 class in the MAC in each of his three years) to rebuild depth and skill at each position. While the team is still extremely young, depth and athleticism should have Miami fans excited.
Just The Beginning
This bowl contest, a six-game win streak and MAC East co-Champions could just be the beginning for this RedHawks’ football program, based on the youth around the team. On Miami’s two-deep for the contest versus Mississippi State, the RedHawks list 51 players. Of those 51 players, 11 are freshmen, 24 are sophomores, seven are juniors and just nine seniors are listed.
Players Lost to Injury
While the two-deep is still extremely young, it could be even younger if not for several key injuries throughout the season. Prior to the season even beginning Miami lost starters junior Zach Hovey (LT), sophomore Nate Becker (TE) and sophomore Jordan Martin (QB). Also missing the bowl game due to injury are sophomores Chris Hudson (WR) and Zach Swarts (OL).
Defense Continues to Set the Tone
Miami’s defense has been a strong point for the team most of the season and in fact, is one of the top defenses in the MAC in several categories.
• Miami ranks first in the MAC in total defense (354.8) and third in scoring defense (24.3).
• The Red and White rank second in the MAC in rush defense (139.8).
• The RedHawks lead the MAC in interceptions (14) and are third in pass defense efficiency (121.6). The 14 interceptions rank 14th in the nation.
• Miami is fourth in sacks (24) and is second in red zone defense in the MAC (77.5%).
In Gus We Trust
After beginning the season 0-6, head coach Chuck Martin turned to redshirt sophomore quarterback Gus Ragland. Ragland has since led Miami to six straight wins over Kent State, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Buffalo and Ball State while throwing for 1,274 yards and 15 touchdowns with no interceptions. That’s not even the most remarkable part ... back on April 10, Ragland suffered an ACL tear in his right leg and returned to the playing field six months later.
Return From Injury
As mentioned earlier, sophomore quarterback Gus Ragland returned to face Kent State, just six months after suffering an ACL tear in his right knee. In a non-contact injury during spring practice on April 10, Ragland suffered a complete tear of his ACL. He had surgery a week later on April 17 and returned to face the Golden Flashes on Oct. 15.
Taking Care of Business
Since taking over the starting role, Ragland’s stat lines are not eye popping, but what he is doing is taking care of the football. Through six starts he has yet to throw an interception in 149 pass attempts. In fact, Ragland has never thrown an interception in his Miami career, throwing 29 passes last season with no interceptions. In all, he has thrown 178 passes as a RedHawk with no turnovers. In the history of college football only one quarterback has attempted at least 150 passes in a season and not thrown an interception. Matt Blundin threw 224 passes for Virginia back in 1991 with zero turnovers.
NCAA Pass Efficiency Leaders
1. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) 197.8
2. Logan Woodside (Toledo) 183.9
3. Mike White (WKU) 181.0
4. Zach Terrell (Western Michigan) 180.6
5. Jake Browning (Washington) 176.5
6. Gus Ragland (Miami) 167.5
What A Difference a Year Makes
Last season James Gardner had three catches for 72 yards as a freshman for the RedHawks offense. This season he already has more touchdown catches than he had receptions in 2015. The sophomore is second on the team in catches (40) and first in yards (658) and touchdowns (5). Gardner had scored touchdowns in four straight games earlier this season.
Our QB Sacked Yours
On the opening series versus Cincinnati, defensive end Austin Gearing came around the edge to bring down the UC quarterback for his first career sack. While he is a fifth-year senior, the difference is that he was Miami’s starting quarterback for the final three games of the 2013 season. That’s right, a former starting quarterback now starts at defensive end for the Red and White. Gearing checked in at 6-foot-5 and 212 pounds back in 2013 and now is up to 257 pounds just three years later. Gearing added two sacks versus Ohio and has 4.0 sacks and three forced fumbles this season.
Man in the Middle
Middle linebacker Junior McMullen is thriving as a first-year starter for the RedHawks defense. He is second on the team with 82 tackles. He earned MAC Defensive Player of the Week after recording 14 tackles versus arch-rival Cincinnati.
Good Things Come to Those That Wait
Sophomore linebacker Brad Koenig was gifted a surprise this offseason. Coach Martin awarded Koenig with a scholarship after finishing the 2015 season with 24 tackles and 1.0 sack. Koenig is currently fourth on the team in tackles (62) and second in tackles for loss (8.0). He also recorded his first career interception versus UC.
Playing With an Edge
JT Jones had a breakout season last year, earning second-team all-MAC honors, by finishing the season with 52 tackles, 10.0 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. His sack total was second-best in the MAC. His biggest game was a four-sack performance in a 28-13 win over Eastern Michigan in which he established a new school record for sacks in a game. Jones had 2.0 sacks versus Eastern Michigan and now has 24.5 sacks in his career, tied for third most in school history. He trails just Jon Wauford (35) and Andy Howard (26) on the all-time Miami career sack list.