Kent State at Miami

2:30 P.M., OXFORD

Favorite: Miami by 11

Records: Kent State 1-5, 0-2 MAC East; Miami 2-4, 2-1 MAC East

Series: Miami leads 48-17

Last meeting: Kent State won 17-14 last season in Kent

With Miami University, it’s not so much how many games the team has won as who it has beaten.

Although a 2-4 overall record is hardly impressive, the RedHawks are 2-1 since beginning Mid-American Conference play, with a chance to stretch that to 3-1 in the East Division on Saturday against Kent State. Coach Chuck Martin likes the mental toughness his team has developed over the season.

“If you keep that mentality, it doesn’t mean you win all the close ones, but you give yourself a better chance,” he said.

In MAC play, Miami has sandwiched wins at Bowling Green and Akron around a one-point home loss to Western Michigan.

The RedHawks feature an uneven defense that has had much more success stopping the run (123.5 yards per game, fewest in the MAC) than the pass (239.3, ninth). But that defense stepped up in a big way last week against Akron, especially late.

Miami had takeaways on four straight Zips possessions in the fourth quarter, and senior linebacker Brad Koenig was involved in each one. He deflected a pass that was intercepted, intercepted two passes himself and recovered a fumble. The RedHawks had trailed 17-14 in the third quarter before winning 41-17.

Koenig played the game out of position, sliding over from the weakside spot to the strongside to take the place of Junior McMullen, who was injured.

“You need your best players to make big plays with the game on the line, and that’s what he did,” Martin said of Koenig’s performance.

On offense, establishing the running game was important against the Zips and will be again against the Golden Flashes, who Martin said seem to specialize in stopping tailbacks. That position has been an area of concern for the RedHawks. Kenny Young has fought multiple injuries this season and was saw only limited playing time against Akron, yet he still had three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving).

“We used some tempo to wear them down a little bit in the run game,” Martin said.

Although the Golden Flashes — without a win over an FBS team — might limit opposing tailbacks, they still give up points in bunches: 37.5 per game, or 115th among FBS teams.

For the RedHawks, bigger challenges await after Kent State. They step out of conference on Oct. 13 to play at Army before back-to-back games against two of the front-runners in the MAC East, at Buffalo and home vs. Ohio.

“We’re in control of our destiny. It’s a cliche, but we really are,” Koenig said. “We feel that we have the right pieces and the right players and the right group of guys so we can put something together here.”

Youngstown State at South Dakota State

3 P.M., BROOKINGS, S.D.

The Penguins (2-3, 1-1 Missouri Valley Football Conference) may be catching the Jackrabbits (3-1, 1-1) at a bad time. South Dakota State is trying to live up to its No. 2 ranking in FCS but is coming off a 54-51 win over Indiana State that went to overtime.

Ohio at Northern Illinois

3:30 P.M., DEKALB, ILL.

The Huskies (3-3, 3-0 MAC West) had best keep an eye on quarterback Nathan Rourke, the MAC offensive player of the week two weeks running for the Bobcats (3-2, 1-0 MAC East). Last week against Kent State, he scored the go-ahead touchdown on a keeper with 1:28 left.

Malone at Ohio Dominican

1 P.M., COLUMBUS

The Panthers (5-1, 3-1 Great Midwest Athletic Conference) are rolling with three straight wins. Last week against Walsh, Cody Contini had two touchdown plays of 80 yards or longer, receiving (87 yards) and returning a punt (80).

Brian Hofmann

bhofmann@dispatch.com

@BrianHofmann