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Miami football and Detroit mesh for MAC Championship game

<p>Despite temperatures hovering around 25 degrees at Yager Stadium, several RedHawks stretched shirtless before a 44-3 victory over Bowling Green on Nov. 13, 2019.</p>

Despite temperatures hovering around 25 degrees at Yager Stadium, several RedHawks stretched shirtless before a 44-3 victory over Bowling Green on Nov. 13, 2019.

DETROIT There’s something to be said about being underestimated, underappreciated and gritty.

That’s Detroit.

The blue-collar, industrial home of Ford, General Motors and Kellogg was written off years ago.

From 2000 to 2010, a fourth of the city’s population bolted, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Detroit citizens watched the town’s finances crumble and got fed up. So, they left.

The city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in 2013 after accruing millions of dollars in debt.

Six years later, not only has Detroit dug out of bankruptcy, but it’s financially supporting itself. The population, while not back, has slowed its decrease.

Detroit is underestimated, underappreciated and gritty. It went through hard times and bounced back.

Which makes it the perfect place for the 2019 Miami RedHawks to play the Mid-American Conference Championship game.

Miami was written off years ago. Despite decades of MAC prosperity, the RedHawks endured a tough eight-year stretch before current head coach Chuck Martin arrived for the 2014 season.

Martin inherited an 0-12 team and built the program slowly. 

Two wins in 2014, then three in 2015. His RedHawks first tasted success with six victories and a bowl game appearance in 2016. But they didn’t continue to capitalize, failing to secure a bowl bid in either of the next two years.

This season, the team will go to a bowl regardless of Saturday’s MAC title game result.

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Martin’s new favorite phrase has perfectly described Miami’s entire 2019 season: “a knock-down, drag-out fight.”

The RedHawks have been favored in only three of their 12 games. They started 1-3. They lost by 71 points at Ohio State.

They were underestimated. 

“Crazy enough, [we knew we would be good] after the OSU loss,” redshirt senior running back Maurice Thomas said. “Everyone was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. You guys got beat that bad?’ All that stuff, but we were like, ‘We’re good.’ We’re in the locker room like, ‘We’re going to take what we can from this loss … and get better.’ After that, we just hit full stride.”

They were underappreciated. 

One week after the shellacking in Columbus, Miami fell behind 14-3 in the first half of its conference opener. Then, the RedHawks went on a 31-0 run, won the game and started their climb toward the MAC Championship.

They won six of their last eight games. Four of those victories came by one possession.

They were gritty.

“They have turned this program back around,” Martin said of his players, specifically the seniors. “Obviously, Miami’s a very, very proud football program, very proud athletic department. And for these kids to know for the rest of their lives that they were a part of turning the bleakest years of Miami football around and getting it back to have an opportunity to play in the MAC Championship is something that I’m sure they’ll take with them the rest of their lives.”

The team’s success and attitude is exactly what Martin envisioned when he signed as Miami’s head coach.

“We’re going to be blue-collar,” Martin promised Miami’s administration during his 2013 job interview.


Written off before climbing back.

Just like Detroit.