By Grace Remington, Sports Editor
Twelve years ago, Miami football captured the 2003 Mid-American Conference title and finished with a 13-1 (8-0 MAC) record. The 'Hawks proceeded to win the GoDaddy Bowl (called the GMAC bowl at the time). Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ranked in the NCAA top 10 - usually the top five - in all offensive categories during his time as a RedHawk.
Though MU won another bowl game in 2011, the program has not seen consistent success since the 2003 season. Miami is 46-89 since 2003.
However, Miami football is revitalized.
In the season-opener against Marshall University last season, MU's new head coach Chuck Martin went for a fourth and five on Marshall's 42-yard line with 4:58 left in the first quarter. Bold move. And Miami didn't get it.
But, in that moment, something had changed. Miami football was a new team.
Risky play calls and a daring coach are just what the team needed. The fans needed to wake up; the players needed to wake up.
Some may argue that Miami's 2-10 record doesn't show any improvement. However, when a team's morale and athleticism are boosted, results usually show on the field. And the statistics prove it.
In 2014-15, Miami scored an average of 22.3 points per game. That's 2.3 times more than their average in the 2013-14 season (9.8).
Miami lost six games by less than 10 points in 2014, and four of those games were lost by only one touchdown. In comparison, the team dropped two games by one touchdown in 2013; the next closest margin was 14 points, and the other eight losses were blowouts (losses by more than 17 points). MU suffered only one blowout loss in 2014.
Offensive production increased, as well. Miami notched 4,504 total yards last year, almost 70 percent more than 2013 season's total of 2,725. First downs increased from 159 to 246. The defense kept opponents to 278 first downs, down from 2013's 309.
With the conclusion of fall training camp, speculation begins.
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"It's always different during the second year," Martin said after practice, hinting at the year ahead.
Martin has one year of head coaching experience at Miami under his belt, and the recruits bring promise. The players are more athletic and bigger, and there is more depth at each position.
"I'm always thinking are we doing things the right way, are we getting better players and recruiting and developing the right way and becoming a stronger team," Martin said. "As long as those things are in place the wins will come. I hope they come. I hate losing. But I'm not as concerned about that; I'm concerned with building things the right way."
And, so far, Martin is confident.
"We're more than way ahead of schedule and on the right pace … there's going to be growing pains, but we're moving in a positive direction."