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Battle of the birds: RedHawks vs. Eagles

Coburn Gillies, Assistant Sports Editor

Following two straight victories over Kent State University and BGSU, the Miami University football team looks win three consecutive games for the first time since 2010 when it faces Eastern Michigan on the road 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

The RedHawks enter the tilt with a 2-6 overall record and are 2-2 in Mid-American Conference play, good enough for sole possession of third place in the East division.

Eastern Michigan is 5-3 overall and has a 2-2 conference record in the West division coming off a loss against Western Michigan.

While the season has left a lot to be desired from the 'Hawks, these recent wins have skyrocketed morale surrounding the program.

"Confidence from the Kent State win helped us," head coach Chuck Martin said. "I think we're getting better every week at a lot of the little things that have hurt us in the past and I think the biggest thing is the confidence in the fourth quarter to play and to just keep playing and trying to make plays."

As former starting quarterback Billy Bahl is nearing return from his ailing upper body injury, backup redshirt sophomore quarterback Gus Ragland has continued to impress in relief. Ragland put together a career best performance last weekend against Bowling Green, going 22-of-35 for 215 yards and three touchdowns.

With an apparent quarterback controversy brewing in Oxford, Coach Martin commented on whether or not Ragland will continue to be featured under center.

"It's nice to actually have an option that you have a couple healthy quarterbacks," Martin said.

Another strong performance this week against the Eagles could earn Ragland the starting role for the remainder of the season.

Offensively, Miami is led by Ragland and the redshirt sophomore running back duo of Kenny Young and Alonzo Smith. The two backs combined for 162 yards on 22 attempts for one rushing touchdown against BGSU.

Another offensive leader, sophomore wide receiver James Gardner, was injured during the game. Luckily, the 'Hawks are optimistic that Gardner may return shortly.

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"It's too early to tell. Uh, he was banged up. We will probably know more tomorrow [Tuesday]. It's not a life-threatening injury so we're hopeful he'll be ready to roll Saturday," Martin said.

Defensively, expect to see the Red and White led by sophomores cornerback De'Andre Montgomery and linebacker Junior McMullen. On the season, Montgomery has 38 tackles and three interceptions while McMullen has contributed 57 tackles, five of which came for a loss.

An unlikely hero emerged last weekend against Bowling Green, as the entire special teams unit stepped up in a big way. Redshirt freshman Kyle Kramer won MAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his punting exploits against the Falcons.

Look for this unit to loom large once again in determining the outcome of the contest against the Eagles this Saturday.

"We did a crazy great job with our punt team and with our kickoff team," Martin said.

EMU head coach Chris Creighton's offensive is driven by the two-headed quarterback tandem of redshirt junior Brogan Roback and junior Todd Porter. Roback has thrown for eight touchdowns and 1059 yards through the air while Porter has chipped in seven touchdowns and 1064 yards.

Junior defensive back Jason Beck and freshman defensive back Vince Calhoun have been EMU's biggest defensive anchors so far this campaign. Beck has 64 tackles while Calhoun has added 48 tackles and two interceptions.

MU is currently on an eight game win streak versus Eastern Michigan.

Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and will be streamed live on ESPN3.