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Bull Run Q&A with “The Miami Student”

What to do when you can’t find a blog? Well I thought maybe the oldest university newspaper west of the Alleghenies might give some insight into the game. Enter The Miami Student.

Chris Vinel is a sports editor at the paper and he was kind enough to take some time to answer some of the questions I had about Miami.

1. Ohio State didn’t just beat you up on the scoreboard, but More than half of Miami’s starters did not participate in a Sunday night walk-through after being injured on some level against the Buckeyes. Has there been any word on Brett Gabbert or the other key injuries?

It’s not looking good for Miami. On Monday, head coach Chuck Martin called his team’s injury situation “horrendous.” The injury report reads like a who’s who of RedHawks football. Brett Gabbert, Jaylon Bester, Manny Rugamba, Pete Nank, Tommy Doyle and Matt Skibinski are all questionable or doubtful this weekend. The last five names on that list are doubtful. Gabbert’s status remains murky. He’ll be a game-time decision.

2. Chuck Martin is in his 6th season at Miami and his teams have a history of starting slow and ramping up as the year rolls on. This year Miami had a brutal out of conference slate, so 1-3 is understandable, but is he running out of time in Miami to put together a whole season?

Martin’s seat is getting warmer. In the eyes of Miami’s fans, it’s scalding, but that’s been the case each of the last three Septembers. His teams are 3-21 in non-conference play the last six seasons, and they have never beaten the rival Cincinnati Bearcats. The three wins have come against Presbyterian in 2015, Austin Peay in 2017 and Tennessee Tech. The first month has never been kind to Martin.

Luckily, as you mentioned, his RedHawks have rebounded in the Mid-American Conference. They’ve posted a combined 16-8 record against conference foes since the start of 2016. A 6-2 MAC record probably saved Martin’s job last season after Miami lost all four of its non-conference contests.

He is running out of time, but I don’t think this is the year his proverbial timer hits zero. His contract runs through the end of the 2020 season. If the RedHawks post another above-.500 record in conference play and make a run at the MAC title this season, Martin will stay for 2020. They’re positioned to do so in a down year for the MAC. If not, he’s going to have some tough postseason conversations with athletic director David Sayler.

3. Miami has four backs averaging more than four carries per game. Is this by design or is the team just trying to settle on a feature back, if it’s the later does anyone to you seem to be the guy who can carry your ground game.

Well, right now, it’s slightly by design and slightly due to injuries. Jaylon Bester was the feature back coming into the season. Martin has publicly called him his best tailback. But Bester hasn’t played since Week One, so Tyre Shelton, Davion Johnson and Maurice Thomas have all stepped up in his absence. They were all going to be factors in the offense regardless, but they’ve assumed larger roles since Bester went down. On Saturday, the Bulls will see mostly Shelton and Johnson in the backfield, with just a little bit of Thomas as an occasional change-of-pace back. Thomas will also line up in the slot and return kicks.

4. Buffalo’s passing game has at times looked sufficient but never overpowering. UB has shown it’s going to need the running game to be effective this season. It’s hard to get a good gauge on Miami’s defense given the level of opposition they have played, so how do you think Miami’s run defense will stand up to a MAC level attack?

That’s the golden question. No one knows what this year’s Miami team actually looks like because it hasn’t played anyone with a similar talent level. Iowa, Cincinnati and Ohio State were far more talented, while the RedHawks outclassed Tennessee Tech. Saturday will be Miami’s best gauge of its own talent yet. Last week against the Buckeyes, the RedHawks played their best quarter of the year in the game’s opening period. They held Ohio State to 4.2 yards per carry. In the MAC, they’ll be looking to do better, but keep the competition difference in mind. The front seven was supposed to be one of Miami’s strengths coming into the season. Led by veterans like Doug Costin, Myles Reid and Dean Lemon, I expect that to hold true during Mid-American Conference play. The unit held opponents to four yards a carry last season. That’s doable again this year. For comparison, the Bulls allowed 4.2 yards a tote to opposing rushers in 2018.

5. Predictions for the game?

Both teams are mysteries. Miami’s non-conference schedule was one of the ten hardest in the nation. Buffalo lost to Liberty but upset Temple. This could go either way, and we’ll learn a lot about each respective team.

The first half will be more of a slugfest, resulting in a lead somewhere around 14-10 for Buffalo at intermission. Both teams will open things up in the second, but if Miami is without Brett Gabbert, it doesn’t have the firepower to keep up. Even with the true freshman quarterback, this will be a tough win to pull out.

Score prediction: The Bulls win 35-24.