Believing in a champion
The Rieger Report
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 02:10
Nothing matters more in sports than a player’s belief in his or her team. Talent, skill and a good game plan help, but the single most important factor is whether a team truly believes it can win.
The Miami University football team believed in itself Saturday.
Something changed in the way Miami approached Saturday’s game. The RedHawks had nothing to lose, but at the same time, had everything to lose.
The Red and White not only had lost six straight games to Ohio University, but Miami had not beaten a ranked opponent in the regular season since 2003.
The Bobcats were also the third ranked team the RedHawks faced in 2012. But in reality the differences, especially between the University of Cincinnati and Ohio University, were minimal. Both were ranked 23rd in the country in at least one poll prior to facing Miami. Both have outscored and outgained Miami this season. And both are Miami’s archrivals.
Nothing changed statistically for the Red and White Saturday either. The RedHawks were still outgained and had fewer first downs than the Bobcats.
But, the Red and White did give up fewer points than it has all year to a Football Bowl Subdivision team while recording a season-high six sacks. The team also had one of its most balanced offensive attacks of the season as well as a season high 19,000-plus fans in attendance at Yager Stadium.
However, more than anything, Miami believed it could win Saturday. Miami’s mentality was the difference.
Statistically, Ohio is very similar to two teams that blew out the ’Hawks earlier this year: Cincinnati and Boise State University. However, somehow Miami lost by a combined 65 points to those two squads.
Sure, poor execution and a rowdy road crowd impacted the RedHawks’ performance, but there is a reason Miami traditionally plays top Mid-American Conference (MAC) opponents closer than top non-conference opponents, and it has nothing to do with the quality of the teams.
Miami does not play up to its non-conference opponents.
Regardless of who the ’Hawks face out-of-conference, they struggle. The last time Miami had a winning non-conference record was in 2003.
It is as if the team is told before the game it has no chance. It is as if the team is simply hoping to not get blown out. It is as if the team knows it is the underdog and feels it has no business being there.
Obviously none of this is true, but the point still remains that Miami plays a different game against conference opponents as opposed to non-conference teams. Ironically, the last regular season ranked team the RedHawks beat was No. 20 Bowling Green State University, a MAC school.
After winning the “Battle of the Bricks” Saturday, the Red and White are now again in the race for the MAC East title.
The key for the ’Hawks the rest of the season has nothing to do with “X”s and “O”s though — this team has all the talent it needs. Rather, the key to this team’s success is whether it will maintain the same mentality it had against Ohio.
Too bad there are not any felines remaining on the RedHawks’ 2012 schedule.