RedHawks swap quarterbacks

After an 0-3 start – in which the average margin of defeat was more than 37 points – the Miami RedHawks replaced a senior QB with a redshirt freshman. And while two more losses ensued, the quarterback play has picked up significantly. Purple Reign looks at an eventful season for Miami's signal-callers.

There seem to be two main reasons – one quite tangible, the other less so – to play a senior quarterback over a freshman quarterback.

First, the senior would seem more likely to win football games. Generally, seniors are older, have played more, have seen more and are simply better. And in a position as important as quarterback, a position where there is such ample opportunity to make a mistake, experience is often synonymous with productivity.

Second, seniors are often thought to have earned their stripes, to put in their time, to have cut their teeth, to (insert cliché here). Seniors command a certain degree of respect, and from a position that is more or less "in charge" on the field, respect for an elder statesman – like a senior – is important, if intangible.

Well, despite the common sense behind playing senior QBs over youngsters, the Miami RedHawks – Northwestern's opponent this weekend – have bucked convention, benching a 22-year-old redshirt senior quarterback in favor of a 19-year-old redshirt freshman.

And the early returns on the move have been quite good.

Now, to be fair, the RedHawks were 0-3 with senior Daniel Raudabaugh playing quarterback. And with freshman Zac Dysert at the helm the past two weeks, well, the team has slipped to 0-5. So it's not as though Miami is suddenly bowl-bound with Dysert in charge.

Nonetheless, the team is playing much better. And after the scare that the Wildcats' got from their first Mid-America Conference opponent, Eastern Michigan, Dysert and Miami at least warrant a second look.

The seeds for Dysert supplanting Raudagaugh at QB were laid back in Week 1. Ugly stats abound from the Miami RedHawks' season-opening defeat to Kentucky. Indeed, the word defeat doesn't do it justice. It was one of those games that mandates a thesaurus, because it wasn't just a defeat. It was…let's see…an assault, an attack, an ambush, an annihilation – and we're still at the letter A.

Yeah, Miami's Week 1 neutral-site battle against Kentucky got ugly. It was 21-0 at halftime, 35-0 after three quarters, 42-0 when it mercifully ended. But as poorly as RedHawks played in general, the play of their senior quarterback was especially bad. He was 13-of-34 – 38.2 percent – with two interceptions and just 134 yards.

The next week against Boise State didn't get much better. Raudabaugh improved a bit – but just a bit. He was 21-of-35 on the day for just 155 yards. No touchdowns, two interceptions. Oh, and Miami lost 48-0.

Raudabaugh finally threw his first touchdown pass of the season against Western Michigan in Week 3, but only after the RedHawks got down 35-0. On the day he was 25-of-42 – less than 60 percent – and threw his fifth pick in three games.

Through three games, Raudabaugh completed 53.2 percent of his passes for 569 yards – 189 per game. And that's after racking up 111 attempts, so that's about 5.1 yards per attempt.* Plus, in light of the two-to-five TD-to-INT ratio, Raudabaugh's QB rating is 93.1, one of just six qualifying quarterbacks in the country to have a sub-100 rating. (NU's Mike Kafka, by contrast, has a rating of 136.4, which ranks 50th in the nation. Even No. 100 has a 106.4.)

* To put that yards-per-attempts number in perspective, the lowest YPA guy Purple Reign could find was Washington State's Marshall Lobbestael, who nets 4.6 yards per attempt.

CORRECTION: Purple Reign made a boo-boo with the calculator earlier, publishing this story and saying that Raudabaugh averaged less than two yards per attempt. That's not right. PR muffed the math: It is 189 per game in three games, NOT 189 on the season. So the 111 attempts has yielded about 570 yards, about five yards per attempt. NOT 189 TOTAL yards, which would be less than two yards per attempt. How that blunder slipped past our crack team of statistical specialists is a mystery. But PR wanted to clear the air; Raudabaugh isn't THAT bad.

Miami's senior, therefore, wasn't doing the things that seniors are supposed to do. He wasn't playing well at all; by the numbers, he was literally one of the worst quarterbacks in the nation. And while it's hard (maybe impossible) to tell exactly what kind of command he had of the team, what kind of leadership he exuded, scoring 26 points through three games is hardly confidence-inspiring. (Interesting stat: The RedHawks opened the season by getting outscored 125-0 – 42-0 to UK, 48-0 to Boise and, at one point, 35-0 to Western Michigan.)

Enter Dysert. In his two games as a starter, Dysert is 64-of-100 with two touchdowns and four interceptions. On the season, he is 69-of-111 with three touchdowns and six interceptions; he played mop-up duty against Boise State and Western Michigan.

What's all this mean for NU. Who knows? And isn't that the point? Dysert is a big wild card; he's a freshman. There isn't much of a scouting report on him, and the scouting report that there is shows these tidbits:

He has the capacity to be a precision passer. He's 64 percent through two games – which includes the kid's first-ever start – which is good. And in last week's start, against No. 8 Cincinnati, dude completed no less than 70 percent of his passes – 33-of-47.

But that precision passer also turns it over. With six INTs to his name, he is averaging a pick more than once every 20 passes. In the second game of the season, against Boise State, he was two-for-four with two interceptions.

The scouting report also shows that he can scramble. Against Western Michigan, Dysert had 17 carries for 107. That's intriguing for a few reasons: First off, that puts his total yards for the game at a hair under 450 – not bad. It's also interesting because he had a long of just 13 yards, so it's not like he randomly sprung some 60-yarder.

But it's also interesting because the next week against Cincinnati, he tallied 19 rushes for -8 yards. Go figure. So depending on what tape you watch, the game film will show a guy who averages negative yards on his runs or a guy who can get a Kafka-esque 107.

Which Dysert will show up against Northwestern? Well, of course nobody knows.

To reach Purple Reign, please write to Northwestern.Scout@gmail.com.


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