Miami not a pushover for Tigers

If there is a non-conference opponent LSU will never take lightly, it is Miami of Ohio.<br><br>Forget the fact that the RedHawks pulled an upset over North Carolina in their opener and challenged Iowa for four quarters before losing last weekend.<br><br>Still fresh in the minds of many Tiger fans is the 1986 debacle against the visitors from the Mid-American Conference.

Seven Tiger turnovers, including two on center-quarterback exchanges, led to a quick 14-0 lead for the then-nicknamed Redskins. Despite logging 407 yards of total offense to Miami's 209, LSU couldn't mount a fourth-quarter comeback against coach Bill Arnsparger's alma mater. Miami stunned the 8th-ranked Tigers, 21-12.

 

Fast-forward 16 years and Miami is creating similar headaches against teams they are supposed to lose to. In the season opener, the RedHawks took advantage of nine UNC turnovers for a 27-21 victory at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill. The Heels fumbled on five consecutive possessions in the first half and turned the ball over on six of their first eight possessions. Carolina gave it away inside the red zone twice and at the Miami 36.

 

After totaling just 24 yards on 10 carries in the first half, Miami running back Cal Murray spearheaded the RedHawks' second-half surge on the ground with 77 yards on 13 carries. His two-yard plunge before the end of the third quarter gave Miami a 20-7 lead heading into the final period.

 

Miami started five possessions in UNC territory, two of which led to touchdowns. The RedHawks had to go just 19 yards in each scoring drive and started three possessions already inside the red zone. Their average starting field position was at their own 40.

 

North Carolina quarterback Darian Durant, much like LSU's Matt Mauck in the Tigers' season opener, had limited success in his first game of 2002. Although his stats appeared impressive (24-37, 279 yards, 1 TD) he set the Heels back with three interceptions. Durant was able to throw the ball effectively over the middle but struggled with out patterns and rarely went to the deep ball.

 

"Miami did a substantial amount of blitzing," said UNC head coach John Bunting. "That makes the linemen shift on angles and therefore cuts off your running game."

 

Facing a one-dimensional UNC attack, Miami was able to make plays in the secondary. In just his fourth start on defense, cornerback Ryan Sprague made two interceptions, seven tackles and defended three passes.

 

This marked the second time North Carolina fell to Miami of Ohio. In 1998, the TheRedhawks defeated the Tarheels 13-10 in the debut of head coach Carl Torbush.

 

In its home opener against Iowa last Saturday, Miami held a 17-16 lead in the third quarter but could not sustain the running game that allowed them to hold off North Carolina the week before.

 

Brad Banks helped lead the way for the Hawkeyes with 256 yards passing on 18 of 27 passing that included one touchdown, allowing Iowa to escape Oxford, Ohio, with a 29-24 win.

 

Miami quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who completed 16 of 33 passes for 204 against North Carolina, had an even stronger outing against the Hawkeyes. His 33-of-51 passing performance for 343 yards included two touchdowns and an interception, but he had two more touchdown throws negated by penalties.

 

QB Ben Roethlisberger (AP Photo/David Kohl)

Miami Ohio quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) is sacked by Iowa's Jared Clauss (90) during the second half, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2002, in Oxford, Ohio. Iowa won 29-24. 

Roethlisberger's 24-yard touchdown pass to Jason Branch made the score 29-24 with 4:54 to play, but Iowa was able to run out the clock

 

"Our inability to overcome adversity," said Miami coach Terry Hoeppner when asked about what cost him a chance to win against Iowa. "We did it at times, but we didn't do it enough.

 

"I feel for our kids and I feel for our coaches because I thought we were well prepared and I though the coaches had a good plan. The kids played their hearts out, but we just came up a little bit short today. The one thing we can do about it is learn from it."

 

Murray, named the MAC Offensive Player of the Week after the UNC game, was held to 18 yards on six carries. When Roethlisberger's losses from four sacks were figured in, the RedHawks managed only 14 yards on the ground for the game. But according to Hoepnner, the one-dimensional approach to the Hawkeyes was intentional.

 

"It was our plan going into the game today [to pass the ball]," the coach said. "We were going to come out winging it today and the players knew it. They knew we wanted the ball and to put our offense on the field first. It doesn't matter how you move the football. Some of our passes served as a run. We ultimately want to operate on our terms."

 

Even if Miami chooses to run the ball more than it did against Iowa, Roethlisberger presents LSU with the first legitimate, drop-back passing quarterback it will face in 2002. Virginia Tech's Bryan Randall had his throws limited, and Jeff Klein of The Citadel made most of his throws from rollout and bootleg plays.

 

LSU coach Nick Saban was asked if his secondary would be up to the test after facing two run-oriented teams to open the year.

 

"We'll see next week," said Saban. "I don't think either one of the teams we've played really try to throw the ball that much, and I don't think we've been challenged in the secondary. I think we've covered fairly well. We haven't given up a lot of big plays.

 

"...I think there are some things we need to do better. But I think there are some things we need to better up front in the (defensive) running game, too."


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