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RedHawks hope to regain path against UMass on Saturday

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<p>Miami University football travels to play UMass on Saturday after getting blown out by the Miami Hurricanes last week.</p>

Miami University football travels to play UMass on Saturday after getting blown out by the Miami Hurricanes last week.

The Miami University RedHawks flew into South Florida last weekend and got blown out of town by the Miami Hurricanes, 38-3. It was a game that seemed over nearly after the second play. At head coach Chuck Martin’s press conference this week, the two most used words were “whooped” and “disappointed.”

The RedHawks left much to be desired in all facets of the game last weekend, but on Saturday they have a chance to get back on path against the UMass Minutemen.

The Minutemen have been one of the most consistently poor football programs in the country ever since they transitioned to Division I FBS starting in 2011. They’ve won three games in the past four seasons. They went 21-103 in the previous 11 seasons since joining the FBS. 

From 2012 to 2015, UMass was a part of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) East, which made them division foes with Miami. Miami came out on top in three out of four of those matchups. 

This year, the Minutemen started their schedule off strong, beating New Mexico State 41-30 on the road. New Mexico State was pretty decent last year and even won the Quick Lane Bowl 24-19 over Bowling Green. UMass beat them behind a 28-point fourth quarter and an impressive rushing attack that gained over 200 yards with over 5 yards per carry. 

The next week, UMass put on a more characteristic performance when Auburn blew them out 59-14.

All that is to say, this UMass team might be a little better than previous years, but that doesn’t say much. Vegas favors the RedHawks by seven points. The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9, and you can catch it on ESPN+ from Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Putting focus on UMass quarterback Phommachanh

A big focus for Miami in the leadup to week two is the Minutemen’s quarterback Taisun Phommachanh, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior. 

Last year, the UMass offense was second-worst in the country, scoring just 12.5 points per game. In their first two games of 2023, under Phommachanh, the Minutemen have scored 41 and 14 points respectively.

Phommachanh transferred to UMass from Georgia Tech, and before that he was at Clemson. Phommachanh is known for his prowess as a runner. So far in his career, he’s had 464 passing yards and one touchdown to five interceptions. Not impressive. But he also has 336 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. The RedHawks will have their hands full trying to keep Phommachanh in the pocket. 

“It makes everything 10 times harder for us because you got to prepare for both [running and passing],” senior defensive lineman Austin Ertl said. 

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Phommachanh sustained an injury in last week’s game against Auburn, but earlier this week UMass head coach Don Brown expressed optimism about the quarterback’s status for this week.

Strong opportunities for RedHawks to score

Last Friday vs. Miami, the RedHawk offense did almost nothing, but there were a couple bright spots. Transfer junior receiver Gage Larvadain hauled in eight catches for 80 yards and looked shifty and dynamic, both with the ball and without. The RedHawks were also able to break off a couple of big runs, nothing close to consistent though.

This UMass defense, which has allowed 89 points over two games this season, will not provide nearly the same challenge that Miami’s did. 

That said, the defense is good, especially against the pass. Last season it allowed just 175 yards per game and recorded nine interceptions. So far this season, it hasn’t allowed more than 250 yards passing and has come away with two interceptions. 

The rush defense however, leaves more to be desired. Against New Mexico State, UMass allowed 5.3 yards per carry, and against Auburn it allowed 6.6. 

At his presser this week, Miami head coach Chuck Martin preached the importance of running the football. Expect Miami to build its offense around running behind its very large, experienced offensive line.