Miami will be tested by Ohio State's speed, depth
Miami University football coach Chuck Martin likens playing Ohio State to being at recess and having the other team get the first 85 picks.
On Saturday, the RedHawks will get their chance to take down the playground bullies.
“Great football team, really loaded with talent at every position,” Martin said of Ohio State. “None of the kids who were recruited to play at Ohio State were recruited to Miami and vice versa.”
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The RedHawks are coming off a 35-13 loss to Cincinnati, a team that Ohio State beat 42-0 two weeks ago. The RedHawks jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but it quickly evaporated thanks to two second-quarter touchdown runs from the Bearcats' Michael Warren II.
“We ran the ball well in the first half, we didn’t throw the ball as well as we liked,” Martin said Monday. “We did pretty much what we wanted to do in the first half … the second half was very frustrating.”
For the first time, Miami opened with a true freshman at quarterback in Brett Gabbert. Gabbert, the younger brother of Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, is 37-of-62 passing for 481 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
“He’s done very well,” Martin said. “He did some good things last week.”
Gabbert beat out redshirt sophomore Jackson Williamson and redshirt freshman A.J. Mayer for the job. The RedHawks are led in rushing by true freshman Tyre Shelton, who has 108 yards and one touchdown this season. But they could potentially be without some of their top linemen, as Martin said that the status for three is up in the air because of injuries.
“Any time three offensive linemen go down, it’s going to be a challenge,” Martin said. “Add in playing the Buckeyes and it’s even more of a challenge.”
On defense, the RedHawks are led by defensive backs Sterling Weatherford and Bart Baratti, who lead Miami with 20 and 17 tackles. Baratti returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown two weeks ago against Tennessee Tech.
The RedHawks secondary is bolstered by Emmanuel Rugamba, a defensive back who spent two years at Iowa before transferring to Miami last summer. He had five tackles against Ohio State in Iowa's 55-24 upset win in 2017. The defense will have to be on its game against Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who went 14-of-24 passing for 199 yards and three touchdowns against Indiana. He has yet to throw an interception.
“There’s no margin for error for our defense,” Martin said. “If any of their guys get out in space, they can go the distance. Their speed is overwhelming for the opposition.”