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’Hawks host Northern Illinois

Despite throwing four interceptions in a 34-3 loss to Ohio University last weekend, freshman quarterback Billy Bahl will make his second career start when Miami University football hosts Northern Illinois University Saturday.

The RedHawks trailed 14-3 halfway through the second quarter at OU last week, but the turnovers led to the RedHawks' downfall.

"There were just a lot of execution errors post-snap," Bahl said. "Need to be better pre-snap and know what the defense is doing, and from then on, just know where to go with the ball. And not put our defense in situations like that with a short field."

Now, Miami looks to end its five-game losing streak.

NIU Sophomore cornerback Shawun Lurry leads the nation with six interceptions through six games. Of the Huskies' 38 points off of turnovers this season, 28 have come via four Lurry interceptions.

"Gotta make sure you get the ball out on time and put it where the defense can't get it," Bahl said. "So if you do that, [Lurry] won't be able to get his hands on the ball. Just keep the ball moving and keep us in safe situations."

Sophomore linebacker Paul Moses said the 'Hawks are ready to move forward after last week's game, in which the Bobcats held the advantage in yardage (428-253), first downs (25-12) and time of possession (36:25-23:35).

"We try not to bring up the past and try to look to the future," Moses said. "So this week, we came prepared. We watched a lot of film on [NIU]. They do a lot of motions and stuff, so we're real prepared on that. We're just gonna play our game."

Redshirt junior quarterback Drew Hare leads an NIU offense that averages 33.3 points and 413.8 yards per game.

Hare recorded his third career 300-yard game last week in a 59-41 victory over Ball State University when he passed for a career-high 363 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 90.6 percent (29 of 32) of his passes, breaking the school record for single game completion percentage (minimum 20 completions).

"The task ahead is a tough one," head coach Chuck Martin said. "Obviously Northern's been a marquee team in this league. It'll be the best offense we've seen so far, along with Wisconsin and Western Kentucky."

On the other hand, the saga of Miami's struggle to move the ball continues. The RedHawks are third-worst in the nation in points per game (15) and sixth-worst in first downs per game (16).

Martin said in order to counter offensive woes, the defense must come up with more stops and force turnovers, and Moses agreed.

"It's a big deal because we don't want to put [the offense] back in the same field position or in a bad field position," Moses said. "But we got leaders like [senior defensive lineman Bryson] Albright and [redshirt senior defensive back] Brison [Burris] and [senior linebacker] Kent Kern that get us hyped and keep us motivated and go out there and ball out."

Bahl's receiving corps is a mix of veteran and young players. Redshirt junior Rokeem Williams, redshirt sophomore Jared Murphy, sophomore Sam Martin and redshirt freshman Chris Hudson have each collected 200-plus yards on at least 13 catches.

Redshirt freshman running back Alonzo Smith leads on the ground with 196 yards and three touchdowns on 50 carries.

"We're coming along well," Bahl said. "We're getting better every week. The older guys - they're being great leaders, especially this week, they're really coming along. And as a team we're just getting better every week."

The all-time series between MU and NIU is tied at 8-8 overall and 4-4 in Oxford. Northern Illinois gained 658 yards of total offense and never punted in a 51-41 victory against Miami in their last meeting at Huskie Stadium on Oct. 18, 2014.

Kickoff is 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Yager Stadium.

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