Win Will Close One Chaper and Open Anew
A win by Miami tonight will not only lock up the MAC Eastern conference title, it will help close the book on the post-game ugliness that surrounded last year's match-up with Marshall. Miami is steeped in tradition: ‘The Cradle of Coaches' includes Brown, Crum, Woody, Bo and Ara and the most conference titles in football of any other school (13) just to name a couple. But the events following last year's emotionally charged loss to Marshall, 36-34, are not a part of that tradition and will finally be laid to rest with a Redhawk win in front of a national ESPN2 audience tonight (7:30p Eastern). For purposes of review, Marshall beat Miami with 5 seconds remaining in last year's game after a couple questionable pass interference calls by the officials. The coaches visitor's box was allegedly mussed and Miami's defensive coordinator, Jon Wauford, was involved in an on-field incident with a Marshall fan. Wauford later resigned and charges against him were dropped. Miami personnel have been downplaying the hype of Miami's opponent, Marshall, while focusing on the importance of a victory...no matter the opposition, "For us, this is Championship Game No. 6," said Miami coach Terry Hoeppner, whose RedHawks are No. 23 in the country and 16th in the Bowl Championship Series rankings. "That's the reality of our league. Every week is basically a playoff game. If you don't win, you don't control your own destiny." Hoeppner feels that this team is completely different from last year and the events and the disappointment surrounding last year's tussle are of no significance, "It has absolutely no significance to us," Hoeppner said. "Absolutely none. Zero. This team is different from last year's team, the team we're playing Wednesday night is different from the one we played last year. This is a one-time shot for this year's East Division championship. That's enough right there. I don't think we need to stir up any echoes". Just like last year's game, most of the focus is squarely on the opposing quarterbacks. Last year it was Leftwich and Ben Roethlisberger, this year it's Roethlisberger and Graham Gochneaur. Miami's junior signal-caller and Heisman candidate, Roethlisberger, will be matching lasers with Marshall's Gochneaur, who replaced Marshall's starting QB, Stan Hill, four games ago. Ironically, it was a replacement at the Marshall quarterback position last year, Hill in for Byron Leftwich, that played an intricate role in the outcome of last year's game. The real X-factor in tonight's tussle will be turnovers. Marshall is 13th out of 14 MAC teams in turnover margin (-14). Miami's turnover margin is plus 6 and Roethlisberger has only thrown 2 INT's in the last five games while throwing 11 touchdowns. A quick start is another key to the game. Miami has a scoring edge in each quarter of the course of the season, however, they have been particularly dominate in the first quarter outscoring their opponents by a 97 to 28 margin. Special teams will, also, be important. It wouldn't surprise me to see Ryne Robinson, Miami's sensational, freshman, punt-returner play an important role in Miami gaining the field position edge and possibly adding a score of his own. Bottom line…Miami, who's favored by 13, not only wins, but they cover, 34-20, thus closing the ugliness of last year and beginning a new chapter titled, ‘Cleaning House'. It's an interesting tale of the official beginning to the not so hospitable ushering of Marshall out of the MAC by 2005.
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