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Miami football brings energy, attitude into tough schedule

The Miami RedHawks don't care how they win games this season.

Whether the offense drops 50 points in a shootout, or the defense shines in a 3-0 slugfest, it doesn't matter.

The only objective is to win, regardless of the circumstances.

"That was the attitude we had at the end of last season," redshirt junior wide receiver Jack Sorenson said. "At all costs, we're going to win the game. It doesn't matter how we do it. It doesn't matter if we have 1,000 penalties, but if we come out with a win, a win's a win."

Sorenson said he and his teammates have brought that same mindset into this season's fall training camp.

"The defense has it," Sorenson said. "The offense has it. You can tell at the end of practice, when we're both cheering and screaming at each other, and it's hyped."

The excitement has been palpable throughout August, especially on days like August 18, when the heat index on the Yager Stadium turf rose to 109 degrees at 10:30 a.m. The RedHawks believe it's that energy that will push them past the non-conference and one-possession-game disappointments from the past two seasons toward the streaking momentum they captured late last season.

After struggling to a 1-4 record in 2018's first five weeks, Miami sprung into survival mode and won five of its last seven games. The RedHawks' final two losses came by a combined 10 points.

Sorenson said clawing back from the bad start is what caused the shift in energy.

Head coach Chuck Martin called his team's current approach "mature."

"We're just trying to get closer to midseason form earlier," Martin said. "Every year, the details get better, and that's standard. No one plays their best football Week One. But we're trying to push to get better."

But with an even tougher non-conference schedule this season, Martin's men will have to be better earlier.

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Miami begins the season at Iowa, and after a quick home tuneup against Tennessee Tech, heads to Cincinnati and Ohio State on back-to-back weekends in mid-September.

Martin emphasized that those games present learning opportunities, but they'll be treated like normal games - games that Miami wants to win.

After the departure of RedHawk stalwarts, like Gus Ragland, Kenny Young and Brad Koenig, many young players will have to step up and fill the vacated roles.

The most high-profile position battle of both spring and fall camp has been between the quarterbacks.

Redshirt sophomore Jackson Williamson, redshirt freshman A.J. Mayer and freshman Brett Gabbert are all still in the running to win the starting job. Due to Williamson dealing with some injuries this month, Mayer and Gabbert have recently received the bulk of the first-team reps.

"I would be shocked if you don't see multiple quarterbacks play against Iowa," Martin said. "But not necessarily evenly. There may be a pecking order. I wouldn't say there's one yet … We like all three, and they're all doing good things."

Aside from the quarterbacks, most of the other players assuming more important roles gained in-game experience as a result of injury misfortunes Miami suffered last season. Sorenson, sophomore corner Ja'don Rucker-Furlow and redshirt junior linebacker Ryan McWood are among the group that benefited from being forced into action.

Once Miami makes it through non-conference play, it will look to replicate its 6-2 Mid-American-Conference record from last season.

"There is that sense of we need to get focused, and we need to do the right things," senior defensive lineman Doug Costin said.

The RedHawks will have the chance to do the right things against someone other than their teammates this Saturday against Iowa. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on FS1.